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. Sandy says:

    If you look at the picture of Altons remaining 4 at the top of the page, Judson, Marti, Emily, & Justin, ...it seems like 3 of them are waving goodbye to us ... Emily stands there smiling like she's the winner. Hahaha.

    • Food Fan says:

      Hmmm...a triple elimination?? Now that would be a surprise.
      But no....it cant be. They wouldn't......would they? Naaaah, aint gonna happen.
      But what do I know? Im just a guy with an opinion like the rest of us.

      • Jerilee says:

        It's possible!! They have had double eliminations before. Would be a quick way to shorten the series (and piss-off a lot of fans!). Double elim is more realistic, to even up the teams ya know. But what do I know, I'm just an opinionated gal!!!

    • Sandy says:

      Awww geez...and...um...I'm just....not making myself clear.

      What I meant was the picture appears like a prophetic thing...like "eventually" those 3 will be removed as the process goes on...I wasn't looking at it as though 2 or 3 would be eliminated at one time...but..as you guys say...hey...what do we know?

      • Food Fan says:

        Ahhh...another possibility...might be now...might be later.
        Another thing---i notice on the right side of screen...it may say a thread has 120 comments...but, when you click and go there...suddenly it says there's only like 115......tis a deep mystery.....

        • Jerilee says:

          Not such a mystery. I believe it's called lag time!! Plus it gives time to randomly eliminate comments. LOL!!

          • Food Fan says:

            Hehehhee...aint technology wonderful? (wink)

          • Food Fan says:

            well...thats it for me...til tomorrow....speaking of tomorrow...we might see a sudden flood of 200 more posts that were all backed-up from today. hee hee....or maybe a new thread from FN.....see ya!

          • Jerilee says:

            You never know! Might even see some posts disappear!!! A new thread would be nice, but not likely, given the fact that it's Friday and closer to a new episode. See ya!

    • Frank Demeo says:

      Just want to point out that they were wearing those oufits in episode 4.....and it's already clear who that week's elimination was. That photo was part of the shoot they did while they were in front of the crowd at the "food fashion show". So no....not likely there will be a "triple elimination" leaving Emily. She was just awkwardly standing while the others were waving at the cameras/crowd during fashion week.

  2. cindy says:

    I still think Giada is the one to go. I just can't stand looking at her with her fake dogbone smile chewing with her mouth open. I WANTED to learn how to make cheese that Eric made. And anything else from scratch like he had.

    • scootersandi says:

      I agree, Cindy. Giada's smile is so phony! And ugly, too - showing every tooth in her head! And will someone tell her to dress her age? Her little mini skirts are not flattering to her at all...

  3. Food Fan says:

    Next challenge: the Teams each create a Live show.
    Video clip says this challenge is a test of Versatility.
    I wonder which two people will do best in this one.
    And who will get sent home?
    Lookin' forward to Sunday night.

    • Jerilee says:

      I too am looking forward to Sunday. Can't imaging what the challenge will be. Versatility?? In what?? Cooking? Camera? Just to be on the shoe is versatile. They changed th format, again. Can't click on latest comments any more. Have to go through the blog search. Too much trouble. I'll just stay here. Catch up on Sunday if no comments.

  4. hiyaa_slapchop says:

    i recorded the episode on june 3rd and i believe there was a major editting error that wasnt caught and i think it is one of the funnest things ever...if you get the chance to watch this episode where they are cooking for the New York fashion show..at minute 36 they are bringing out the flying hawaiians salsbury steak for the judges to taste and as soon as it goes from Yippi's face there is a FART sound before they go back to the judges..no joke...very funny..i have it on my DVR...minute 36 from fashion show episode

    • Jerilee says:

      You have nothing better to watch for than someone farting?? You really need a life.

      • beachinfrizzy says:

        : D Thanks for starting off my weekend with a laugh, Jerilee!!

      • hiyaa_slapchop says:

        no Jerilee..i watch foodnetwork everyday and love to cook..i recorded the food network star because i was at work and when i watched it when i got home i noticed the sound that is clear as day and it sounded like a fart so there u go..i got a life so dont tell me i need a life cause u dont kno me

  5. Grandma Joyce says:

    First of all, I have watched Giada's, Alton's, and Bobby's shows through the years. Giada presented food very artistically, Alton has taught me the hows and why's, and Bobby has shared his spotlight graciously in many different shows (Throwdown, the grilling shows, etc). To commit to the time necessary for this show demonstrates their work ethic.
    Second, Food Network, please give audiences a chance to get to know the FN star winners before their shows are cancelled.Would Arrty Party have been more successful if the TV show had followed the same format of her blog, such as Pioneer Woman. Also, because the one time viewing is difficult, you may be dismissing talent too soon. I'm sure there is more to the decision of show cancellations than I am aware of.
    Third, why is Ippy told he is too laid back when monotone Justin is okay? Ippy tried to explain that laid back is his culture, as Ivan explained of his culture. Martita may not be loud but she is very expressive.
    I don't speak Spanish so I don't know what she is muttering under her breath. Maybe the explanation is on the cutting room floor.

    • Food Fan says:

      I really enjoy the Pioneer Woman (and I'm not a cowboy). She makes things I would really love to eat. It must be both working-man and kid-approved, and she does it! She is not pretenious or fake. I like her. I also like some shows that are quite different from hers. But she is real, and makes yummy-looking dishes.
      Good point about Ippy & Justin. Why is monotone OK but eaqsy-going isnt? Doesnt seem right.

      • Jerilee says:

        I would rather watch laid back than monotone. Ippy's laid back style and voice are soothing, and his smile is sooo cute!! (female POV!!). Justin's cooking is interesting, to say the least, but the voice needs work.

        • Food Fan says:

          (grin). My wheels keep turning. Will Nikki move up? Will Michelle rise again? Will Judson?
          Why haven't we heard more people talk about Martita the last few days? Seems like there would be more people commenting about who is #1, but has gotten quieter. Then again, the posts in general have slowed down the last couple days. I wonder what the judges might say about Ippy this next time and how he will do. For me, his easy-going nature was never a problem to begin with and I can see why ladies like his smile. I wonder who's team will win this challenge.

          • Jerilee says:

            Judson...not if he keeps that dopey, so-called mantra. He deeds to find himself, fast. Michele at this time is hit or miss..sometimes good sometimes not so. I'm wondering about Linkie if there is no dessert or pastry...does she have overall chef chops?? (her cakes are masterpieces-she should go for Sweet Genius). I do think she would be good on a dessert/cake/baking show...I would watch. Nikki could be a dark horse and move up. Justin needs to work on vocals. Ippy is just pleasant...easy going, calm, and seems genuine. Martita needs to embrace her POV and make it sing...rely on her restaurant experiences with her family. Did any of that make sense?

          • Food Fan says:

            Yes, you are being clear.
            Martita needs to embrace her POV and make it sing? I dont think she's changed her food-focus since she met Giada in her video, so I dont know why she would need to embrace it more. Maybe I missed something in a show.
            As good as Nikki has done in food and camera, I wouda thought someone else woud be lower on the fan vote than her. Then again, I hope the power that be pay *more* attention to what people actually take the time to write, in this blog, that pushing and yes-no or up-down fan vote for anyone.
            As for Linkie, earlier someone posted that she had a website. I also found a newsclip video about a competition (Top Chef?) that she was in where she did use other ingredients (not pastry), and also cook & compete against other non-pastry Chefs. From the video, it looks like she's quite capable of doing other kinds of foods. Hopefully, they wont put her in a box or restrict her. Or Martita, or anyone else. Dont limit the contestants. I wanna see their range-of-capabilities. All of them.
            Emily did good last time with her Ham & Pineapple dish.
            Ippy has had great flavors to all his dishes.
            Judson--I didnt buy that mantra of his, either.
            Malcolm is another one who might possibly surprise us and move up.
            Will Yvan be over the top again, or will he find his level?
            I'm expecting some more ups & downs in who's ahead of who as this unfolds. I hope we can all post our comments after Sunday's show.

          • Jerilee says:

            I don't think you missed anything...there's just something I can't quite put my finger on...energy?, dynamics?, spark of some kind? Not sure. I'll watch the replay tomorrow to see if I can figure it out!!!! Linkie did compete on another show, so yes she does have that capability, she has quite a list of accomplishments, listed on her web site, some are very lofty. (looked it up after last post, should have before...hindsight you know). Shoot...battery out, again!!! Be back in AM.

  6. Annalise says:

    I just saw Suzy's clip. She is all about the fashion, all about her shoes, all about her neck line when judging, I don't think she is that much interested in the food's preparation and taste except maybe in how it looks. I'm starting to see why she just didn't get Eric. He dressed and looked average, like most everyone else outside of N.Y. and California. The thing is, people don't remember how the food always looks. That's gone about 5 sec. after you put it in front of them. People will always remember the love and the taste that goes into well made food.

  7. Susanne Barrie says:

    Who stands out for good food, good flavors, creativity, who would you tune into see??? I want someone like Giada and The Barefoot Countess... no MORE southern women and Martie's food isn't that good... PLEASE!!!!! Linkie's accent is too strong, Michele is not interesting nor are the two African Americans guys, Ivan is too immature, Ippy could pull it out but my $$$ is on Martita and Ellen with Justin as the wild card!
    So Martita, Ellen, Justin in that order!

  8. Sammy1 says:

    LOVE Alton's team--I agree with several postings that The Sandwich King is no king! NEVER watch him OR Melissa and her 10 dollar dinners. Her tips from that competition and recipes are boring and what normal cooks have been doing for years. She and Giada are both stuck up to me.

    • Food Fan says:

      What is wrong with "normal" food?
      I like it very much. Just show me how to make it easily and have it come out, Delicious! Its all about the flavor, whether its exotic, ordinary, or whatever.
      By far, I would NOT be interested in any sort ultra-fancy-plated iron chef type dish made with ingredients I'll never buy or use, nice as it may be. Just because it was served in a 5-star restaurant at the top of some 30-story building doesnt impress me.

      • Grandma Joyce says:

        I have watched "The Sandwich King" and have learned tips on preparing chicken, pork, etc., bread making, biscuit making, salads, etc. I like his show. I still like Aarti's show, but again, found them hard to view due to the one time only viewing option.

      • Jerilee says:

        Besides, it's very expensive at a 5 star restaurant. Why would I want to pay $50 for a rib eye that I can make at home. Just give me me the tips to do it. Home cooks are not going to put those reataurants out of business just because they can make it at home for $10. (yes I can get 2 perfect rib eyes for $10), more if they aren't on sale.

  9. CC of Jersey says:

    Love the new format of the show!! Watching the Chefs mentoring each of their team members adds a new viewing experience to the show. Having the chefs hand pick their team members was brilliant! Each team member's personality really reflects the Chef that choose them. Its clear to me the who has the winning personality and food chops of each team. Starting with Giada, you have to go with Martita, def. got star quality all over her! She's warm, inviting and makes you want to sit in her kitchen and chat with her while you watch HER do the cooking! Bobby's Team only has one real stand out to me and of course it's Michele. She keeps it real, very true to herself and that really shines thru. Team Alton, what an odd lot they are! def. fun to watch this one is a toss up between Emily & Justin, Justin is a total original but a little low key on the star quality and Emily fun and quirky to watch but i'm not so big on her whole retro POV. Only time will tell .....stay tuned

  10. Hollywood says:

    My question is: if there is not more than one of you, Food Fan, when do you sleep?