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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