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:

    I count the votes and the total is 101%/ Justin 30%, Ippy 23, Martita 23, Marti 10, Michele 9 Yvan 5 and Nikki 1... are these votes being manipulated... 100% this is what we nknow as percentage, no? any change in math letely???

  2. BMB says:

    I count the votes and the total is 101%/ Justin 30%, Ippy 23, Martita 23, Michele 10, Martie 9, Yvan 5 and Nikki 1... are these votes being manipulated... 100% this is what I know as percentage, no? any change in math letelly???

    • logic says:

      It could be because of rounding error. If you have a number like 22.7 They would round it up to 23. If it were So sometimes when you add things up it might not add up exactly right.

      Anything .50 and up is rounded up.
      Anything lower is rounded down.

      It could be because they round to the nearest whole percentage.

  3. BMB says:

    Now I counted the votes, and took a pic... funny, the percentage of votes are Justin 29%, Ippy 23%, Martita 23%, Michele 9%, Martie 8%, Yvan 5%, Nikki 1% Total 98%+ where are the other 2% of the votes... Please some one do the math... and tell me how to count and get the percentages. I know math no more... Thank you

  4. isabel garcia says:

    I think that the contestant with the right balance will win. Malcolm had potential but he did not understand how important it is to have a well defined POV. The network needs this in order to help the STAR develop their program. I am not surprised that Justin, Martita, and Ippy are basically neck & neck with their votes. Justin is unique & an original good cook. Martita is warm, has a defined (although not compelling) POV, she is pretty and charismatic. Ippy is a great chef and is starting to show an energetic, sweet, and compelling presence (he is also more handsome than he realizes.) Of the three I like Martita and Ippy best, they both project warmth. Justin's personality lacks sufficient warmth. He is interesting, and a very creative cook, but that is not enough for me.

  5. isabel garcia says:

    Also, sadly, the network will consider their audience. Their audience is made up of demographics. Some "groups" will watch food network shows more than others. This "pushes" out some groups (specifically individual contestants.) Because of this members of certain demographic groups need to work harder on presentation, POV etc. Others do not. This is why Michelle and Nikki are still in the running. Martita is Latina and female as opposed to Yvan being male (he would not be as relatable to most Latino watchers because he is male.) African-American contestants, need to be very strong in order to make it due to demographics and the already existing shows with African-American cooks, such as the Neelys. These are some thoughts. I do think there is some weird unfairness going on. Still, life is not fair. It really bothered me when Emily and not Nikki got sent home. I just did not get that.

  6. Christine C. says:

    I'm new to commenting here at Food Network--I just wanted to say how much I hope Yvan is the winner--maybe I'm partial due to being the mother of boys, and no girls, though, which makes me tend to automatically empathize, then gravitate towards the young guys competing in contests like this one--I hope not, though, since I'd like to base my choice on something far more reasonable, and practical and fair, than that--:)--

    --this network's brass has a tough job deciding exactly who fits the 'bill' for them--they need to know if the contestant--1]Is Likable by the public enough to make any show they are given a fair chance to succeed?; 2] Does the contestant cook well enough, consistently, while on camera with tons of people starring at them, and do so in a 'home style' manner, using recipes that are easily understood by chefs and home cooks, alike, [and, can they do so in a warm, personable manner that would endear them to the viewers enough to make them even care about the new chef, personally, let alone care about the chef's food POV`; 3]Who also has enough presentation ability that could possibly be improved upon to the point at which it might even rival the presentation abilities of a Bobby Flay, or a Paula Deen--or an Alton Brown--so that some day it would make even the most die-hard critic actually want to stay tuned to see what's-what with what they are cooking--

    --and, they need to decide who stays and who goes within a very reasonably short period of time--plus, they need to face whom they've decided is that week's inevitable, as well as necessary, loser of the contest--and, because they've actually come to like some of the contestants on a one-on-one level, saying good-bye to any of them has to actually be a totally tough thing for them to do.

    And, I, personally, was impressed at how Giada has behaved during this contest, as mentor to her own group--she surprised me--if I'd been harboring the same sorts of criticisms voiced by others who posted to this board, against her prior to watching her on these episodes, they have now flown out the window--because, the only impetus to voice such criticisms against someone else, is--[if it is to be taken seriously in any way at all]--it needs to be based on something more than 'sour grapes'--such as phoniness--and, as I watched her during the episodes of 'Star', I realized not only is she NOT phony, she is a genuinely warm, and caring--and enthusiastically competitive--woman, who threw her whole self into mentoring her group of contestants--and, I let go of the criticisms of her at once--and, now, instead of turning off her show, I will finally watch it[!]--

    --who did disappoint me, though, was--Alton--his surly attitude even towards Giada, not to mention his scowling at his own charges, and even snapping rather insultingly at them--really soured me towards him.:(
    Christine C.

    • Food Fan says:

      Interesting post.
      We all have favorites. Some will agree with us, some wont.
      Happens to me, too. Thats OK. All we can do is "state our Case." You did a nice job of that.

      Considering what you said, above: ..."--they need to know if the contestant--1]Is Likable by the public enough to make any show they are given a fair chance to succeed?; 2] Does the contestant cook well enough, consistently, while on camera with tons of people starring at them, and do so in a 'home style' manner, using recipes that are easily understood by chefs and home cooks, alike, [and, can they do so in a warm, personable manner that would endear them to the viewers enough to make them even care about the new chef, personally, let alone care about the chef's food POV`; 3]Who also has enough presentation ability that could possibly be improved upon to the point at which it might even rival the presentation abilities of a Bobby Flay, or a Paula Deen--or an Alton Brown"....
      1. Who is likable---judging by what people have been writing here (and I do think that is the best & most reliable feedback that the network gets)--likable would seem to leave out Nikki (in the pitch room 3 times), and also Martita (she turned off alot of viewers from her earlier popularity) and Martie (too long-winded. It grates on people. Nice lady and has made some progress but has never been in the Top 3). Ippy, Yvan & Michelle are more likable (again from what we see people writing in here) and get less minuses regarding posts about them.
      2. Cooking well consistently---Ippy would seem the clear winner here.
      3. Presentation ability---this is more even amongst the contenders, but in different ways.
      Yvan is upbeat, but talks too fast and somehow, at least for me, I cant seem to remember much about him as soon as he's off camera.
      Martita can be very good on Camera but needs much more consistency.
      Justin stares blankly into the camera and has a mon otone speech. Not good for TV.
      Nikki is used to a camera but people say she needs warmth and I think about half the the time, she sounds rushed.
      Ippy has a fabulous smile. Would be better if he used it a little more often. Any on-camera "tweaking" he might need should come quite easily as he isnt a nervous type and isnt full of himself.
      Michelle is outgoing but needs to not dress so much like a street-person on her day off down at fisherman's wharf.
      Martie also has a good smile but seems scattered.

      And so....after all that...to me, it looks like Ippy is the best combo of:
      Likable, Good Cooking, and Presentation.
      I'd be interested (and watch!) the new and good things he could teach us.
      So there! I've followed my own advice, and "stated my case." (smile).

  7. jamie says:

    I'm surprised by all the negative Giada comments. She is my favorite on the food network. I hope Ippy wins, I feel like he would be a unique addition and I would love to try some of his recipes. I think the final 3 will be Michelle, Justin and Ippy. I am really enjoying the show this year.

  8. Stella says:

    After watching a rerun of the beach segment, I am even more emphatically astounded that Justin or Michele were not eliminated.
    The fact of Justin's careless use of hot, hot chili oil, which choked the judges, including Paula saying, "It cut my throat," and Michele nearly killing people with shells - which she KNEW were in her dish because she stated she was afraid about that, but still served them anyway! - the fact that one of these two were not eliminated shows the total bias to protect certain chefs, despite their major failings. Where is the integrity? (Remember Martita getting away with smiling for 30 seconds?)
    Bob and Susie actually had the nerve to give Malcolm some BS about his point of view to justify eliminating him. I think he has stated his point of view: SOUL. Comparable to Giada: ITALIAN. But that is not good enough for Susie because she is "still trying to understand." I guess Malcolm didn't understand that it was already in the script that he leave this week.

    • LISN says:

      You're right! btw: I'm surprised that after Justin choked the adults, he was still named in the top 3 at the end. WTH? So, Susie-Bob don't care if diners are injured as long as the POV is something they like.

    • logic says:

      He only for got to tell them to stir the chili oils. Once stirred, it was not too spicy. The chili oils were not in the childrens' soup.

      • Jerilee says:

        I think I would like to be informed that a chili oil needed to be stirred into my dish, if there was a chance of forgetting that info, in Justin's case, he should have stirred it. Allowing your customer to choke on your food is not good. Neither is serving shells. Both made serious mistakes, and were allowed to stay. Malcom didn't make any huge errors but was eliminated. Why? The "network" didn't like his POV?? Really??? I found nothing wrong with his POV, originally "Simple and Soulful", not "soul food", the network tried to push. Malcom was right, he didn't need a "POV", his cooking was from the soul. simple good food.

        • LISN says:

          You hit the nail on the head! Malcolm meant soulfood, (as in cooking with soul); not necessarily being SOUL food. I didn't understand what why he was constantly doubted for having a POV. His food was usually well executed and got raves. His manner was neither particularly chipper nor cerebral. Personality wise, he was very low key. I like that better than forced, fake smiles.

      • LISN says:

        Yes, he did forget. That was an important omission on his part. I like Justin overall. However, due to that mistake, I don't feel he deserved accolades and being part of the top 3. By your logic (pardon the pun); then Michelle just forgot to warn her diners to look out for shells and eat around them...? So, her mistake was just a silly misunderstanding and is that why she deserved to stay above Malcolm (who didn't endanger anyone)?? Just wondering...

        • logic says:

          Not at all analogous:

          Yes, Justin omitted an important instruction, but one that people accustomed to fine dining should be especially able to figure out on their own. What did they think the red and green dots were? I am not arguing that he should not have told them, just that it really wasn't a big deal. It was not stirred in for presentation reasons. Judges care about that stuff. Playing it safe never gets anyone points for long. Crab shells were not a garnish (or they would have been whole and on top, yes?) Based on the pattern, a lot of us have noticed, Team Bobby was the one going to lose someone. Justin was never in danger, if for no other reason than that. His soup was tasty, so that is why he was in the top 3.

          I am also not saying Malcolm should have been eliminated, at that point. I never had a problem figuring out his POV. Damn obvious to me. They just wanted a Team Bobby person to leave to follow their pattern. Bobby (and Bob and Susie) were less enamored with Malcolm for some reason than Michele. They are keeping Nikki around, too for some reason, too.

  9. Liz says:

    Artie, I always feel like you are talking to me. It is as if I am in the kitchen with you just hanging out. You have mastered that as far as I am concerned. I love watching you!

  10. KCK says:

    I guess you can set Paula, Susie and Bobby's mouth on fire and still come out on top. Maybe Bob can explain his constant gushing over Justin, no matter what but will he be able to explain if no one watches. It's not that I think he's a bad chef. I'd love try his food, although I might leave a little hungry ( small plates with probably outrageous prices) but I don't think I'd like to try to duplicate them.

    I wish Bobby put as much energy into his other people as he does with Nikki. Do we really need another grilling show, hasn't he covered that! The more I watch the more disappointed I get. Stupid me, why do I keep watching.