It was just a few years ago that Aarti Sequeira secured her future as a Food Network Star, besting her fellow finalists to earn the Season 6 crown. Now, with incomparable been-there-done-that wisdom and an acute realization of what the remaining Season 12 finalists are feeling at this point, she's set to return to Food Star Kitchen on Sunday to watch Damiano, Jernard, Tregaye and the returning Star Salvation victor compete for three pilot opportunities.
We caught up with her on set to hear what it's like to be back on Food Network Star and walk down competition-memory lane. Read on below for an exclusive interview with Aarti to get her take on what's ahead for the finalists this week.
What's it like to be on the other side of the competition, as a judge and not a finalist?
Aarti Sequeira: It feels way better to be on this side of it. ... It's so hard to actually put yourself back in that position, only because it feels like so long ago, and it kind of was so long ago. I remember that it was bittersweet at this point. Maybe it's my nature or maybe it's the nature of the competition, but you get so close to these people, you know what I mean? And you know what it would mean for them to win, you know obviously what it would mean for you to win. But you want only the best for them ... and it's hard because you know that it's a mutually exclusive deal. If you win, they don't. If they win, you don't. There's no gray area there, and so it's tough. It's a tough psychological place to be.