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. Sylvia Lear says:

    I am so happy you won Food Network Star. I have watched all of your shows and have learned new ways to prepare down to earth food. I love your little hints you give and I appreciate that your ingredients are common foods everyone has in their pantry. Way to go and good luck!

  2. Sandra says:

    I watched her recent episode and, while the dishes sounded great, they were also only for those people who had hours at their disposal to cook. It doesn't work for me, but I'm sure there is a sizeable audience that it will work for. The braised pork shoulder was a three hour dish – only on a weekend, baby, and only when my daughter doesn't have dance.

  3. Leslie W. says:

    I am trying to access the 4-step chicken video from the test pilot aired in the finale. I found the printed recipe, but the video makes it much easier and I am trying to get my husband to try the recipe. I was able to access it about a week ago, but cannot find it now. Is is still available on the site?

  4. Vicki Garner says:

    Love Melissa'a show. You can do $10.00 meals-do it all the time. Hope she gets to stay around a long time. We don't all like the same things on tv, that's what the OFF button is for. I don't care for Brian Boitano's show or Alton Brown's so I watch something else.Hooray for Melissa!

  5. Dee says:

    Hi Melissa. I love your show and congratulations on your accomplishments. My husband and I are fans of the FNS. We watch it throughout the day,evening, and nightime. You are truly wonderful in the kitchen and we appreciate your talent. There is just one thing my husband and I want to share with you and we hope you do not get offended in anyway. When speaking, you tend to say the words "my" alot. It sounds quite possessive. We noticed this word was said in almost every sentence of yours. We thought we might share this with you,only because we like you alot and that word is so annoying after a while,no offense,we all do it from time to time. But this is something we picked up and thought you may want to hear this coming from the heart. Certainly we hope you do not take it offensively. We like you alot. We love good food. And certainly like saving a few bucks here and there. Keep up the good work and look forward to seeing more of you. Good luck to you. Regards.

  6. luvcookin says:

    I just saw on Melissa’s show page that she has been renewed! CONGRATS Melissa!

    On another note, this website is a joke. “Intense Debates won’t load because my browser is too slow”. Well then, how did they load yesterday? Or with other blogs that I visit that use Intense Debates. This tells me it is the FN site that has problems, but we all knew that.

  7. Cheryl says:

    CONGRATULATIONS, MELISSA.! We were rooting for you. We have watched your new show several times. I have a couple of suggestions! STOP! saying 'my' carrots, 'my' potatoes, 'my, my, my'. You say this every time you add another ingredient. IE: "I'm putting MY potatoes into the pan with MY meat…..!" Just a silly suggestion, maybe, but it kind of bothers us and it can be easily fixed. My husband wishes that you didn't have to go to the cupboard every time you need an ingredient. He says, "Pauls has everything out and ready"…and he's right. Best wishes!!!

  8. Norma says:

    Melissa, I so look forward to your shows on Sunday. I tried your Pork Roast and it turned out Great. I was happy that you did win the show and I thought Jeffery was great also but I am a down to earth person that cooks with everyday seasonings and spices. With having the family of 8 I can relate on how to fix money saving meals. My children are grown now, but I still remember all those money saving meals you learn to put together to feed a large family. Melissa, you just keep on saying those word like "tasty", "yummy, and perfect because that is you!!!

  9. Anna says:

    I'm very happy you won. I was rooting for you all the way. You deserved and earned the win. I think the network is doing you an injustice, though, in a couple of ways. One is the limitation of the so-called $10 dinners. I think your talent is greater than that. The other is putting you (as a new show when you need the most exposure) in a time slot when most people are either getting ready for or in church. Oh, I guess there's one more thing, … why can't they give us some reruns of your shows at a later time, either during the week or whenever, replacing the 4 or five times I have nothing to watch but the constant repeats of "Iron Chef" or "Drive-ins and Dives" (per day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), etc.?

    Oh, and I want that pastry recipe you did on the show that got such rave reviews from the judges and the chefs. Better than the best they tasted even from expert pastry chefs.

  10. Mia says:

    Melissa you are doin' it girl ! Wishing you the best success ever. Love your recipe tips , they really rock.

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