Recently I had the opportunity to be one of a group of media bloggers taking part in a teleconference Q&A session with Melissa d’Arabian, the winner of this seasons The Next Food Network Star. We talked with Melissa about the riggers of competition, having an Iron Chef as a judge and what she’ll bring to the table with her new show $10 Dinners airing Sundays at 12:30pm/11:30c on The Food Network.
Melissa d’Arabian: As you can imagine I am thrilled to be The Next Food Network Star and the fact that Jeffrey (Jeffrey Saad) is such a stand up guy and a fabulous chef made the whole process that much more fun and all of that much more of an honor to be in the finale with him and I’m just thrilled for the next steps. I’m ready to work!
Sunday is $10 Dinners, (Melissa’s new show) which I’m so excited about. I, in every episode, make a promise to my viewers to take ten dollars and feed a family of four and not just one dish but a meal. I think your going to be really surprised by some of the ingredients that I use and the recipes that I put together. They are not the run of the mill standard budget recipes and I think you’re gonna like them. I think people who even aren’t on a budget are going to like the show.
What do you think you have learned from the competition and your fellow competitors that will help you in your new show?
MD: I think competing there with them with such fantastic cooks and chefs…I think I a little bit underestimated myself and I saw that when, as a viewer, I could see the journey from the third person outside perspective and I could kind of compare that with how I was feeling when I was doing the show. It was really interesting to be able to see myself kind of out of body looking in. It’s interesting, I felt not as confident in the first half of the season and yet as a third person I looked me up and I thought ok you know she’s finding her own. As a third party, I saw that transition earlier than I felt it when I was in it. So I’ve learned not to underestimate myself. And from my fellow competitors, you know what I learned something different from each one of them. From Jeffery I learned everything from interesting ingredients and ideas…we spent a lot of time together in New York and ate in some restaurants while we were waiting doing our pilots and we just had great conversations but we also talked a lot about being parents and being spouses and I think those are the lessons that I probably treasure the most.
Was there anything about yourself that surprised you throughout the competition that you learned about yourself that wow I pulled that off or I didn’t know I had that in me type moments?
MD: I’ll tell you what, interestingly yes there was something that came up that I thought that I didn’t know I had that in me and that was honestly that self-doubt. I felt overwhelmed that first day or those first few weeks but particularly that first day I remember I was covered in flower and Bobby Flay comes in and is asking me about my tarts and I thought it was a train wreck ready to happen! I really got into some self doubt and that surprised me. I’m usually pretty good at finding the resources inside and going with that and celebrating what I am good at and I have to tell you I got a little derailed there in the beginning. That actually surprised me.
Your show $10 Dinners is on Sundays on The Food Network, Sandra Lee has another show right before you I believe about money saving meals I’m sure this is going to be a genre that’s coming up in this economy for sure. How would you describe your show to be different from other money saving cooking shows?
MD: I think the fact that there…you look everywhere and people are talking about saving money right? These are the times that we live in and you know I have to tell you, I the impact I like seeing as a society I think that we’re becoming not more money conscience but more resource conscience and I think as a society we’re trying to become more responsible even if we have the money or we have the resources I think we’re all trying to be good stewards of our resources and our money. Do I think there’s room for more than one show about how to do that? Absolutely! I think that you’re going to see Melissa infused in my show through and through in the sense that I’m gonna bring in tips and techniques that have to do with more than just my specific recipes. In my recipes I’m really taking recipes that I’ve created in my own kitchen that I’ve served my friends or my family or dinner party and I love the empowerment of surprising people with here’s a dinner for ten dollars or under. That’s what I wanna know. Not how do I serve hot dogs to a family of four for under ten dollars but how do I serve something that’s even a little bit fancier. I definitely have some specific tips and techniques for doing that. I’m so excited for $10 Dinners to premiere. So people who don’t even need to be on a budget are gonna love it!
Catch Melissa’s new show $10 Dinners which airs Sundays at 12:30pm/11:30c on The Food Network.
Interview by Tiffany N. D’Emidio