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?
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!)
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?