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. Gladys says:

    I cannot believe all the Penny haters out there! The only reason why I watch the show is because of her!!! She is the only one in there that is real!!!!! I love her attitude and I love that she does not try to be a hypocrite and kiss anyones ass. She is just there to cook some good food and that is all that should matter. She is not there to make friends she is there to win and I hope she does.

  2. Brenda says:

    I have to agree with the comments about Penny. Granted, she seems to be a talented chef but she comes across as a real unpleasant bitch. She has a hard look about her that would not make me want
    to watch her show. The other contestants are much more likeable. If Penny wins, I will definitely not watch her show.

  3. Steve Elam says:

    Been married to a wonderful woman, who is the love of my life, never heard her use the "B" word until she watched Penny in action. Jeeze O pete, you people actually thinking about putting someone that hateful and nasty on T.V. representing Food Network T.V.? Why not just shoot yourself in the foot? A whole lot less painful for your viewers at least.

  4. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write again very soon!

  5. PennyH says:

    I would not watch any showed that Penny would be a part of. She is mean and has a bad attitude. I cannot believe they still have her in the running. I am not saying I wouldnt warch Food Network but I will turn the channel if Penny wins. I do not care for her.

  6. Mary McS says:

    I really feel my choice is between Vic & Suzie

  7. Debbie says:

    Penny is a very ugly person on the inside that transpires to her outsde. I truly hope that she does not wn, because she lacks true character.

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  9. [...] This post from Food Network personality, Melissa d’Arabian, was so jam packed with wisdom for life, I had to share a snippet. Whether you’re a corporate executive, a room mother, or the next food network star, these are great lessons to learn in treating others — and ourselves — with dignity. Melissa had these words: 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. [...]

  10. [...] here, you may want to subscribe to my RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!Do you play well with others?  Melissa D’Arabian waxes poetic on playing nice over at the Food Network blog, of all places!  (Thanks to Jessica at Life as Mom for pointing this [...]