Aarti’s After Party: Fashionable Food

by in Food Network Star, June 3, 2012


Aarti Sequeira won Food Network Star season 6 and expanded her popular blog into a cooking show, Aarti Party (catch it on Food Network, Sundays at 7:30am/6:30c). As a Star veteran watching from her couch at home, Aarti shares her insider’s take on what went down each week.

I have two words about this week’s challenge: Food. Fascinator.

I nearly gave Emily a standing ovation this week for her delightful spin on the old standby of ham steak with pineapple and maraschino cherries. This challenge was sort of tailor-made for her, since her POV is all about putting a fresh coat of paint on retro dishes. And so I expected her to nail the dish, although I must say that pickling the cherries was an inspired idea — maraschino cherries are not an easy ingredient to work with (as I learned on Chopped All-Stars earlier this year!) because their sticky, saccharine flavor usually overwhelms the entire dish. You have to stand up to them, and that she did, dousing them in spicy vinegar to show ‘em who’s boss. “When life gives you cherries, pickle ‘em.” Yes indeed, Emily.

But the fascinator? As close to genius as I’ve ever seen on Food Network Star. I don’t know this for sure, but I’m guessing it’s the first time that a contestant has turned a piece of food into an accessory. Even with my flower fetish, I don’t think I would have considered putting pork behind my ear. But Emily’s little beauty? I’d wear it in a heartbeat.

And what’s even more impressive about Emily’s “secret weapon,” as she dubbed it, is that she came up with it under pressure. It might be the understatement of the year to say that cooking in these challenges is stressful. Unfamiliar kitchens, not being able to run back to the store if you forgot something, always a little less time than you’d really like and something that most of us don’t think about: creating beautiful individual plates.

I remember the first time I saw someone using a ring mold during my season. I felt like I had just caught a glimpse of some wild exotic animal or something — I had never in my wildest dreams considered using one. As primarily a home cook, I always imagine my dishes to be served family-style: mound of rice here, big ladleful of curry there, spoonful of vegetables to round it out. It’s something very different to conceive a dish whose components will stand together on a plate and make an impact as a solitary item, rather than as part of a big, bubbling pot.

Practically everyone managed to do that, though. Of course, Justin killed it, but I’ll get to him in a second. Yvan has to get a special mention. Shepherd’s pie always leaves a dent in the table because it’s so heavy, but Yvan transformed it into something you might find at one of those California-style fine dining spots here in L.A. It was beautiful and indicative of the light, fluffy potato he topped the heavier meat sauce with. I also have to give it up to sweet, sweet Eric. It is not easy to change your cooking plan as the seconds tick away, and turning his spring rolls into beer-battered fritters was a fantastic idea.

See, plating might be one of the most underestimated — yet most important — parts of putting food in front of anyone, especially during this challenge when everyone is focused on beautiful fabrics, draping and colors. The food’s got to be able to stand up to that kind of scrutiny. You’ve heard that we eat with our eyes first, right? In this situation, we also judge someone’s cooking prowess based on the beauty of their dish. I always talk about presenting to an audience or to the camera, but you’re doing the same thing with your plate: Before you’ve opened your mouth to talk about your dish, or before a spoonful has hit a judge’s palate, your plate is doing the talking.

That’s why Justin is moving into first place for me at this point. First off, his presentation was flawless. It was witty and, for this particular word geek, his ability to describe food in such an articulate way made my heart go pitter-patter.

Second? Checkerboard plate, people! Not unlike a certain designer handbag. That plate screamed playfulness, confidence and intelligence. It made an impression as soon as it landed on the judges’ collective lap. Susie’s first word: “Wow!”

Finally, the fact that the dish delivered flavor-wise was the final arrow on the dartboard. Beet cream? Yum. The mushroom gel is something I want to learn to make; a little molecular gastronomy here and there can breathe life into stale recipes, and would certainly impress dinner guests. And I want Justin to show me how, because I know he’ll make me laugh and get my brain churning in the process. I love seeing how his mind works, how he’ll interpret every challenge. And he seems quite matter-of-fact about it; it’s incredibly endearing. From the unorthodox and theatrical method of removing excess powdered sugar, to this week’s Louis Vuitton-inspired plate, I’m starting to fall for this Justin guy. I can’t wait to see what he does next!

What did everyone else think of this week's food fashions?

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Comments (572)

  1. Hollywood says:

    this blog is so much fun! everyone has their star. but the most fun thing to follow is the belly acher who is never gonna watch again!!! it's bob and susie and ippy and emily and bobby and alton this, that and the other. but guess what, i bet if we crack their bedroom door sunday nite, they'll be watching. betcha...

  2. Food Fan says:

    Speaking of those who have been sent home, it gets me thinking. Of those on the bottom. say, the bottom 3 least popular, or your least 3 favorites.
    1.If you had to pick 3, right now, to go home tomorrow, who would they be and why?.....and....
    2.do you think its possible that someone who is doing quite poorly now could really "get with it", surprise us all and really take off?

    • Tony says:

      Linkie, Nicki, Malcolm
      Reasons:
      Linkie is weak and presents poorly. Her food is mediocre. Nothing unique or memorable.
      Nicki has nothing likeable about her. Can't stand her and I know others too.
      Malcolm is inconsistent. Likeable but inconsistent.

      • Food Fan says:

        What if Malcolm became more consistent?
        What if Martie made better dishes?
        Would it change things for you?
        There are lots of possibilities...

        • Tony says:

          Out of those three, I feel strongest about Malcolm if he can become more consistent. He was great on Episode 4. I have already picked my winner: IPPY.

        • Jerilee says:

          I'll go out on a limb, kinda like the devil's advocate. What if there were no mentors? No teams? What if if everyone for him/her self? What If evey contestant had to cook a dish, using the same ingredients. After each round, a camera challenge, presenting their dish. No fan vote. Little coaching, just the basics? Who would be in the lead? Who would get sent home? What if....

          • Guest says:

            I think it would be a more level playing field, and more fair.I think it would change the whole game though. Right now you have contestants who are doing well with guidance, and those who, I think NEED would be a good word, they need to do their own thing in order to succeed.

          • Grandma Joyce says:

            Martie has sparkle, but not the cooking skills needed.
            Michelle can cook, but she would not be anything new.
            Judson knew he was saved by the team concept last week.
            I may very well be wrong, but that is how I see it at this minute.
            So, I guess those would be the three I think should have gone home before Eric.
            Eric just focused solely on his food preparation and we didn't get to see the warmth of his personality that does appear to be there. I'm telling you, I would love to sit down to a meal he has prepared.
            I love how the focus of the blogging this year is back on the food and not on the drama some contestants created, thank you, Food Network.

          • Food Fan says:

            Yes. I would like to see everyone get and use the same ingredients and see who does best--and also--have them be told to all make the same dish, and use whatever ingredients they each want and see who's comes out most delicious.
            Teams---i wanted to give this new format a chance, and I think I have, but it is obvious by now that it ends up letting weak performers who should be sent home survive, on the coat-tails of others. Not good.
            I would also eliminate the fan vote, even if it means iiii cant vote. "whoever has more friends wins." again, not good as it "warps" things away from food & camera performance. I strongly agree. Reasons given. :)

          • Jerilee says:

            Thanks!!

          • Sandy says:

            Thats a great idea Food Fan. Using same ingredients & making same dish would bring individual creativeness to a new height.

            And I don't deal with that fan vote thing anyway. I got enough of that with the old Design Star years ago. Its weird. Who knows how it works. Seems like some days it doesn't move at all.

          • Food Fan says:

            Yer welcome, Jerilee...and thank you Sandy.
            Just to add a bit more suspense....(anyone can jump-in on this)....
            Yvan. ---last time he was too intense. Any predictions? Do you think he'll likely keep being that way?--or--was is just a one-night thing and he'll learn from all the feedback and he will "find a good level" of camera-presence and make good dishes? Might he make a comeback?
            Might one of the top 4 or 5 have a bad night?
            or, will they stay hot, right to the end?
            Will one of the bottom 4 really have a fantastic night and shine?
            If one of the leading people have a bad night, will they come back stronger than ever? It seems as if every season has some unexpected upsets and ups & downs. Anybody have a prediction for the next challenge or two?

          • Food Fan says:

            ps--to everyone reading. I dont know anybody at all who posts on here, in real life. Just to let ya know...

          • Sandy says:

            If I were in Yvans shoes I'd be completely confused. They told him bring it up, then told him tone it down---kinda like someone tellin you to turn up the volume on the radio, then when you do, they say its too loud, so you turn it down & they say that's too low, I can't hear it. You get aggravated.

            Seems according to previews (which we know can be misleading) show that Bobbys & Giadas group stand out next week. I heard Michelle ask Guy 'are you my brother?' I think Guy does disarm some of them so they can relax a bit but he might get under my nerd fave Justins skin. We'll see.

          • Sandy says:

            ...and I think they liked Yvans dish last week. They found it to be a great transformation. I think they just thought his words were hollow & that he was spoke too loudly. Remember one of the audience said 'why is he shouting?'

            He can't be himself because he's trying so hard to please them & be whomever they want him to be.

          • Jerilee says:

            Isn't that what the mentors are supposed to be for, assuming all contestants can cook, why else try for a show? I dont really see them "mentoring" much. They are seasoned veterans, they should know what/who would make a good "star". I agree everyone can have a bad/good day. I think Bobby's team will be safe, already down 2. The rest...I'm stumped. I have my favorites, but who knows?!?!?!

    • Tigergal says:

      (1) Michelle is HARD to look at and listen to. Also, this is her 3rd or 4th bite at the FN apple. Give someone else a chance, guys.
      (2) Judson has nothing to offer, doesn't seem to connect, and he is often uncomfortable to watch.
      (3) Martie has nothing to offer, either. One Paula Deen is too much already. Both of these Cougars do the South a disservice, but frankly, I'd rather watch Martie.

      • MoHub says:

        FN has been doing a lot of contestant recycling of late. Michele was on Chopped and 24 Hour Restaurant Battle; Justin was also on 24 Hour. At least two Cupcake Wars contestants have shown up on Sweet Genius, as has Jessica, who won Chopped.

        I'm beginning to think FN has developed its pool of cooking-competition chefs and will just keep parading the folks in front of us from show to show.

        • Jerilee says:

          Perhaps they are. How does one get on these shows? Apply, tryout? I'm sure FN keeps records of all that stuff.

      • Teddy says:

        The Network big wigs must LOVE the look. They have two other chefs (Anne & Guy) who look exactly like her. Guy doesn't really cook and Anne is annoying as hell to watch. Please think of something new. I have an idea, bring Eric back.

  3. lesliejane says:

    This past week was disappointing in that Eric went home and now we're forced to endure another week of Martie's rambling, stumbling, struggling....it's simply a matter of housekeeping at this point to let her go, along with possibly Yvan, Linkie, Judson....too bad an en masse elimination isn't possible. I'm finding the new format and the team concept a little tedious. Emily and Justin are on fire, Martita has redeemed herself considerably in my eyes, and Ippy is still solid. The only reason Nikki is still around is because Flay wants her to be, so she won't go anywhere. He's still infatuated with the Girl on Grill silliness. Yawn.

  4. Hopeful says:

    Yea, This show is starting to be more about over the top than Good Cooking. I really want to see good
    Cooking. So sorry that Eric left and so surpprized that Ippy was is the bottem two.
    There were far worse that made it through this week. COME on Judges, we want to SEE a winner
    who cooks good food. Not an over the top Personally as you have called it.

  5. John says:

    I really think that the team format might save a few that didn't deserve it in particular week's, such as this one. I can't think of his name, but the guy from team Alton really should have been in the bottom for his lack-luster presentation and hollow words. Having said that though, there is only two people that could have shows so far that I'd watch. I LOVE Emily and Justin. Maybe it's because I am a weird, eccentric person, but I love their quirkiness and strange appeal. I also love both of their show concepts. Either way, as a "team", Those two carried team Alton to a victory having the top two dishes of the night.

  6. Guest says:

    Bob and Susie need to get off of the personality thing and look at the food instead(and taste it). The show really need new judges. They get no camera work until they are in the bottom. Hats off to Emily! Bob and Susie like Ippy cause he's from Hawaii they chose favorites the first week and are just trying to keep them in the show. Last seasons winner the sandwich king has too much personality and I wouldn't even look up his recipes but Eric (sad he's gone) can cook I don't care if his personality isn't what bob and susie want. Aarti can cook and has a good personality but not too big so she won! Emily would be perfect cause she can cook and like aarti has a good personality but not too big. So bob n Susie get a new job find who u really are and stop asking other people who are you.

    • Frank Demeo says:

      You'll notice Aarti didn't garner enough ratings/praise from the public. Whether you like it or not, the Guy Fieris the Giadas of the world are what get viewers. I don't particularly like Guy....but I have tuned in every blue moon because he said/did something on camera to get my attention. The Network is going to make decision based on experience and what makes more marketing sense. Not doing so, would be foolish.

      • Food Fan says:

        That may be, and it even sounds logical and believable.
        The only problem is: Im sure the last few winners were also picked/chosen, largely, also with a concern for *their* marketability.
        But it isnt working. What they thought "was marketable", wasnt for very long.
        Aarti's show is being cancelled.
        Is Aaron McCargo's show being cancelled?
        I remember seeing the 5-ingredient cook on in the afternoons, but where is she now?
        People are posting about being bored with the Sandwich King.
        It seems as if some of the marketers are simply making wrong picks and not in touch with what will keep the public interested.

      • Cupcake says:

        Think teacher! The winner must be able to teach, capture attention and deliver good results.

        • Food Fan says:

          Yes!
          You gotta Cook fantastic and have great flavors--(Bobby's emphasis)
          You gotta be likable, pull people in and "sell a product"--(Giada's emphasis)
          But TEACHING matters!--you can cook wonderfully, and be someone we like on camera.....but if you can't explain or TEACH it so anyone understands or can follow you, or even wants to.....its Nowhere! --(Alton's emphasis).
          One trait alone, wont do it.

  7. JustSaying says:

    Not Really sure if I like the new format or not but I think Eric was the right Choice of the two that was at the bottom, my choice would of been Judson but he was saved because Alton's team was the best this week. By the way what's his deal with the Waterfall Tears if anyone's seen the coming attractions to this week he's crying again is it a sympathy ploy or what he needs to man up I'm waiting for him to throw a tantrum fit if one of his meals don't turn out right. And by the way I'm rooting for Justin. Just saying.

  8. cathy says:

    I was disappointed in the show in that Eric was sent home. There are a couple others that should have gone instead.

  9. Horatio says:

    Martie is my favorite! I hope she comes back and uses the skills I know she has.

    • Sandy says:

      I like her too Horatio. She would be the best to sit and chat with. She is genuine just as Alton said. And she has a great attitude! Even if she doesn't win, I'd like to see her pop in on Paula Deens show. Those 2 accents would be fun for me to watch & listen to...I gotta say...I love Paula Deens cackle laugh.....makes me laugh everytime SHE does!

      • Food Fan says:

        I do hafta give Martie credit. She took criticism amazingly well.
        She isnt in the lead now, but who's to say she cant really learn and take to heart the feedback and mentoring and simply do better? It could happen. With her, or with anyone else. I'm sure FN looks for who is learning and showing growth and improvement. Whther its food, or camera, or both, or some personality trait. But, I dont know whether they will. Maybe they wont. Maybe the will.
        Will Nikki sound less scripted?
        Will Malcolm wow us with his food?
        Will Judson sound less like a motivational speaker?
        Will Martie markedly improve?
        Will Yvan still be over the top or will he find a good level of camera presence?
        Will one or more of the leading people fall?
        Or, will they stay hot to the end?
        Any predictions for the next 1 or 2 challenges?
        Lots of possibilities. Each season usually has some ups & downs.

        • Joel says:

          Hope she doesn't read this blog, like Nicki and Linkie seem to - she and Judson got skewered here this week.

  10. suzy says:

    Just finished reading wikipedia entry for food network star: The runner up has more of a chance to get a show broadcast that stays on the air than the winner! And not on Sunday morning.
    I don't quite understand what Bob and Susie's trip is, but they need to be sent out to pasture for next years show.