Aarti’s After Party: Take It From Paula

by in Food Network Star, July 1, 2012

Paula and Bobby Deen
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, for one, adore Paula Deen. I remember when she appeared on my season of Food Network Star — the first things I saw were her crystal blue eyes and that trademark silver shock of hair. I lost it.

Much like Martie did this episode.

“Paula DEEEEEEEEEN!” I yelled and collapsed in a fit of excited giggles.

And I see her have the same effect on the contestants every season. She manages to dismantle even Alton’s poker face with her signature warmth, drawl and feistiness. So what is it about Paula that future Food Network stars can learn from?

A rock-solid point of view

You think Southern food, you think Paula. You think Southern humor, you think Paula. You think Southern family gatherings, you think Paula. Her POV (as Bob likes to say) is rock solid. It may not appeal to everyone, I’m sure. There was a time, I’m told, when some people may have looked down their noses at Southern cooking. No more. These days, it’s all the rage; people are talking about bourbon rather than Scotch, ribs rather than filet mignon and molasses (or even sorghum syrup) rather than honey or maple syrup. We can’t get enough of it. And neither can Paula. And I think that’s the key here: Paula is passionate about her style of cooking and the culture that surrounds it.

So is Michele; I loved when she talked about the no-nonsense, take-me-as-you-see-me attitude of New Englanders (a character trait that made me fall in love with my Boston-born husband) and how she got a bit breathless as she discussed the sunsets over the islands that will “sweep you away.” It’s that kind of passion and pseudo-geekiness that will make both you and your food shine.

Malcolm, on the other hand, didn’t seem quite as jazzed about the soul food concept he was shilling. Susie called him on it, asking if he thought it was beneath him. You can’t fake it. You’re either wild about the food you’re sharing with people or you’re not. There’s no in-between. At least, not if you want to be a Food Network star. Right, Paula?

Ippy Aiona

Delicious food and recipes that work

Heck, I know that if I decide to treat myself to Paula’s mac ‘n’ cheese recipe it’s going to be daggum good and authentic. Paula has personality for days, but you know that she wouldn’t have lasted as long as she has without fantastic, reliable recipes. It should go without saying that if you want to win this competition your food has to be good – consistently.

When I think about consistently good food during this season, I think of Ippy. This week in particular, his food not only sounded delicious, but the plates looked beautiful. Miso yaki Chilean sea bass cooked on the grill? Tasty and doable. I also can’t wait to try his tip about cooking vegetables in a foil packet on the grill, since I’m not a fan of grilled vegetables in general.

While Justin’s soup sounded refreshing, if you hurt Miss Paula, you’re in trouble. (Although, don't worry, friend; I nearly burnt Paula’s tongue with my tri-tip taco and she still likes me!)

Michele Ragussis


In a way, Paula is much like Michele: This is who I am, take it or leave it. There’s no compromising on who she is, and that kind of authenticity is magnetic. It’s probably why we all refer to her by her first name only. When she’s on camera, I always feel like she’s talking directly to me. That’s a skill that every Food Network star needs to master – and one I’m still trying to perfect.

While I’m falling for Ippy all over again, I do wonder what will happen when he’s no longer in the sand and surf. He’s kind of like a reverse vampire: cold and darkness are his Kryptonite. Can he deliver that sunny disposition no matter how many gray clouds are hanging in the sky on any given day? And while Nikki does seem to have found a better middle ground, I’m still waiting for the real Nikki to please stand up. Bobby Deen’s reaction to her was pretty astute: He didn’t have anything negative to say about her, and that’s where he left it. Show us your warts, people!

What did everyone else think?

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Comments (775)

  1. Tanya says:

    To see a glimpse of the "Real Nikki" Check out her website and look at her videos.. she is fun, quirky and full of smart insight. Complete departure from the portrayal Food Network has shown! As an audience, I would feel robbed because Nikki speaks for a lot of women and truly is a great example of being strong, smart and confident. She went to school for Medicine/Biology and attended Harvard!

    Aside from the grill she does programs for "Cooking for a Cure" to help find foods that heal and help with disease and health! Everyone should see and hear what shes really about!!

    Her website is http://www.MyHauteKitchen.com

    • Food Fan says:

      I decided to be open-minded and I went to the website.
      I may take some Heat for this and get a few minuses (but hey!, its never stopped me before) but I will say this:
      (I'm not trying to be mean, just matter-of-fact and open). There will be positives and negatives here.
      In fairness, I think its reasonable that more people should see Nikki's website. I clicked around on it did some reading in different sections. I'm glad I did.
      Like many others on here, I havent liked everything i've seen or heard about or from Nikki on NFNS. I would say the main things that have been against Nikki are:
      Making any negative comments about any other contender, ever. Especially very early-on in the beginning. The audience will almost never forgive you (even though it is a competition) and this has been the case with Nikki and has been an uphill struggle to contend with ever since. The the Grill marks on Linkie's butt didnt help any, later.
      Appearance-wise, Nikki is definitely attractive. Nice figure and hair. On her website the pics of her look more favorable. I wish we would see her smile more on FoodNetwork Star. I agree with others on here that she needs to show more warmth.
      However, there is some Good news.
      I do hafta allow that editing has its effect. For everyone. We only see, what they let us see.
      Perhaps Nikki gets along with other contstants better than we realize. On her website, it says she shared a bunk-bed with Linkie. Doesnt sound like they were at each others throats. Thats good. So, while i've seen some things havent liked, I can admit that it wouldnt be too much to believe that there can be Good that goes on, that we dont see. There can also be bad from others, that we dont see.
      Another thing: reading the TEXT of Nikki describing her episodes on NFNS on her website...the way she words it and says things...her own way-with-words....shows confidence without being too conceited and even some mild playful humor. This is good. Cynics might say: of course. Duh! its her own website. No surprise there. But the comeback to that is: EVERYONE's website will show a more positive light. If I never heard of or saw Nikki before and logged onto her website for the 1st time...i do NOT find myself turned-off. Again, good.
      And again, reading the text of the website, I do see confidence but from what I read in a few different sections, I dont see anything that makes me feel that Nikki is coming across like: "I've got this won. Cuz I'm the Queen and this other schmucks are just losers." No, I didnt get that. And its nice that I didnt. And Nikki CAN Cook and make good dishes. Cooking for a Cure is a caring thing.
      So I am glad to be able to see and be exposed to this new info. I suspect I will take some heat for this. Thats OK. I walk my own path. Sometimes people agree with me, sometimes they dont. But at least I give reasons for my opinions and I'm specific.
      However, we all still saw what we saw in the shows/challenges. And Nikki was still in the pitch-room 3 times. The lipstick would be better if it we a more pastel shade (it stands out on everyone who wears it this season on NFNS) and smiling, especially with more of a "twinkle-in-her-eyes" would likely helo quite a bit in combating this perception of coldness. But from what we see on the shows, Nikki could do more to help herself. Some of the things we see and hear seem self-defeating.
      So...there you are. Some good, some bad. Tried to be direct, yet fairly polite.
      I ask myself: if i were on the bad end of editing, how would I defend myself? And if there were good abut me that no one got to see, what could I do? It is something to consider, for all of the contenders.
      Thanks for sharing the website. At least I bothered to go look. Even if I'm rooting for someone else.

      • Guest says:

        Wonderful analysis, Food Fan. I'm headed to Nikki's website to check it out. Your comments are consistently thorough and well thought-out (you must be a teacher or a writer!) and I always look forward to reading your thoughts, even if I don't agree with you at times. But you have given us a very good "lesson" in thinking about different sides of Nikki and points to consider about all candidates.

        • Food Fan says:

          Thats OK. No one has to agree all the time (but I admit, its nice when people do). Disagreements can even be fun when we all share reason-for and reasons-against whoever we do or dont like.
          Thank you for the kind words! ;)
          I'm not a writer or teacher. Wish I was, and could get paid for it, especially writing. I really enjoy this Blog, generating ideas, and sharing opinions.
          Onward!--to the next FN challenge.

    • cjcal says:

      Of all the contestants, who has had any personal "edginess"? The rock musician guy, maybe, and Nikki? And Maybe Malcolm toward Bobby. That's it? So, yeah, maybe Nikki's personality stood out that way, especially after the rock musician left, and the tight editing amplified her presence. We may be missing more times where she laughs and smiles, etc. On the other hand, she did make some really snarky remarks. So did Michele.

    • logic says:

      Sorry to say it, but it is a horribly unpersuasive website. Actually, I was starting to feel a little sorry for her, because of some of the more shallow aesthetic critiques. But, no, the website does nothing except reinforce why I do not think she would have a good show.

      The retro picture is a mildly risque image that does nothing enhance her point of view. Emily was retro and in a classy, not tacky way. Retro has nothing to do with Nicky. The rest of the website is self-aggrandizement, which I doubt will do anything to sway those who think of her as arrogant.

      As for me, I just don't think they need anymore grilling shows. Bobby Flay is perfectly capable of churning those out without Nikki.


      • Guest says:

        I'm convinced Nikki chose grilling as her POV solely to endear herself to Bobby. Her POV on her FN "star-a-day" profile is listed as "Comfort food with a twist. She’d make traditional American favorites like chili and fried chicken, with unusual global accents." I haven't seen any sign of that POV so far. Yet another reason I think she comes across as insincere.

        • Kristen says:

          Nikki auditioned for the show with several Ideas for a POV. One being "Haute Kitchen" which was Retro American/Comfort food with a modern global twist. The other was her Grilling Themed Show. She loves grilling and backyard soirees as well as re creating classics with a modern edge. When she went to her first producers challenge - and had to grill indoors, she decided to go with her Grilling POV as she saw it was creative and different from Kara (Who was Nostalgic dishes) and Emily who is Retro Rad.

          This, in my opinion, does not make her insincere.. But creative, diverse and willing to adapt!

          • logic says:

            That is interesting to know about the audition process. So they pitch multiple POV's to begin with.

            It shows you just how meaningless this whole emphasis on POV is.

          • logic says:

            That prompts another question:

            I would have to re-watch the first episode on YouTube, but didn't she mention the Girl on Grill or whatever the first cringe worthy catch phrase was during the 1st challenge?

          • Jerilee says:

            Yes, she said something like that, and as I recall Bobby lived it.

          • DeeDee says:

            "Are you ready for some Girl on Grill action?!" I believe that was said a couple times.

          • FanFare57 says:

            During the recruitment phase, when Nikki coined that catch phrase, I thought it was clever. It didn't offend me at all. I was surprised to see the flack she got for that and I think it threw her a little off her game. Her current slogan "Grill Next Door" sounds idiotic. Grammatically, it doesn't make sense because she is most obviously not an actual grill.

          • Jerilee says:

            Maybe it's our age that we think certain things are clever and not offensive!!! LOL! I, too, thought it was clever. "Grill Next Door", to me, doesnt make sense, like you said, shes not a grill. Perhaps she should be "Girl With a Grill Next Door"? Or take Bobby's..Girl Meets Grill. Light hearted, having fun waiting for next episode.

          • FanFare57 says:

            Jerilee, You're probably right. I like your titles. "Girl with a Grill" sounds cute without offending anyone who suffers from moral indignation.

    • BeeGee says:

      Tanya - I wish FN would tell us these things about Nikki during the competition!

    • Mamachula says:

      I also have some sites for Yvan that you can look for it... Hope you don't mind...

      I got an answer for all of you... http://www.flickr.com/photos/ata08/69462668/in/se... AND http://www.flickr.com/photos/ata08/69462810/in/se... AND
      FoodFest 365!: The Officially Fun Food Holiday Cookbook [Paperback]
      Yvan Lemoine (Author) and Comidas USA: Una coleccion esencial de recetas clasicas y reconfortantes de Estados Unidos (Spanish Edition) by Yvan Lemoine (Sep 25, 2012)
      Google YVAN LEMOINE or go to youtube... :)
      Yvan as well as Malcolm, participated in the Michelle Obama campaign to bring healthy food to the schools. Yvan has volunteered in some public and parochial schools in NYC, with general education and special education children, in the American Heart Association Fundraising, etc. Sometimes the edition of the program does not show us the big picture.

      • FanFare57 says:

        Is this really Yvan's mother? If any other named poster submitted this repetitive comment, there would hell to pay. Your repeated message seems as though it's on auto pilot and it becomes tedious, redundant and a big turn off. Please stop it. Thank you in advance.

    • Guest says:

      I have a feeling Nikki cares more about speaking to men than "speaking for women." She seems to be pandering to the male viewer with all her lame innuendo about "Girl on Grill" action and her extremely short skirts and shorts. The way she constantly refers to herself as a "girl" or "chick" is also annoying. I doubt many women would view her as a positive role model.

  2. seanpaulmahoney says:

    It was Malcolm's time to go. He had zero opinions, a flat camera presence and a total lack of a POV. Who cares if he can cook? Food Network shows aren't about people who can cook! They're about people who can sell branded spatulas and come up with annoying catch phrases. Nikki should be next to go. She's like a brunette version of Kim from RHOATL. I'm rooting for Martie.

  3. random visitor says:

    Aarti, you are a great writer!!

    I don't visit this site much (except to look for recipes), so I'm glad to have run into your blog. Keep up the terrific work -- your writing, much like your TV persona, is approachable, adorable, and clever. Way to go!!

  4. Pebblez says:

    I tell you what I'm really confused about....they love Ippy's food...he has yet to disappoint them. YET, there is only one recipe the food network has shared with us. Justin has 5 recipes on there, BIASED at all?? Is the FN just clueless. I'm sorry but none of his dishes compel me to want to cook them. On the other hand I would really like to take a shot at Ippy's dishes that the judges continue to rave about. C'mon FN get a clue!!!!

    • beachinfrizzy says:

      I too wonder what TPTB are thinking...didn't they feature Emily's dessert panini the week she got the boot?

  5. MsWinston says:

    It is obvious the fix is in to keep Marti and Michelle in the mix as long as possible, even though both of them make poor camera presentations and their food is totally uninspiring. I can only feature too clearly the reaction if one of the less favored had served a plate full of crab shells that rendered the dish ineatable. Marti cannot cook - period. Since when is stuffing endive with goat cheese and smoked salmon the cutting edge of cooking? And what was the weeping about, Susie? ?Good grief, it was Marti kissing up to Paula Dean and that should have made you sick to your stomach!

    • David R says:

      I hope you are right and they keep Martie and Michelle. I like them both. I would make that goat cheese dish for a party and this was a party----and you don't always want to make gourmet food for a party- at least I don't. I think this is genuine and real and gets what people have to deal with when hosting people at home. Who said her show was about cutting edge cooking? Michele had to put a dish out in a short time and made a bad choice from a time perspective. That crab was too labor intensive. I personally thought the moment between Martie and Paula was nice. You didn't hear all of what Susie heard. Maybe if you had, you would think differently.

  6. beachinfrizzy says:

    Heh so true there's no way Giada would embrace the notion of a 'mini me' the way Alton does with Justin or Bobby with Nikki.

  7. smd says:

    I think at this stage of the competition the judges are expecting great food and great personality and camera readiness. I think it comes down to who is improving, who is staying the same and who is sliding backwards. Yvan, Nikki and Eppy stepped up their game this week. Malcolm, Martita, and Justin stayed the course. Marti had the party hint mess up by not finishing and Michele had the major food fail with the shells. I’m glad that Ippy got the $20,000 Target card for best overall performance but thought Yvan was a very close second. I think from this point forward one small misstep can send somebody packing. Anyone else think Alton was a little snarky this week? But in a funny way IMO.

    Malcolm: I thought his personality and camera were good. Paula said his chicken was good but she wouldn’t race across the street for it and the kids said it was too salty and spicy.

    Martita: I thought her personality was a little flat especially compared to her camera action which was good. Her food looked good on the grill and Paula’s husband said it was very good.

    Michele: I thought her personality saved her especially after the fiasco with the shells. Her camera work seems awkward and she ran short.

    Justin: I thought his camera work and personality seemed slightly flat this week. He should have used his own tip and had a spear of something in the soup to indicate people should stir it first. Bob loved everything that he did though and when he said that even Justin seemed surprised.

    Marti: She didn’t finish her party tip and Susie got emotional over the fact that Marti and Paula seemed to bond so quickly. I thought she would have made something a little more substantial for her idol. I think her personality helped her get to the next round.

    Ippy: He nailed it with food, personality and party tip. Paula said his food was delicious and one of the VIP guests said it was the best thing they had all day. When he smiles he takes me back to the islands. Both his versions of his fish looked very appetizing.

    Yvan: He also nailed it with food, personality and party tip. The kids liked his food and the VIP adults thought it was kid friendly. Both of his versions of his dish looked very appetizing. Susie said he usually has more simple dishes, but that this dish was sophisticated. He was a very infectious smile.

    Nikki: She seemed more relaxed and friendly this time. Her personality and camera work were good. Her food did not look all that appetizing in both the adult and kid version. Bob said her food got mixed results.

    The judges want a POV. Bobby has been telling Malcolm that for weeks. While I don’t necessarily think it’s as critical as the judges, the contestant has to give them something to work with if they are going to have their own show in a few weeks. Susie had a good point when she asked him what made him unique in the culinary world. He should have come up with something earlier even if he tweaked it along the way as Melissa D when she was a contestant. Ten Dollar Dinners was not her original POV. I think the most successful Food Network stars are the ones that can cook just about anything, which obviously Malcolm can do, but there still needs to be something that makes their show unique that makes people want to watch.

    Producers challenge: That being said, I think Malcolm was not the person who should have gone home. This comparison is just between the bottom two of Michele and Malcolm for this episode only. Personality wise I thought they were pretty even. Malcolm had the better camera action and Michele ran short. The huge difference was the food. Hers was inedible and unsafe and had to be removed from the tables. At this stage of the game how is it that this alone didn’t get her sent home? With regard to the cocktails she made a drink that probably every bartender on Nantucket serves while he made something unique and complex that actually involved cooking which Susie appreciated. Michelle sold her newly expanded New England POV slightly better than he sold his newly expanded soul POV. I think it came down to Bob and Susie just not believing him and not knowing how they would market his show.

    • logic says:

      Alton was delightfully snarky. I cannot blame him after the Emily thing.

    • BMB says:

      You are right about Yvan. Parents and children liked his food, as well all the judges and guests before. Except for the meatballs being a little big, or the mozzarella stick being so simple... but simple? what about the cookies with marshmallow and chocolate made by Martie? Yvan deserves more air time, and all the blogs should mention him, especially because he is the face for the commentaries episode after episode...

    • Mamachula says:

      I got an answer for all of you... http://www.flickr.com/photos/ata08/69462668/in/se... AND http://www.flickr.com/photos/ata08/69462810/in/se... AND
      FoodFest 365!: The Officially Fun Food Holiday Cookbook [Paperback]
      Yvan Lemoine (Author) and Comidas USA: Una coleccion esencial de recetas clasicas y reconfortantes de Estados Unidos (Spanish Edition) by Yvan Lemoine (Sep 25, 2012)
      Google YVAN LEMOINE or go to youtube... :)

  8. Diana says:

    I'm so glad Ippy is getting his footing. I'm reminded of Big Daddy--Aaron was just getting by until the last 2 or 3 weeks, and made a great turn around. And, his show is one of the very few of the Next Food Network Stars I still look forward to watching.
    I think some of the POVs are just more of the same programing that Food Network already is showing. I really don't think Martita's Mexican would be much different than the 4 or 5 other shows that have already been doing South American food.
    Justin is just tooooooooooooooo out there with his food. Would I watch his show? No. Would I order some in a restaurant, yes....not the same thing.
    Marty is just more Southern cooking. Enough already. Most of my best southern food chops already come from Nathalie Dupree, whose PBS cooking shows far precede Food Network. I take Paula's recipes & make them healthier, since I'm really looking to keep my cooking healthy, fresh, and different. In other words, just like Ippy would give us.

    • Cindy says:

      Diana, Martie doesn't make Southern food- not that I have seen yet. She makes food for parties. I follow her blog and she does have some southern food in the mix but it isn't even mostly southern. I've made some of her recipes and they are always good and for the most part, easy, which I like. I do like Justin. He's funny. Would I make his food? No. But I'd watch and probably be entertainined by him. Ippy does very complicated sounding things that are a bit much for me and my family but they do sound good. I would like to eat Ippy's food because they always say it is good, Since we cannot eat the food, we have to rely on them talking about it and Ippy is just boring. And I did not thnk he should win the gift card because he did not give a party tip as they asked. He gave a food tip. I've watched this show every year and this year with the mentors is my favorite so far.

  9. guest 7 says:

    So as not to be confused with the other "guest" poster, I will now blog under "guest 7" so as to continue to share my support and constructive criticism in a respectful manner. To this end, Aarti, I can't wrap my head around your major omission of Yvan's success in this episode blog as it really does Yvan injustice. Is an apology due Aarti? I for one give Yvan a strong vote of confidence and acknowledgment on this and other episode accomplishments! Remember, this talented guy is not just another pretty face with a nice smile and unique conversational voice (which has been critiqued). Yvan you rock! Wish we could see the network let you roll! We know you have it, so Paula and family, thanks for the great feedback to Yvan!

  10. Greg Arious says:

    I HAVE A QUESTION.......So, I've noticed a lot of posts by friends or family of the contestants. And they get pretty riled up when someone posts something negative. Does this happen every season? Why would people torture themselves that way?!?!

    • guest #3 says:

      If I was a family member I wouldn't want to look here. After all, these "stars" are out in public now and are opening themselves up to anything, both positive and negative.
      As to your question, I don't remember as many friends/family members in the previous years.

    • Mamachula says:

      Dear Greg Arious,
      I understand that when a contestant participates in a program, he/she becomes a public figure and he/her will have supporters and opponents. When you post in a blog you express your personal opinion, it likes us or not. And we, family members and friends, including participants, should understand that. I respect your opinion! What bothered me, particularly, is when an opinion has a malicious trait, or it is disrespectful. When an opinion denigrates a person, then I stand up to defend my dear ones. No one should use a derogatory term to talk or refer to any of them. And about their physical features, we are not perfect, if there is something we do not like about their physical we can be polite and say the same with a sweet or light term, however beauty is relative and this is not a beauty contest. But all of the contestants have family, parents, children, husbands/wives/partners, friends that are being affected for these unkind opinions. You are free to express your own opinion but respecting others. Remember the gold rule, "do to others what you expect othersdo to you". ;) Mom

    • LISN says:

      I haven't noticed this much "taking up" for a particular starling as this season. The parents, cousins, best friends, and casual acquaintances are certainly coming out in droves. Some of them harp on the posts for their special person ad nauseum. It's definitely weird.

    • Jerilee says:

      My personal belief is that it's a poster in disguise, not a relative...