Melissa’s Words of Wisdom: Play Nice

by in Food Network Star, June 16, 2011

Food Network Star finalist Penny Davidi

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. Her show, Ten Dollar Dinners, premieres its fifth season on July 3. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Week two is when I remember unpacking (literally and figuratively) during my season. I settled into the routine, and my place in the competition. This week, Susie embraces her Mexican heritage, Alicia is positively delightful with her truffle story, Mary Beth shows her warm personality and Penny takes a break from telling us she’s sexy. (Side note: There are some things in life I believe you should never announce about yourself; never tell others you are funny; never call yourself a “people person” in an interview. Show, don’t tell.)

Anyway, I like Penny’s new Middle Eastern mama angle and she wins the camera challenge. I settle into my couch, hopeful that this is a fresh start for a finalist who, I’ll be honest, didn’t impress me in episode one.

Hopes dashed.

What I love about Penny is her strength and confidence. I’ll admit it must be nice to be a thousand percent confident in your own sexiness. I get the feeling Penny doesn’t let a bad hair day get in her way, and she probably doesn’t even own the backup pair of jeans that I pull out on days when I feel bloated and ugly. So, good for her. I’m inspired, actually.

Penny's Group in the Star Challenge

On the flip side, I wish she could be comfortable enough in her own skin to be okay with others doing well too. I worked in a male-dominated corporate environment for years before I became a stay-at-home mother, and my most successful female colleagues — the ones who became CFO or partner — found a way to keep the edge and lose the attitude. I believe Penny has the potential to be unstoppable if she can follow their lead. The world is abundant and there is room for others to succeed without taking your share. Katy doesn’t seem any “weaker” for acknowledging Mary Beth’s successful personality turnaround. In fact, it made me like her! Women traditionally are perceived as being less team-oriented than men. I adore seeing women recognizing the greatness in a fellow sister.

For all the finalists, I will share some advice I heard in my twenties: You are never interviewing just for the job. Ever. You may not get the job today, but if you make fans of people you meet, you will be amazed at the opportunities that come in your direction. (More kudos to Katy for a picture-perfect departure: class and grace.) And, this holds true if you do win, because as Giada points out, part of being a Food Network star is having eyeballs on you constantly.

Katy Clark and Chris Nirschel

Perhaps even more important: playing well with others just feels better. I’ve certainly had my share of cranky moments in life — we’re all human — and I can tell you unequivocally that I have more fun being decent and considerate than steamrolling my way through life, leaving behind a wake of bad feelings for others to absorb. Ask anyone who volunteers their time to a worthy cause; giving is very empowering and uplifting. In my experience, when I am empowered, I play my best game.

It’s easy to forget all of this when you are in a competition. I get it. But don’t confuse the joy of you winning with celebrating others losing. Others losing is the cost of you winning; it is not part of the prize.

See what Melissa’s cooking up on Ten Dollar Dinners, check out her Facebook Fan Page and follow her on Twitter (@melissadarabian).

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Comments (175)

  1. John says:

    It is obvious that all these Penny haters have become experts on how FN should handle their business. Might I suggest that you take your hack talents and audition or go invest in your own network. Unless they ask you to judge on their panel you should not tell people how good/bad Penny is as a cook. I cannot believe all the haters here. And saying she is acting like a school girl or your other favorite explatives that begin with B & W. Seems most comments posted on this board are childish as well.

  2. luvcookin says:

    I'm with you debster11. I DVR the show so I can fast forward through the commercials and the "pennys".

  3. cindy sasnett says:

    I agree with everyone that hates Penny, and if she would win I also would not watch her show! She needs an attitude adjustment. There are lots more great shows on the food network channel to watch, not watching Penny would not hurt the FNC. This is only if she wins. Lets hope she does NOT win!

  4. Sharon Hayes says:

    We're finally watching last week's recorded show. I dislike Penny so much I'm having a hard time watching the show. If she wins I will not watch her show. I probably won't watch the show before or after her on the chance that I will catch a minute of her show. I do like Mary Beth, Jyll, Vic and the Buddy Holly look-a-like (I'll get his name right soon!).

  5. NoVA Viewer says:

    Can you get rid of Penny already? When she wears a $1000 Hermes belt in the kitchen and has a mean spirit... you can dress it up all you want, slap a sexy sticker on it... Unappetizing! No matter how to slice or dice it. I have been an avid Food Network viewer for almost 14 years and I would rather watch the movie "Saw" 1,000 times before I would watch a show by Penny... just knowing what she does to chop and scratch her way to the top... blech!

  6. san says:

    I hope that a winner of a show would be a better person than this. If you are going to have fan they must love you and you are not one to love. Every show I am hoping its you that goes home. Nasty.

  7. Tammi says:

    I am having a real hard time liking Penny, she is a back stabbing witch!!! If she is the winner of the this seasons food network stars I would have a real hard time tuning in to watch her show. I do believe she knows how to cook and cook good food but her personality during the show has a lot of people deciding early on that she is not a likeable person.

  8. tdogg says:

    Omg plz tell me it isn't so!! Penny has a kid who gave away the fact that her snake mother haswon? ?? No!!!!! I may never watch FN again!!!

  9. CeCe says:

    HAHAHAHAHA I laughed so long and hard when Penny burned the mac and cheese.. come on... could there have been an easier dish??? then to act surprised when the judges said something about it.. everyone in the kitchen could smell it burning!!!!! She makes comments.. I don't trust anyone in this house.. blah blah blah... she hasn't a clue.. how stupid can you be... everyone in that house gathers together and has a good time.. but penny is off by herself.. why????? no one likes her.... she must be wearing blinders not to see it is HER!!!! not the rest of the house.... and the comment she made.. "if you want to throw me under the bus blah blah blah.. like she wouldn't throw everyone of them under the bus given the opportunity..

  10. Melanie says:

    The more weeks that go by, I'm liking Vic. I was hoping Penny would be voted out because she burned the Macaroni and Cheese. She is a vile person. I would not watch a show starring her.