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. BMB says:

    Dear LISN, well to tell you the truth I did not mean to post my reply twice, it was a problem with the computer or the internet, i apologize for that. What I noticed is that the contenders feel a pressure on them, and they have short time to introduce themselves, and make their dish presentations. So Yvan's name is not a short one, Yvan Lemoine, and I assume the producers ask them to not only introduce themselves but also where they come from, so Venezuela is not a short name for a country either. Hi I am Yvan Lemoine and i come from Venezuela, is a long sentence, try to pronounce yourself. I believe they try to save more time for their presentation, which is what really matters. I said that because when I see him as the speaker of the competition, episode after episode, his comments come with a slower pace. Don't you agree with me? ;)

    • LISN says:

      BMB, I didn't realize there was an issue posting that causes it to go through multiple times. My opinion of Yvan's speech pattern is unchanged. You don't hear it, I guess. I meant no disrespect. I think he would benefit from a vocal coach to help him with his intonations (if he becomes the next food network star). Otherwise, in his own personal life, it doesn't matter in the least. I certainly would rather listen to Yvan than Martie any day of the week.

      • BMB says:

        May be you are right. I will pay more attention to your opinion when i see the next episode. Thanks...

  2. Guest says:

    Did Nikki really go to Harvard like one of the commenters has claimed? I found her LinkedIn page, which says she attended "Harvard University" in 2007 only. This makes me think she actually just took a class at the "Harvard Extension School," which is Harvard's open-enrollment community college. If that's the case, I think it's misleading for her to say she went to Harvard University without adding the "Extension School" part. Maybe this is just petty, but after the whole Robert Irvine resume-padding controversy, you can't be too careful about vetting someone's claimed credentials.

    • guest says:

      Nikki has a neurobiology degree from Harvard.

      • Guest says:

        How, exactly, did she manage to earn a degree in one year? Why isn't this degree listed on her LinkedIn page? I am skeptical.

  3. Biff says:

    It's time for Martie to take her party back to Alabama with a banjo on her knee.

    • Mom o 3 says:

      She's fantastic. Our kids like her, we love her and now the US is getting to know and like her too. She's kind, generous, a heck of a good cook and smart. She's really funny too- and hard-working. How do I know? I have known of her for 3 years or so after having seen her at a show. I read her blog and I like her recipes. She does so many creative things for the person like me with kids, a job, crazy schedule and not a lot of free time or extra money. I do like to do nice things for my family and friends and she's helped give me ideas many times and always responds personally. Biff, if you met her, you'd like her. She's a good teacher, too... I've seen her two times and she always inspires me to go home and try what I watched her make.

    • LISN says:

      Biff - that's very funny...

  4. AuntyPatLakeForest says:

    Bob and Susie,
    Ippy is the only finalist I would watch on a regular basis. Where are his recipes? At last a show for the Mainland Hawaiian community--that is, Hawaiians and "Hawaiians ar heart". No "in your face" attitude--what a refreshing change". Mahalo for listening. Imua Ippy.

  5. Jerilee says:

    Just wanted to say, my post about demographics. I live in a community that is almost 50% Hispanic/Latino and there is no representation of their heritage in our food court at the mall. Our community is almost a million people (given the sphere of influence). Does that help why Linkie had no idea????

  6. Sandy says:

    OK enough with the push for Justin. Martita needs to go home before I gag anymore having to watch Giada get so excited when she has Martita coming on. Yvan has more promise and would be worth watching, Justins weird, funky food has no appeal and would get tiring to watch. Giada needs to show more pride inthe other team members and stop pushing Martita. Michele had a tough episode but I feel she is genuine. It's all rigged and everyone really believes they will get to have the final vote!! Seriously??? Guess again. They want Justin or Martita..............big mistake.

    • Delia says:

      There is no way Martita will win this.

    • Mamachula says:

      Thank you Sandy, i believe you are right. I go for Yvan also.
      Give him a try. ;)

      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... :)

      • FNWatcher says:

        You've made you point time and again. It's time to get off the hamster wheel.

        • Jerilee says:

          A hamster that spends that much time in the wheel is defiantly not in good health. Let it continue a d it will die. If you take it off the wheel, it will just get back on. Either way, a sick hamster is doomed. Just let it do it's thing and ignore it.

  7. Jody says:

    I'm a definite Ippy fan, but I don't like to see so many irrelevant nasty comments about other contestants. I don't know why some "Martita-haters" are so upset about her "on-again, off-again" accent. Martita is bilingual, and I don't see anything wrong with pronouncing Spanish words, especially the food she's cooking, with the correct Spanish pronunciation. She doesn't use a "fake" accent when she speaks English. I teach English as a second language in Hawai'i, where people speak many different languages, and when we talk about things like ethnic food or customs, we try to not to "Americanize" the pronunciation as much as most other English speakers do. I cringe when I hear the now popular Japanese terms for dishes or ingredients like "tempura," "panko", "mirin" or "nori" on cooking shows, but at least Ippy knows the correct pronunciation (or close to it). No one criticizes him for correctly pronouncing Hawaiian, Italian, or Asian words which are very much a part of our food and culture, so they should not criticize Martita for hers. A regional or ethnic cooking show can educate viewers on not only the food or dining experience, but on the culture and language as well. If Ippy gets a show, it will be produced in Hawai'i because his POV is a fusion of European food and techniques with fresh ingredients and influences from the islands. Hawai'i Regional Cuisine is already quite established and respected. It won't just be "How to cook Hawaiian-style in New York City."
    I'm still waiting for more recipes from Ippy to be posted because his Zuppa has been the biggest hit among those on the Recipes web page, and every week people say they like his food. Why are there so many for Justin when it seems not many people really want to actually try to cook his dishes?
    I really hope people vote for the chef who can prepare the food they'd like to cook and/or eat and host the show they'd like to watch. Go Ippy!

  8. NikkiLeaks? says:

    [Warning: Possible spoiler]

    It seems like the winner may have been leaked! :( If so, I'm so disappointed (not so much in the potentially leaked winner but with the fact that the decision is out there weeks before the finale). Does anyone think this is worth contacting Food Network over?
    http://pinterest.com/pin/18366310950704828/ http://pinterest.com/pin/18366310950717395/

    • guest #3 says:

      That was pinned 7 WEEKS ago!!!!!!!

      • NikkiLeaks? says:

        That's true. But you do realize that this season was filmed months ago, right? For instance, last summer there was a 4th of July episode but it was filmed a few months in advance (which you could tell from the finalists' online journals and photo scrapbooks). So the winner and those who know the winner (and all of the other contestants for that matter) already know the result! Viewers are left tuning in every week but this was all decided a while ago already.

        That being said, does anyone think this might be a legit spoiler worth contacting the Food Network about?

        • NikkiLeaks? says:

          I guess one thing I'm confused about is how it will come down to a fan vote if this was all filmed in advance... thoughts?

          • guest #3 says:

            Would Food Network really care?

          • Monte says:

            Because everything was filmed except the finale. And it's a "vote", not a vote, in my opinion.

          • Guest says:

            So there's a several months gap between the penultimate episode and the finale? And is the "vote" the fan vote on the website? None of this makes any sense...

        • Food Fan says:

          Not sure what to think about this.
          Just for the sake of argument, if it were true, I suppose they could say it like the ultimate comeback-from-hell. It would be one of those "who would have ever thought that someone so low in the fan vote, who had been in the pitch room 3 times would ever grow so much and come so far" moments. Is that what FN is after? Drama? I hope not.
          In fairness, to Nikki, I do think its a good idea to check out her website. I dont have it in front of me right this minute but i think its: http://www.myHauteKitchen.com
          Still, I'd rather see Ippy win. Grilling is being done and Hawaii would be something new.

          • Guest says:

            Nikki's website has no useful content whatsoever except one recipe. Plus it's full of annoying misspellings ("sorda" instead of "sorta" or "sort of"; "todem pole" instead of "totem pole") and seems to have no idea what the French word "haute" means or sounds like. Hard to believe a Harvard grad like Nikki would produce something like this...

          • Guest says:

            Do we think she really went to Harvard? I know it's what she says on her Facebook and LinkedIn pages but... really?! Apparently she went there for one year. Perhaps it was some Master's program? Or maybe it was the Harvard Extension School (the only branch of Harvard that lets essentially anyone in)? I don't mean to be hard on her but I find it highly implausible that she studied neurobiology at UCLA and Harvard. Besides, there's no 1 year neurobiology program at Harvard. Is she pulling a Robert Irvine, i.e. inflating her credentials to compensate for a long life of mediocrity and insecurity?

          • Guest says:

            Well, someone commenting on this blog has insisted that Nikki has a *degree* in neurobiology from Harvard. Which is funny because Nikki herself has never claimed to have such a degree, as far as I can tell from her websites. Maybe Nikki is carelessly giving people this impression by telling people she "studied neurobiology at Harvard" or "attended Harvard" when, in all probability, she merely took a class at the Extension School...

          • Guest 3 says:

            It is on the "education" section of her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/nikki2323/info It says she studied Anatomy and Cell Biology at UCLA and then Neurobilogy at Harvard. On her LinkedIn profile, it says she went to Harvard from 2007 - 2007. It's probably an Extension School class which means she went to Harvard's version of "community college," the one Harvard school that lets in anybody. On an unrelated note, why does this blog of hers state that she's a "TV host"?! http://www.blogger.com/profile/062245906281674858... Have at it, conspiracy theorists!

    • Guest says:

      I checked this out and I think Nikki created this page on Pinterest. There is no wording about "winner". All the contestants are considered finalists. Nikki is credited on each posting, so I think it looks like she posted all those pictures.

      • Guest 2 says:

        Right, she posted them, but she calls Bobby her "mentor and producer." Also, her friends may have inadvertently revealed that she won by congratulating her...

    • Hollywood guy says:

      I guess that would explain how Nikki ended up on the red carpet with Jennifer Aniston about 1 month ago!

  9. kay says:

    Any guesses who is "unflappable" ?

    • Food Fan says:

      They did say SHE's unflappable.
      Could be Martita---it would be a shining moment where she "brings it" for the judges.
      Could be Nikki: she never has really freaked out and maybe this just reinforces how she isnt afraid of the camera.
      Could be Martie--showing growth & progress.
      hard to say for sure. But here's something else to think about:
      We hear unflappable and its easy to think that being unflappable means thisis a real feather-in-someone's-hat towards becoming the next Star. But what if being unflappable means unflappable only in regards to some minor part of a challenge or just a small aspect of a much bigger picture---and therefore while its nice, it doesnt count that much? WHAT, does the unflappable refer to? We dont know yet. It would be just like FN to find a way to fake-out the audience.
      Still, I am curious, too.

    • Deanna says:

      I guess Martie. Because apparently everyday is a panic with her. I don't think she'd know what a "flap" is, to her, it's just same old same old.

      • Mom o 3 says:

        Deanna why do you say that? It is not true. I'll agree she struggles more than some of the trained restaurant chefs and culinary school pros. Martie is a home cook and a blogger who writes about food and entertaining. Maybe she's not as fast as some of the others but so what? I would bet that most of the stars who don't cook in a restaurant would be extremely challenged under these same circumstances.,.. even Giada If she got her own show, she would never have to cook under such pressure. Martie does a lot of cooking shows and that is how I found her. I liked her very much and have been following her ever since and think most of these comments I've read are just not correct or are very biased.

        • LISN says:

          That could be said of all of the competitors. Based upon the criteria of following the challenges (which include a time limit), Martie has shown many problems: being harried, showing frustration, rambling long overtime, etc.

  10. jan says:

    For Mexican food: I watch Rick Bayless;would never watch Martita. I like Marcela too
    For Italian food: I watch Mario, Anne Burrell, and Michael Chiarello; don't watch or care for Giada
    For BBQ the winner is Bobby Flay
    For something different I watch Ingrid Hoffman
    For me, who's left to watch? Maybe Ippy ,maybe Justin, definitely not Martita, Nikki, or Marti, would have liked to try Emily.