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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Comments (1,119)

  1. Vicki says:

    I think Emily's reasons for attachment to that era run very deep. It could be that she was wise in the end to not share them, even though we would have loved to get to know her better. I was reminded of my own immersion in the styles and mindsets of the 40's, in an effort to get to know my mother better, when my mother was thousands of miles away from me. To have described that longing for my mother as an adult would have led to so many wrong conclusions, had I done so with my peers back then. I can't imagine ever laying myself that bare on national television.

  2. Rickie says:

    I hope that Michelle wins this Food Network Star!

  3. BooRad859 says:

    So how many of you think that some of the 'stories' we have already heard, or will hear in the coming weeks, are complete fabrications? I would not blame a contestant who went down that path, given The Network's unending appetite for such fare.

    The poster who called 'The Network' emotional vampires is spot-on. Susie in particular seems to lick her lips in delight the more painful a story seems to be. It is a very weird disconnect though with the painful stories they seem to crave with the stories told by Ina, Giada, et al. Those stories are all full of "arent I/my family all wonderful, happy people and don't you wish you were one of us" moments. Personally, stories about digging through garbage do nothing for my appetite. But this, apparently, is what The Network wants.

    • Joel says:

      Totally agree, BooRad859. Compare Ina talking about Jeffrey every week - it is always sunshine and roses and laughs, and we love seeing it! And half the time, she is gushing just about the fabulous party she is going to have. The only time memories come up, it seems, are anniversaries (a totally natural place to have them), and those brownies she made Jeffrey when they were dating.

      And the sad thing is, people are being coached to do this, and unless they have a really strong descriptive ability, it doesn't make me feel connected to them at all, and doesn't help their cause. Saying "X means the world to me" doesn't do anything for me. Anyone can say that, and without giving real descriptive reasons why they matter to you, I can't really connect to it at all. And half the time it ends up feeling manipulative - a technique to hook me and sell me a product, instead of really being genuine.

  4. Guest says:

    Over 1,000 posts, mostly positive about Emily! CAN YOU HEAR US NOW, FOOD NETWORK???

    • stella says:

      If Emily was so popular, why did she never reach the top 3 in fan vote, ever?

      • Guest says:

        Check your facts, stella. Emily was third for a good portion of the show!

      • Food Fan says:

        But if yer going to ask that, the we should also ask: How is it, that someone who is #1 in the fan vote, has ssoooo many unfavorable posts in this actual Blog? What people write and say doesnt match up with what might look like popularity in a fan vote.
        I'd give far more believability to this Blog and the posts people make, than to any fan vote.

        • Jerilee says:

          The fan vote sucks. I have said before, it is an exponential thing. Those that have the most get the most, not meaning anything in reality.

  5. sammy b says:

    I have personally noticed that on some days I am allowed to vote more tha 10 times and on other days it makes me stop after one. What is going on there and is anyone else experiencing this? This is totally unfair and it isn't my computer. I have gone on my other one and my husband's and the same thing happens.

  6. jmain says:

    Let's see......Contestant with significant education in the cooking field [Bachelors -NY, 2 Masters - one in France;; one in FL, PhD in progress – FL, culinary professor]. Contestant with significant cooking experience nationally and internationally. Food consultant, Contestant with good food reviews every show... versus other contestants with poor food reviews, dead air space [how much is a 30 second Superbowl commercial?]. … and Who gets kicked off the island? … Judges and their Selection Process - ... Clueless. Emily may not have ultimately won the contest but this week was a travesty.

  7. klink6224 says:

    What is the fascination with Martita? Every single week her personality disappoints. She never brings it and has a weak excuse for why she doesn't afterwards. Always with the aye-yai-yai! I get that she is visually appeasing but she doesn't seem to bring anything unique to the table. Food Network already has a Mexican stylized show with Mexican Made Easy so it's not like its a demographic that HAS to be filled. Whenever she does seem to tap into her "flare" it always seems forced with the nasally word and dropping the Mamacita to Giada.

    Emily may not of shown her demons on why she is stuck in the 50's. There was definitely a dishonesty with her answer to Alton as to why she is stuck on that but she deserved to stay another week beyond Martita, IMO. I wish she just said...something! Even if it was a bit BS, saying she didnt fit in high school trying to be what she thought everyone wanted her to be so she dressed up "weird" and it just felt right. I'm sure that wouldve been enough, at least for now. Sad to see her go even though I didnt think she was going to win. She definitely had issues when the cameras were rolling.

    • Dr. L says:

      AMEN! I think the two people who have showed us basically no personality are Martita and Malcolm. I can't even think of one adjective to describe either of their personalities. I often forget that Malcolm is even in the competition and I would feel the same about Martita if people didn't have some weird fascination (as you put it) about her.

      • klink6224 says:

        It's funny you say that about Malcolm, when I think about it, you are absolutely right. I don't think of him as even being in this. I always just think of Justin, Martie, Michele, Nikki, Ippy and Yvan. Nikki more so because I don't like her and Martie I didn't like but she is improving each week. But Malcolm seems to have some cooking chops and I thought was going to be a dark horse in this but is yet to really make an impression at all.

        It's weird for the first few weeks all I wanted was Martie eliminated then Nikki took her place and now Martita is starting to inch near her. Though I think after 3 times of being on the Producers Challenge chopping block Nikki needs to go on principle. But I digress

  8. mise_en_place says:

    I wish the voting process would be limited to 1 vote per phone. That would maybe level the playing field. I personally don't vote. I don't have time to flood the polls with multiple votes, and since my one vote can't possibly count against the multiple votes from others with time on their hands it is not worth the effort. Also, what does it really accomplish? Food Network is unlikely to produce a show based soley on a popularity contest. Yes, they have in the past given runners-up their own shows. But they don't need votes from the viewers to make that decision. They are savvy people who recognize viable TV personalities. They didn't eliminate Emily because she doesn't have the potential to be star, but because they perceive that she hasn't evolved quickly enough to be ready when production starts.

    Consider, too, that if they have to eliminate someone each week. If they do not believe she is the most competitive (even if they like her better than the other candidates) it makes sense to time her elimination ahead of less popular competitiors. Controversy sells.

  9. guest says:

    Just saw Nikki on the local news station KCAL 9.com. She wasGreat! Her personality and food knowledge were by far superior to anything I"ve seen thus far on the show.Check It out for yourselves and see what The Next Foodnetwork Star should look like!

    • Guest says:

      If you believe that the Next Food Network Star should look like a horse, then I'll be happy to check it out!

      • Debbie says:

        WOW 2nd guest that was rude. Obviously you have a stick up your own horse ass. I saw the video too! What a difference... Nikki has a lot of really cool insight and was a natural and fun on the news today. She absolutely sparkled!!! Really makes me wonder the validity of how FN is portraying her. Everyone who is bashing here should take the 5 min and watch on CBS KCal-9 Website.

      • Jerilee says:

        There you go again with your personal attacks!!

  10. New Nikki Fan!!!! says:

    Nikki is one to watch!! She is READY to be a Star NOW!! I think they have been keeping her around for some good reasons! I saw her on a HUGE Local News in LA today- CBS KCal-9 and she was Stunning. Well Spoken, Lighthearted, Informative and really caught my attention with her great grilled salad demo. Now I know what Bobby saw.. her casting video has that same sparkle. I think Nikki's thing in all these Episodes is shes just super focused and trying to win.. because all her other spots are totally fun & carefree!

    • Guest says:

      Well, if she is that good, then FN is not doing her any favors. The way the show is edited and produced presents Nikki as a person who is arrogant, critical and nasty. If that is not Nikki, then she should be talking with FN about how she is shown on television. I would give anyone a second chance, but FN has been consistent with how Nikki is portrayed, and with comments now over 1000 and many, many negative comments about Nikki, something is going on.

      • New Nikki Fan!!! says:

        Well it IS TV and my friend who works in reality said they can make anyone look better or worse, all for ratings and to surprise the viewers in the end. Watch her video link from Kcal-9 News, it really shows that we all have been fooled here. I don't think she can control how FN portrays her.