A Chat with Melissa d’Arabian

by in View All Posts, August 14th, 2009

melissa_resize_for-webMelissa 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.

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Comments (193)

  1. Mamaw P says:

    Melissa,Keep up the good work,you are doing a great job.My whole family watches every time you are on.We would like to adopt you to join us,you would fit right in…I have a 42 yr old daughter and a40 yr old and a23yr old and get ready for this… I have 6 granddaughters…my 40 yr old has twins that are 17,one that is 16 and 1 that is 13 my older daughter has a 17 and 16 yr old…we all cook chicken all the time and your recipes have taken over where Paula and Rachael used to be. We will be watching and keeping you and your family in our prayers. Cook On!!!!!

  2. liz , atl says:

    Melissa comes across so fake and boring to an experienced cook. Her show should be called cooking 101. jeffrey was a far better cook, plus she stole his ingredient idea. Besides, $10. for 4 people? Are the products in her pantry and frig. free? Please!!!

    • asunburst says:

      Hi Liz

      I see she is making roasted asparagus with lemon vinaigrette, something I have been making for years. I bet she got the idea from France. LOL I wonder if she will grate lemon zest over them. Lime is even better. Yummy.
      I am only watching to see how she does them. Sofisticated Salmon cake? Gosh. I wonder if she will use crackers and egg in them?
      Cooking 101 coming up.

    • Michele says:

      Are you kidding? She's the most natural chef on. As far as Jeffrey, he was good but consistently ,the judges prefered her food. Talk about a mistake, Aaron McCargo is still a mistake. He is so amateur! I'm a very experienced cook. His runner up should have won but didn't.He not only can't cook anything I'd want to learn, but destroys tried and true recipesby "making it his own".I don't remeber her name but give her and Jeffrey their own shows by replacing "way over-exposed Rach" in a few of her shows.

      • Mel says:

        Aaron's runner-up was Lisa Garza, and you also had Kelsey thrown into that group along with the pain in the neck Adam.

        As far as those Salmon Cakes go, she did use an egg, but something I would never have thought of to use for a binder and that was a baked potato.

        For those who like to Rag on Rachael, when you make the kind of money she does then you can complain, She must be doing something right as she as earned since her start on Food Network over **A BILLION DOLLARS** for her pocket book how much have you earned lately?

    • Mel says:

      Liz, when will you lay off the items being used from the pantry and refrigerator as costing money ?????

      We all know that anyone and thats mean you, if you cook at all, have to use items already purchased either for the meal in question or weeks/months ago for another meal/dish.

      If you don't have any ingredients at all in your pantry, refrigerator/freezer, then cooking at home for you is an impossibility as any meal your would attempt to make would cost at least $100.00 plus which makes cooking at home out of the question at least for you, now the rest of us can do it for the stated 5-10-15 dollars depending on how many you are feeding at any one time.

      • asunburst says:

        I Tivo Melissa and Brian as I can't watch them during the day on Sunday.
        I am not really a Melissa fan but keep watching to see if she improves. IMO what is really hurting her more than her twitches and talk about living in France and now today a French Lesson, is the name of the show. What a dumb name. I forget what her idea was but it sure had to beat this $10 Meal. That really restricts her and it's not fair to her. Let her just cook meals like everyone else does so she doesn't have to keep mentioning how thrifty it is.
        I calculated her meal today it it was over $11. But that's only because the name of the show invites that.
        Sandra Lee can do it so much better. Why is there a need for a newbie to try to compete with Sandra and a budget?

    • sharisdogsrule says:

      Liz, I totally agree with you regarding Melissa's "Cooking 101" experience. That was my saying throughout the competition, in fact. When she demonstrated the chicken breast with herbs under the skin for the Foof Network celebrities, I could not believe they bought that as a useful and innovative lesson!__Please — give Jeffrey a show — he deserves one!!!

  3. Mary says:

    I watched todays show with the salmon cakes. It is unnerving to hear my over and over again. Everyone knows that it is hers.Great ideas, but we all know that the cost is somewhat inaccurate. But then I am in the business.

  4. Beth says:

    Please stop saying "I Love" so much. It comes off fake. Other then that I have enjoyed watching the show so far.

  5. carolyplumley says:

    Melissa has given me a new lease on cooking, after 44 years of marriage. I love all the new way to use flavors. This show is a winner.

  6. Lori says:

    She has to stop saying the words, "perfect", "yummy" (i hate that one) and "tasty" If i were to count them which i will start, I'm sure the tally will be quite long. Show is ok.. not my favorite.

    • gigi07 says:

      What would you prefer that she say when describing the food? Just wondering.

      • asunburst says:

        Plain descriptive words with no superlatives.
        "Taste is good. This is kind to the palate. You will like this. My family likes this one so we have it often." etc.

        • gigi07 says:

          Fair enough! Those had not entered my mind tonight. Of course, I had a grueling day at work today and I was on call last night as well as tonight. Just praying the phone doesn't ring! I got 4 hours of sleep last night. No wonder those descriptions didn't enter my mind!

  7. anthony says:

    Melissa was a good cook!!I watch The next food network star every saturday!!!!
    I love Watching This show!!

  8. Mel says:

    This was posted on Sept 30th, 2008
    Now we know why things are the way they are.

    Questions, Questions, Questions …
    by Bob Tuschman in View All Posts Comments (27) Reading through your first batch of questions, I caught a couple of common themes, which I thought I’d tackle here:

    WHY DON’T YOU SHOW COOKING SHOWS AT NIGHT? I know there’s a large group who would love to watch our cooking shows at night. But there’s a much larger group (quite a sizeable majority, actually) that prefers our evening programming to be more story driven and entertaining than straight instructional: competitions, travel, docusoaps, food science, chef challenges. That’s why we pack the weekends (til 2pm) and weekdays (til 7pm) with all our best cooking shows. Will we please everyone all the time? No, but try to remember the last time you got a few million of your friends to unanimously agree on something.

    • asunburst says:

      Thanks Mel
      That would make more sense if it wasn't repeats and 2 hours of DDD and 1 or more of Good Eats & Unwrapped and OMG the cakes! I can agree with the BBQ contest and best burger etc. But Rachael Rays are 3 or more years old. So many repeats night after night of the above. And a good one like Food Detetive and Chopped is in repeats after only 6 shows. I could buy the reasoning if not for my reasons not to keep showing the same ones over and over.

      • Mel says:

        No argument from me there.

        To me they need to move some of the current shows to Night Time, but again its where the money is as far as advertisers go.

        I would love to see some repeats of Emeril Live but the network doesn't own them.

        They have to go with what they own and it's all older than Methuselah shows.

        If you look at the date Bob posted that, it was right at One Year Ago and he hasn't changed his mind.

        I know it has cost him my viewing in the evening has I could care less about any of the current batch of reruns.

        • luvcookin says:


          I'm with you. I don't even watch FN at night during the week. Too many reruns and stuff I care nothing about watching. I'm not a Marc Summers fan at all. Can't stand Unwrapped and The Secret LIfe of… They are both boring shows to me.

          I do enjoy some of the competitions, but not the ones from year ago. I really do not care where Racheal with her millions of dollars goes on vacation or how much she can buy for $40.00 a day. The chef challenges are so-so, but again, not from years ago. Alton and his food science is informative, but lately, to me, he seems smug.

          FN seem to cater to the stay-at-home people. They appear to have little regard fo those of us that have to actually work and earn a living.

        • luvcookin says:


          I'm with you. I don't even watch FN at night during the week. Too many reruns and stuff I care nothing about watching. I'm not a Marc Summers fan at all. Can't stand Unwrapped and The Secret LIfe of… They are both boring shows to me.

          I do enjoy some of the competitions, but not the ones from year ago. I really do not care where Racheal with her millions of dollars goes on vacation or how much she can buy for $40.00 a day. The chef challenges are so-so, but again, not from years ago. Alton and his food science is informative, but lately, to me, he seems smug.

          FN seem to cater to the stay-at-home people. They appear to have little regard for those of us that have to actually work and earn a living.

  9. gigi07 says:

    This blog is crazy! When one sorts by "latest activity" the newest posts should come up first. Guess where they are? PAGE 2. It's like FN doesn't want people to see the newest messages and respond. I know one thing…if I'm ever in the market for message board hosts, it won't be Intense Debate!

    • asunburst says:

      I get e mail notices for each reply. I then come look for that one. I usually find it. If I want to find others, I look at each name and how old the post is, but! Look at the bottom of each post and you will see reply. I then look to see when they were last active and proceed from there. It takes time but I usually find what I am looking for. I always reply to a post now to keep some continuity going. Intense Debates are the worst I have ever seen and I have been participating in debates for over 15 years!

      • gigi07 says:

        Thank you Barbara,

        I do that too and if this thing were working correctly we would not have to hunt for posts. When I sort by "last activity" the post with the most recent activity should be the first post listed whether that is a response or an original post. When I logged on earlier, the first post was something like 3 days ago and that was the response date. Nothing wrong with that EXCEPT there were two original posts from a few hours ago that were buried on page 2. If I performed at my job the way Intense Debate does, I wouldn't have a job for long!

  10. Addie says:

    You sour people need to stop all the negative……your pretty pathetic! I LOVED THE CRAB CAKES, they were diffierent than any I have ever made.

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