Winner-to-Winner: Melissa’s Insight

by in Food Network Star, August 18, 2011

Jeff Mauro's winning moment

Melissa d'Arabian won Star season 5 and has been loving her Food Network adventure ever since. You can catch new episodes of her show, Ten Dollar Dinners on Sunday mornings at 9am/8c. As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Melissa shares her insider's take on what went down each week.

Congratulations, Jeff, on the big win!

I’ve spent the past couple of months sharing some of my BTDT (been there done that) advice with the finalists.  Last week, I talked about the art of losing.

Now, for the winner, here are some insights I’d like to share about your new world:

1. The old adage is true: Believe neither the good nor bad press. Believe your gut. Trust what you see when you look at yourself in the mirror each morning, and what you see in the eyes of your family.

2. Don’t completely ignore the word on the street, though. If a handful of random Internet posters call my toddler ugly (oh, it has happened), I ignore it. (Side note: Stop Googling yourself!). But if a bunch of folks suggest that a recipe is too salty, well, then maybe it’s worth a few minutes to check it out. Without fans, you don’t have a show, so listen to them. Maybe they see something you don’t.

3. Take the time to make each fan enjoy their moment meeting you. Yes, you will meet many fans, but for each one of them, this is probably the only time they will meet you. I learned this when I, as a fan, met Bobby Flay for the first time (long before I met him on FNS). I’ll never forget how he took the time to pose for a photo with me and my (cranky) daughter. (FYI, Bobby is one of the hardest-working guys in the business, and he never, ever phones it in.) So, my own small but practical tip: When a fan wants to take a picture with you, take five seconds if possible to ask if the photo came out. What a bummer for a fan to have finally met his or her favorite Food Network star, only to discover the photographic evidence is totally blurry.

4. The talent eats first for a reason, so don’t let it go to your head. I learned this on a commercial shoot when the producer insisted that I cut ahead of the crew to the front of the lunch line. Thinking I was being polite, I went to the end of the line. The producer patiently explained she needed me to eat first so that I could get back into makeup for touchups and keep the shoot on schedule. This is a tiny example of the many perks that will come your way being a TV personality. So remember that special treatment is usually for production reasons. Keeping the talent well-fed and juiced with a latte when needed, for instance, is just a smart investment, given the costs of production and overtime. That’s easy to forget when the tiniest yawn from you results in a production assistant racing down the block for a double macchiato with extra foam before you’ve even thought to ask for it. When you are inclined to feel entitled, remind yourself that your special treatment is a business decision, not an acknowledgement of superior status.

Jeff Mauro's winning moment

5. Know how to say no. Remember your life mission and keep that front and center. It’s tempting to say yes to every single thing that crosses your path — there will always be many worthwhile activities, events and causes. I remind myself that I have to tell my kids that I won’t be able to tuck them in at night whenever I say yes. I’ve learned only to say yes to requests that fit into my life mission. Only then is it worth missing my goodnight hugs and kisses with my precious family.

6. Knowing how to say no doesn’t mean you (and your family) won’t have to make some sacrifices. I miss things. How can I not when my job is primarily in New York and my family is in San Diego? But I am crazy-proactive about my schedule, and about creating normal family time with my daughters. However, here is the important part: I want to raise young women who know it’s OK to say “no,” that it’s OK to disappoint responsibly. Who I am in front of my girls teaches them more than what I say, in my opinion. My family will always come before my job, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had to nurse a tear or two on my way out to the airport.

7. Stay the same behind closed doors. Two years later, my husband still will randomly say, “Can you believe you WON?” We are the same goofy family we were before. And when all four girls are racing around the house playing “chase the princess” (and they are all four the princess; it’s a complex game with many levels), Philippe and I just look at each other as if to say “how did this happen to us?” As my daughter Valentine says to me, “We are a very lucky family, Mommy, aren’t we?” Yes, we are. And it has nothing to do with having my dream job.

Readers, it has been a tremendous pleasure connecting with you every week during this season of Star. Jeff, I can't wait to work with you! And in case you are wondering, Jeff and I will indeed be working together soon, at the New York City Wine and Food Festival (along with Aarti!), so be sure to come say hi to us all.

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 (58)

  1. Grandma Joyce says:

    It is unfortunate that schools open after this site shuts down, thus the immature and unkind comments would not find their way here.
    Melissa, nice comments. Best wishes to the declared winner, Jeff, and to all who are winners from just going through the steps of this competition. All of the best in life to each of you. I learned from each of you, and from our varying comments, we would be happy to see any of you featured in some way in the future on Food Network or Cooking Channel.
    Thanks again for a great season. I am making Jeff's braciole this weekend. i want to try the eggplant sandwich, but as a salad. Yum.

  2. mel says:

    Melissa very good advice for anyone wanting to advance in the business world today.

    You mentioned that you are now living in San Diego, I thought that you had moved to Washington when you left Texas??

    With a lot of Food Network people living on the west coast they should have a production center there to cut back on the travel, with having the show being done there now that to me makes more sense than having to criss cross the country all the time, besides the climate is better there.

    • Melissa d says:

      Hi Mel, good memory! we moved to seattle a couple of years ago for my husband's job. Over Christmas, we were in San Diego with my sister's family, and our collective 9 kids (she has five; I have four) were putting on a "cousins talent show" all working together on props, costumes, etc. And my husband and I, doing our annual family mission review, agreed that family was more important than anything, and we wanted our girls to grow up near their cousins. A house went on the market a few doors down from my sister's house and the rest is history. We're now neighbors. :). We adored our lives in both tx and seattle, but we feel blessed to be so close to family now.

  3. JamesinAlaska says:

    A simple question.
    Since Melissa is "on the inside" perhaps she has heard.
    (I know its not her decision, but)...

    Just exactly what IS the rationale for:
    All of the "instruction/teaching" shows are daytime....and then...
    after 6pm, its "all adrenaline competitions, all the time."
    Example: we never see Sandra Lee or Ina Garten at 9pm.
    Seems like the only exception to this might be (too many) re-run's of Alton's Good Eats.
    Who makes this "rule"--and why?

    • Sarah/Swanlady says:

      I hadn't thought of that but you are right. I would like to know as well. I enjoy seeing the cooking shows in the day but it would be nice in the evening.

    • JamesinAlaska says:

      ....(why do I have this sinking feeling like I'm just not going to get ANY definite answer to this at all?)....
      .....guess i should wait awhile.
      Still hoping...

    • JimH says:

      I suspect their marketing research has shown that during the daytime there are more people tuning in that are looking for the instructional stuff while the nighttime demographics are more interested in just entertainment. Its just a quess but that would be my thinking.

      • JamesinAlaska says:

        Thanks for the reply.
        It would still be highly interesting to find out how marketing
        research "knows" just what people are looking for, and when.

    • Robyn says:

      It probably has to do with more men watch at night. (Please do not accuse me of being sexist-lol) Also, if I had to guess, people start getting home around that time and the adrenaline shows appeal to foodies and non-foodies alike = more viewers. Just a humble opinion :)

  4. Jorge says:

    Don't know who THIS Jorge is, but I've been posting as "Jorge" the entire season. Just explaining in case people thought it was (normally polite) Jorge.

  5. JanS. says:

    What is wrong with you people?!?!?

  6. JamesinAlaska says:

    Just curious.
    Does anyone else, feel the same my response
    to Diane (above). ?

  7. Edward says:

    I don't think her restaurant in Aspen, Colorado would be considered a dive. However, you may want to continue to eat at McDonalds.

  8. Karen says:

    If you can't prove your statement, keep your hatred to yourself. Don't want to hear it!

  9. Mary Wadley says:

    I was hoping with all my heart that Susie would win. I hope that good things come her way because of this show. I do not watch reality TV shows on a regular basis. My husband and I sold a grill to Susie and her husband. We fell in love with this great couple. They also have a great black lab, we have a yellow lab. This young lady deserves to do well in life. She is the AMERICAN DREAM. I respect her and have nothing but love for her. Susie, the best of luck to you and yours.This Young lady if the real deal! Love , Mary and Kim

  10. jeri says:

    The comments have been mostly great. Melissa is a wonderful human being. I still can't get over the statements, however, that Suzie is illegal! Yes, her father came "across the border" to give his family a better life in this great country. Did he cross legally? That's not for me, or you, to say. Is Suzie an illegal immigrant? I don't know, and I think most of you, who say she is, don't know either!! So good Americans, get over it. She's not taking anyone's job. She's not politicizing Mexico. She's probably even an Amercan citizen!!! Has any one checked? I'll bet not. So, until you know the facts, I suggest you keep your "illegal" comments to yourself. I may get blasted for this blog, but that's ok. This is, after all, the USA. Our founding Fathers were not all Americans. We were founded by people of other countries seeking a better life. So embrace our fellow people whe do this country good. That's all. Thanks for letting me sound off!