Parting Glances

by in Food Network Star, August 2, 2009

So, there you have it, Melissa is our new Food Network star.

So, why Melissa and not Jeffrey?

In many respects, they’re flip sides of the same coin. Two warm, likeable, smart experts. Both parents; similar ages. Both great communicators, full of info, who became remarkably comfortable on camera. Either could have had a hit show.

I struggled with the decision.

Overall, Jeffrey’s food fascinated and delighted me. Except for a few notable flubs, most of his food had a spicy elegance to it. The ingredients that attracted him – and would have been the heart of his “Ingredient Smuggler” show – and the sophistication of his recipes wouldn’t have appealed to everyone. That’s OK; we do a range of shows.

Melissa’s bottomless trove of tips and tricks kept teaching me things, and I thought viewers would appreciate them too. But mostly, her food kept winning me over. It is exactly the kind of smart, sophisticated but accessible home cooking that viewers constantly tell me they want to learn from us. And her deep knowledge of budget and time-conscious recipes seemed perfect for these times.

In the end, Melissa’s personality “popped” more for me than Jeffrey’s did. When I referred to him as the “zen meister”, I worried that at times his “steady as she goes” demeanor could feel slightly flat and predictable in comparison to Melissa.

I can’t state this any more strongly: I’m a huge fan of Jeffrey’s. He’s a class act and has a huge fan base. He just got aced out ever so slightly on this final challenge.

Melissa never stopped surprising me. It’s the edges, quirks and unpredictability that make a star. And her bright energy, endless high spirits and determination definitely excited me. As Ina said, “She glows in the dark.”

So – by a point or two – the decision went to Melissa.

Oh, and for those who asked, Big Daddy’s House, the show of last year’s winner, Aaron McCargo, Jr., continues to be one of the top rated shows in our weekend cooking block.

Tune in next Sunday at 12:30pm/11:30c for Melissa’s show, Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian. Yes, Dinner for 4 for $10. What’s not to love?

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