Aarti’s After Party: Star As Therapy

by in Food Network Star, June 24, 2012

Emily Ellyn

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.

Someone give me my clairvoyance badge! (Isn’t that something you earn in the Girl Scouts?) Last week I asked why Emily was so fascinated by the '50s, and why Justin felt the need to pursue this "rebel without a culinary cause" POV because, in my estimation, what you cook isn’t the whole story — it’s why you cook that turns an everyday burger into something special.

And guess what? That was exactly what this week was about.

I’ll be honest. I’m still a bit surprised that Emily was sent home. She was an early favorite of mine, although always with a bit of reservation. I wanted to see beyond the awesome wardrobe and masterful cooking technique to the beating heart beneath the halter-neck apron. I had really hoped we’d get there this week.

During my season of Star, we often likened this competition to therapy. The last thing you’d expect in a TV competition about cooking is to have to deal with your demons. But you do, because being under this kind of scrutiny, under this kind of pressure, draws all of those suckers to the surface. And, rather than enduring hours of self-analysis on a couch in a therapist’s office, you’re doing it in your heels, under interrogator’s lights and before a national TV audience. It’s scary, no doubt. But one of the things I learned through Star is that if something scares you, you can’t back off — you’ve got to run full-speed at it, roaring with all your might.

Yvan Lemoine

I have to give it up to Yvan this week. Until now, I honestly haven’t walked away with much of an impression about him. But when Bob asked, “Why is food important to you?” I thought, oy. That is the kind of massive, $64,000 question that can sink you under its weight. But, depending on how you look at it, it can also be a gift. Rather than shy away from it, Yvan barreled straight into it, revealing a chapter in his life of such heart-wrenching depth that I don’t think I’ll ever forget him. It takes a lot of courage to stand so vulnerably and nakedly before the country, but when you’re that honest, how can anyone not love you?

I loved Martie’s story for the same reason. Sure, I have to have a defibrillator handy every time she cooks because I’m never certain she’ll make it in time (now I know how Bobby felt when he watched me cook!), but, boy, did she bowl me over when she told that story about learning to throw her own parties so that she’d never be stood up or uninvited to one again. Again, she revealed a deep wound, one I totally relate to (being the victim of cruel children’s pranks). But rather than indulge in any “woe is me,” she turned it into a trademark Martie moment: a little spunk, a little pull-your-socks-up vitality and a hefty dose of warm humor. I don’t know how she manages it every week, but I have a feeling Martie could stick around a lot longer.

Emily Ellyn and Alton Brown

But, oh, my sweet Emily. All she needed was one good story, one good moment from her past, perhaps the moment that started it all for her. I know that it’s hard to pull down the walls you may have built up, walls that in Emily’s case may resemble an awesome ‘50s wardrobe and a knowledge of retro fare that is likely rivaled by none. But like it or not, this show calls for not only the slick coat of paint, but a look at the bones of the house, too.

I long to know what it was that made Emily choose this particular era as the one that she clings to, why she longs for the “simplicity” of the Leave It To Beaver days. By her tears, I sense that there’s some deep sadness behind it. Sadly, I’ll never know. I’m starting to get attached, people! I’m disappointed that she’s gone, especially because I think that, had she taken the plunge and given us a glimpse of her story, she would have stayed this week; neither Nikki nor Martita told deep-enough stories for my liking, but at least they told us something. Emily was one of the top people whom I looked forward to watching each week, and with her gone, a bright cat-eyed light has disappeared from the competition.

What did everyone else think?

 

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