Aarti’s After Party: Redemption and Defeat

by in Food Network Star, June 17, 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.

Well, didn’t Martie redeem herself this week?

I was kind of amazed at how many of you wrote, with some vitriol, that sweet Martie didn’t deserve to stay last week. Well, she certainly proved herself this week, cooking a rather elaborate multi-step dish (Southern-style arancini, which I would never have attempted to make for 150 people) and bowling the judges over with her warmth and humor.

Just one thing though, Martie, my love: That moniker you’re using? Martie Party? It’s kinda taken. Ahem!

I am sad that Linkie went home, though. I understand the network’s decision, but I really fell for her warmth and sparkle. I’m also sad about the prospect of a dessert-centered show disappearing. Who doesn’t crave a little more dessert in their lives? (If you don’t, then maybe you can teach me your trick!) And, sadly, I don’t think it was a lack of talent or potential that handed Linkie the go-back-to-go card.

Rather, it was that Linkie fell victim to a syndrome that attacks all of us at one point or another: changing who you are to be something you think someone else wants you to be.

In this case, it manifested in the form of a churro. Team Giada was assigned Mexican food, and with two team members of Latin heritage, I assume that Linkie felt pressure to create an authentic Mexican dessert, something she had no experience making. I found myself wincing and crying out, “no!” at the screen when she bowed to Martita’s suggestion to make churros, even though she had never had them. Cut to the Spanish inquisition in the car, where, out of what I can only imagine was some deep fear, Linkie interrogated Martita about churros and Mexican hot chocolate – flavors, ingredients and textures.

Here’s a hard and fast rule for Food Network Star finalists: If you don’t know how to make it, don’t make it.

This always sinks contestants. Heck, it nearly sunk me. In one of our first challenges during my season of Star, Duff asked us to transform sweet carnival snacks into savory ones. The creepy fortune teller machine assigned me funnel cakes – something I couldn’t remember ever having in my life.

I freaked.

Someone told me that they resembled deep-fried pancakes in texture, so I made little scallion-ricotta blinis topped with tandoori-barbecue chicken. It saved me. Had I tried to re-create funnel cakes? Well, I don’t think I’d be sitting here writing to you now.

I would have loved to have seen Linkie make something that was Mexican-inspired, perhaps a Mexican chocolate cupcake or some Horchata-flavored ice cream – something that expressed herself and her expertise in her unique God-given way. Ultimately, cooking something she was uncomfortable with stole her confidence to such an extent that it dimmed her characteristic sparkle when presenting to the judges.

Linkie, if you’re reading this: You’ve got it, girl. Everything you are is good enough. Share your sparkle. I can’t wait to see where you go from here.

What did everyone else think?


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Comments (716)

  1. guest says:

    The goal of the next star's show is unclear, so how do any of us know what the course of this competition will take. Reality, shmality, this is entertainment. I am adding support for my choice to the chef I would personally enjoy and that is Yvan in his show. That's just my POV.

  2. smd says:

    Very sorry to see Linkie leave. She just lit up the place and I would have watched her show. She has a natural warmth that you can’t teach people. Her confidence took a hit with the Mexican dessert. I wish Giada had given her more direction in suggesting a dessert that she was familiar with but still could incorporate a Mexican twist. I’d wager that half of the people born here can’t correctly spell churro and guacamole.

    Teams: I thought that the person from each team to take on the chicken livers hopefully got a little extra credit for that. Michelle stepped up for her team as leader/cheerleader. I think the others looked to Martita to be their leader but I don’t think she handled it well. Team Alton just worked well together and helped each other out. I think some of them got lucky that there was no camera challenge this week except for the bottom two. In presenting to the judges at the food court, Martita, Linkie, Nikki all stumbled. Nikki and Malcolm appeared to have little or no interaction with the customers and just seemed uncomfortable in that atmosphere.

    Emily: Good presentation, upbeat and the judges loved her dish.

    Justin: Good presentation, the judges loved his dish and he seemed to be having fun and in control.

    Marti: Good presentation, the judges loved her dish and she seemed to be really hustling in the
    kitchen and had great interaction with the customers.

    Malcolm: Good presentation, the judges loved his dish but he didn’t seem like he was having any fun
    at the food court or interacting with the customers.

    Michelle: Good presentation, the judges loved her food and she took on the role of elevating her team.

    Nikki: Stumbled during presentation with the rundown of items in the dish, the judges appeared to
    underwelmed with her dish and she didn’t seem to have any interaction with the customers.

    Ippy: Good presentation and he appeared more upbeat but still very comfortable in his own skin.
    The judges loved his food and he seemed to be having fun.

    Yvan: Good presentation and he seemed to be having fun and the judged loved his food.

    Linkie: Stumbled during presentation and the judges didn’t like her food.

    Martita: Had the gift of Mexican and didn’t run with it. Went blank during presentation. Judges loved
    her soup but not the other dish.

    In the producers challenge, the judges liked both of their dishes so I think they were on equal footing there with an equal shot at redemption. As much as I would have preferred Linkie stay, objectively I hate to say Nikki was just a little better in the in the camera presentation.

    • your biggest fan says:

      Good report, except that the judges DID like Linkie's chicken in the end. In fact Bob was kind of amazed/surprised at how tender her chicken was.

      • smd says:

        I did say they liked both dishes in the producers challange. They didn't like Linkie's food at the food court. I did catch Bob's comment and didn't feel like he was throwing her a bone. He did seem to really like it. I thought Susie favored Nikki's chicken a little more.

        • Grandma Joyce says:

          Good overview. Malcolm- his food is consistently described as delicious. He makes me wonder- did someone talk him into entering the competition, because he acts most of the time as he doesn't seem to care if he wins. What do you all think?

          • smd says:

            I get the impression from him that he is a chef first. He is probably happier in his domain doing his thing. I think he would rock it on Chopped. But the potential money, fame, etc from winning this slot is tough to turn down. I think I remember a chef from last year that admitted that he was talked into the competition by friends. I think I know the least about Malcolm of any of them and I don't feel he'd be all that unhappy if he lost. It won't be on food, but camera if he does.

  3. Sheron says:

    For Linkie's specialty being in pastry, I never saw her make anything that resembled a pastry. Also, I did not think her food looked that great. I would not watch a show with her. Don't really care much for any of them this season. And I agree about Giada, she is quite the prissy miss. The faces, nose wrinkling, jealousy, too much.......

  4. Dante says:

    Can anyone explain how Justin went from 16% in fan vote this afternoon, to 23% tonight.?
    There are barely any new comments today, yet such a jump in the lead would kinda imply that lots of his fans were on the site, just hours ago. Man, I don't trust this AT ALL.

  5. John says:

    For any of you top chef fans Justin reminds me of Richard Blaze.

  6. Jerilee says:

    Over 110 posts, someone should start a new post to make it easier to follow!!!!

  7. jrb says:

    Sweet Aarti, Thank you for your blog, you have a true star ability to see the best in people. :)

  8. Bristol says:

    Who has opinions on the rest of team Giada?

  9. Reuben says:

    Churros must be harder to make than they appear.

  10. Reuben says:

    Good luck Linkie! You will be missed.