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Melissa d’Arabian may be a Food Network Star, but let me tell you – she’s as real as they come. Between hosting Ten Dollar Dinners and taking care of her four little girls, she’s always on the move. Even still, she made time to chat with me about her new show, the big move to Seattle, and life after The Next Food Network Star.
Secretary Confidential: Can you give us a little sneak peek into Ten Dollar Dinners?
Melissa d’Arabian: I’m really excited about sharing my braised pork and black beans. That is actually a recipe from what I call “bean night,” which is really “inexpensive protein night.” At least one night a week I’ll make something that incorporates budget ingredients, like pork shoulder and black beans. It’s a great way to cut my grocery bill, but the dish still feels special. I used this recipe for a dinner party for 30 women and it cost me $58.
SC: What was it like watching the first episode of your own show?
MD: I watched it with my kids, which is half watching and half dealing with making sure everybody is happy in the living room. The funny thing is my kids kept saying, “It’s just Mommy. Where is Jen? Mommy, where is Jamika? Where is Michael? Is Michael still in New York?” They wanted to know why it was just me, and it was fun trying to explain why. They asked me, “Where is Bobby Flay?” My 3-year-old, Charlotte, is convinced that Bobby Flay is her new best friend.
SC: Have you kept in touch with anyone from The Next Food Network Star?
MD: Absolutely! We all have an e-mail thread going. We all are sort of loosely keeping in touch. Jeffery, he is probably the person I’m in touch with the most because we spent so much time together. Absolutely. There is a bond that forms that no one else can really understand.
SC: You recently moved to Seattle – how’s your new life there?
MD: If I could just get these boxes unpacked! It’s crazy. Seattle is amazing. The people of Kirkland have been so amazing and so warm. This is a great city for food. I’m really enjoying getting to know the area and exploring the farmer’s markets. We have a great market at the beach just near our house, and I’m really looking forward to exploring those flavors even more and incorporating them into some neat recipes.
SC: Why did you move to Seattle?
MD: It was such a source of excitement and speculation when we put our house up for sale. My neighbors were wondering, “Why are they moving? Did she win? Did she not win? What does this mean?” It was really just as simple as my husband got a great job offer.
SC: Have you had a moment when it suddenly dawns on you that you are a celebrity?
MD: Sometimes when I’m waiting in line at the store someone will come up and say, “Oh my goodness, the Food Network Star! Love your show!” So that’s been a lot of fun, but what cracks me up is that people want to have their picture taken with me. Or sometimes people will recognize me from the show and they will come up to me and say “Hi, Melissa!” and my first thought is, “Did we go to high school together? How do we know each other?”
SC: What is the one piece of advice you would give to fans out there who dream of hosting their own show?
MD: I think one lesson that I learned throughout The Next Food Network Star is really looking to myself and thinking, “What do I bring to the table?” Why should I try to mimic somebody else or try to make up for the fact that I didn’t go to culinary school? Instead, I really need to focus on what I have: my experiences as a stay-at-home mom, my experiences as a career woman, my experiences cutting my own grocery bill by more than half. So, I bring that to the table. I celebrate that. I call that playing a game I can win.
Be sure to catch new episodes of Ten Dollar Dinners. Sundays at 12:30pm/11:30c.