Aarti’s After Party: Thinking on Your Feet

by in Food Network Star, July 8, 2012

team giada

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 was all smiles after watching Martie, Yvan and Michele do their demos this week.

In fact, after watching Michele stretch for an extra minute by talking about how looking for holes in the sand is a marker for good clams, I wrote this down on my notepad: “Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy!”

Let’s face it: There’s enough stuff on TV that leaves you with a sour puss on your face, or wringing your hands over the fate of the world.

Watching a show about food is a warm, happy place — somewhere to escape at the end of a long day.

There’s a direct connection between how much fun you’re having and how much fun your audience has as a result. Ask any actor, comedian, dancer, public speaker or now, the future Food Network star.


That was what I loved about Yvan’s demo: He did he not allow the audio issues to throw him from the cooking and the stories he wanted to tell, nor did he let the issues steal his joy. In fact, he used the situation as an opportunity to amplify it, speaking all the louder to be the boldest Yvan we’ve seen yet; I’m starting to see this as his trademark reaction. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that he barreled through a scary situation when he told the story of rummaging through dumpsters for food as a kid. This time, he barreled right through the broken microphone. Try to throw Yvan and he’ll come right at you, beaming that winning smile at you in such a way that you’ll move out of the way and reach to pinch his cheeks.

Martie did the same thing. Remember at the beginning of the season when she fretted about being the oldest contestant on the show? Well, I think her “extra years” on the planet worked to her advantage here. She laughed off her missing fish with the kind of perspective that you can only get from having the rug pulled out from under you over the years.

“That’s OK, we can wing it,” she said. Why, yes, you can, Martie. What an understated show of confidence. That little moment made me want to hang out with her, confide in her when rugs have been pulled out from under me so she can share her wisdom whilst feeding me a little Southern comfort food — and that’s what will keep people watching. Brava.

philip ippy aiona

I found this episode fascinating because I think the best way to get to know someone is to try to throw them for a loop — how they react is incredibly telling. Ippy, who is normally such a laid-back fellow, showed a flash of anger, which I actually loved seeing because it sort of rounded him out a little. Justin resorted to intellect and wit when faced with a challenge, but he then showed a somewhat scornful side that he has to watch; you don’t want people thinking you’re looking down your nose at them. Martita, who’s had trouble telling stories in the moment because she’s so into the cooking, clung even more to the cooking when one of her key ingredients was taken away. Nikki, whose poise can sometimes come off as a bit artificial, fell completely off course. This is something I can relate to, having done a similar thing during my demo challenge on Star — I didn’t finish my dish either. I get it. It’s so frustrating.

After winning, I remember doing my very first demo at the New York City Wine and Food Festival. I was so incredibly nervous; the crowd wasn’t particularly receptive, staying quiet through most of my demo. I felt like a huge whopping failure, but I was close to the finish line. I just had to whip some cream for my “Come ‘ere Puddin Pie,” but since it was so warm in the studio, the cream wasn’t cooperating. I have a stubborn perfectionist streak, so while I plastered a smile on my face and batted my false lashes with all my might whilst the stand mixer whirred away, on the inside I was having the proverbial cow. Suddenly, something took over and I said, “You guys know what whipped cream looks like, right?”

The crowd murmured yes.

“OK, use your imagination and imagine a big dollop of cream on this piece of pie. Cool?”

I didn’t think it was particularly funny, but the crowd started laughing. And I started breathing a little easier. Suddenly, I was enjoying myself again.

I think I may have gone on about this point ad nauseam, but it’s so appropriate for this episode that I’ll say it again: Perfection. Is. Boring. Perhaps it's beautiful, but it's boring. Thinking on your feet, dodging and weaving, picking yourself up again after a stumble? That is the most fascinating, rewarding thing to do and watch in the world.

What did everyone else think?

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Comments (501)

  1. Spongebob says:

    First thing first we need to get rid of those stupid clown judges and replace them with the judges from Top chef. Giada where do I start with that 5 year old. She certainty acts like one. She is SOOOO over the top. Bobby is like Eeyore from The book of Pooh he is a robot, wooden, has no emotions Ect. Alton is the only good mentor he actually mentors his team no matter how annoyed he is with them. Did any of you noticed tat Alton actually cares about his team. As for the finalists I want either Ippy or Justin to win it all. Ivan and Martie are okay and I know Michele is not going to win and Nikki is not going to win. Who would watch mindless robots about seafood and grilling. We already have Paula we really don't need Martie and Ivan could be over the top at times. Ippy and Justin I hope you bring your A game and win...I know you will.

    • Rob says:

      Thing is, the judges from Top Chef, judge based soley on cooking ability and the food. This show, Food Network Star, is a show looking to crown a winner who will have his/her own show so the judging criteria is much differant than Top Chef or Chopped. I think that Bob and Susie are probably the best to judge a show looking for a food TV personality/star. Even though they may not always say the smartest things, in our eyes, they are saying the right things in their eyes based on what they are looking for. That said, yes, Justin is my pick to win as well.

  2. avb says:

    nikki needs to go she is neither a talented cook nor entertaining AT ALL, she is also the least successful of all at handling situations. it appears that FN favours her as more talented and entertaining personnel have been booted out - ie - Emily. Michele can still cook as far it is goes for Bobby's team. Yvan is the best of all on Giada's team - alil annoying with the intro to the family style cooking but seems to be able to handle anything. Ippy not so much - good cook not entertaining. Justin and Marie - love them both - though Justin's alil monotoned - he is still entertaining, knowledgeable and can cook - judges seem to love everything he has put forward get him to cut of of his attitude and i'll watch him anyday. Martie is alot like Yvan - improved every step in the show.
    i would think however that the show being named Food Network Star - they need to be entertaining and talented chef's -they need to carefully look at their final choices. As one of the mentors said - we need people who can be teachers - the network should TEACH people about food, cooking and entertaining and not just make the decision based on just one category.

    • bmb says:

      Yvan has a lot of experience in teaching, he has been offering some workshops in the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan, NY, in the C.-CAP program por high school students, to middle school and elementary schools. Yvan is a n excellene chef and mixologist, autor of two cooking books, and more. He has been many times invited to Univision, NYTimes has writen about him... Google him name or look for him in youtube. He is a complete entertainer and gifted chef

  3. guest says:

    They must love it! They're still there! LOL

  4. GregTaylor says:

    hey avb,have you personelly tried any of Nikki"s cooking? Then how is it that you and others can pass judgement on something you no so little about.Did you miss it when Bob said that her lamb chop plate was delicious and that she was definetly a master griller! For the record her dish was the BEST PLATE on the night and for that reason she was kept out of the bottom. And by the way, this was the first time that Nikki was not on top of her game during her presentation and I seem to remember severel on air mishaps by each one of the other contestents. This girl has been portrayed by the network as the villian from the start and I think that Is very sad because she really Is A great person and A GREAT COOK!

    • Jerilee says:

      Her not being on the bottom had nothing to do with anything. The network has had a pattern from day one. Tonight was team Giada up for elimination and nothing short of a total disaster would have changed that. I don't think many of us have tried any of the contestants food. Nikki flubbed last time her blender didn't work. Let's see WBA pens next week when someone from each team has to go.

    • avb says:

      have you?....nikki has had more problems than here team mates in her presentations...look back at previous epsiodes her cooking has had some flaw or the other, besides Nikki has been at the bottom 3 times in a row......

  5. Jerilee says:

    That is a very un-American comment. You show a total disregard for the sacrifices our military has endured. I lost distant relatives on that horrific day, and my bet is a lot of other posters did too. my last words to you, Aloha Oy, shame on you.

  6. Rob says:

    The final 3 should include Justin and Martie, for sure. The third slot should go to Ippy or Yvan. I think Yvan comes across better on camera than Ippy does. Yvan's only 2 issues is his still present "upspeak" and his POV is not very clear. Family-style is kinda too broad. Martie has grown quite a bit but still is somewhat annoying to me with her rambling. Michelle - I just don't think she has enough charisma or confindence in her cooking. Justin is the best choice, in my opinion. Yes, he has wild ideas that most of us would never dare try or do, but that's what I like about him. While, I may not make stuffed dates with seaweed, I may make an inspired version of what he makes. I don't usually watch FN to learn how to cook or make a dish, I watch FN to be inspired to make my own version of what I see people on FN making. Justin does that for me.

    • Food Fan says:

      Liked yer post. I always enjoy when people give reasons for their opinion, rather than just merely state it.
      As we close-in towards the end, I'm thinking about the contenders.
      Who would win against who between Nikki vs. Michelle? Hmm. Still mulling that one over.
      Ippy vs. Yvan - I think the thing to keep in mind here is sort-of the reverse of Emily going home after one bad night. Yvan had his GOOD night, and it was really very good. But alot of the rest of the time, i could hardly remember him 5 minutes after he was off-camera. Why have someone like that win, when Ippy has been more consistent over time? I liked Yvan's upbeat-ness this last time, and I'm sure he can cook but Yvan has also been too over the top "dis is Neuu YAAWWWK, bay-beeee....while Ippy hasn't floundered back n forth to find himself. This last time of Yvan's was very good, but it feels like it has taken this long to get there. You could say he has more energy than Ippy, but he has also come across as more (the word nervous comes to mind). Ippy is very likable and has a great smile and puts people at ease. His food has been better and more reliable over time.
      As for Justin, if you like him, you like him. We can all like whoever we want.
      But i was thinking some more....I will leave Justin out of it and sort-of armchair-discussion-brainstorm a bit. It goes like this:
      Suppose there were anyone at all on the FoodNetwork, whoever they are, and I knew I would never make, and probably not eat what they made. Would iiii watch them? Very likely not. Maybe a time or 2 just to check 'em out, but then, naaaah. But thats just me. Maybe others would watch to "get inspired." And if that what someone wants, they can!
      But then I think: but if that--is what they're doing, then it becomes "entertainment" rather than Cooking and learning. But what anyone might make by being inspired is something *they* made on their own. The cook didnt teach them. And Alton himself said he DOES want "teachers." But if we just watch for "entertainment" (and yes, we can), but then its about being entertained/amused, not teaching/learning as Alton was aiming for. You could say it isnt what Alton wants, its what you want. Thats also true. But if most of an audience ends up watching for amusement or "inspiration", then the Network itself loses credibility and it becomes harder to take it seriously as a FOOD-Network.
      And if too many people start taking the Food Network less seriously, then the ratings go down and they start losing the audience they had.
      It could happen.
      I think the Food network would be wise to think more long-term and what will still be interesting or useful 3 years later, than what might be "cool" for 6 months and fizzle out, whoever it is.
      At least thats how it looks to me.

  7. suzanne in Hawaii says:

    Maybe it will be Ippy, Martie and and Nikki. I mean why are Martie, Justin and Alton all crying in the next previews? Does Justin not make the cut? Sorry but Justin has visually unappealing teeth, and this is TV. Ivan continues to have the up speak problem and not a good quality sounding voice. Very squeaky. It really doesn't matter if it's Michele or Nikki, neither will win the fan vote.

    • Rob says:

      Those could be tears of joy from team Alton - maybe both Justin and Martie make the final 3 and thats why they are all crying. A feeling of pride could have caused those tears. People just don't cry during times of sadness, they often cry during times of Joy as well. People cry at weddings, graduations, etc - not just funerals, right?

      • suzanne says:

        Yes Rob, I also considered that angle. The editors of these clips really delight in tricking us all. I had noticed a pattern of them showing the losers rationalizing their loss in the previews. Justin says "it would devastate me if I'm not selected to make a pilot." It seems suspicious, like they're planting the seed of doubt in the Justin fans minds. And those don't look like tears of joy from Alton to me.
        I've really enjoyed watching Justins zany performances, but he's not much of a chef. He doesn't have a culinary degree, he admits on "24 hr restaurant" that he's never cooked in a restaurant, only worked the" front of the house", and I probably would never cook his crazy food. But, I probably would watch his show. Teeth and all.
        I can totally believe that Martie could be crying tears of joy as you say though. We'll find out soon.

  8. Doug says:

    Wow, completely inappropriate and insensitive comment.

  9. person says:

    Here's my view on the contestants.

    MARTIE- She's nice and she's charming, but her show has been done before and it might be a little bit boring.

    IPPY- It would be cool to learn about Hawaii but he would have to step up his energy and focus on being genuine.

    MICHELE- I like the New England POV, but I might get tired of watching her after a while.

    YVAN- I love his bubbly personality and he is unlike anybody we have on the Food Network.

    JUSTIN- His POV is unique, but he comes off a little bit standoffish.

    NIKKI- I like the Grill Next Door, but I don't America is going to vote for her.

  10. guest 7 says:

    Person prior post:
    "YVAN- I love his bubbly personality and he is unlike anybody we have on the Food Network. "
    Wow, really worth the network thinking about this. Yvan appeals to, children, and the youth culture with his personable charm and easy teaching style. He can feed the kiddies food they like while playing in the sand with them, he can help to educate in elementery and middle schools (which he recently did in Queens, NY per the Michelle Obama program), he can rock with the adolescents and their language and culture, and we have seen how well the adults respond to his skill and charm. So, I didn't think of it, but FN channel, you have an ace in the hole and it seems to be YVAN!