Last night we watched the season finale of The Next Food Network Star. If you haven't yet, don't click! Spoiler alert. We also got the winner on the phone to chat about what's in store for him/her after his/her big victory.
If you've been keeping up with our season six coverage of The Next Food Network Star, then you've seen some of winner Aarti Sequeira's delicious Indian dishes on your screen. Get ready for even more ethnic education as Aarti takes her concept to a weekly series, Aarti Party, beginning this weekend. I chatted with Aarti about her friends from the show, her vision of Indian food in American kitchens, and how much she adores ice cream.
Which was the most difficult challenge for you during the competition? The Beso challenge ("Cooking for Eva Longoria Parker") was the most difficult for me, perhaps because I was in this emotional whirlpool after seeing my husband. Also I was affected by getting the word "fear," which I've struggled with my whole life. And being intimidated by Eva Longoria and Todd English. And I let all that get the best of me. But now I know that my food is good enough for Eva as long as I don't get in my own way! [Laughs.]
Which competitor(s) were you the closest with? The final four—Aria [Kagan], Tom [Pizzica], Herb [Mesa] and I—grew really close. Something about going to New York together and doing Iron Chef together—you can't help but really bond. I talked to Aria a few nights ago and the other two as well, we're still going to have relationships. I just think that they're so incredibly gracious, and there's no hard feelings. You know, when I won the first thing that Tom and Herb did was throw their arms around me. And to know that they were happy for me too was great; they've been so supportive. Even while I'm shooting the show, Aarti Party—which is so crazy to say! [Laughs.] They've wanted updates.
So how is the shooting going? Any particular challenges? At first it was just hitting me all at once—here's my set, my set! And here's MY recipes that we're doing. I'm so thrilled to work with people who produce Rachael's shows and Giada's shows. I just wanted to nail the part from day one, and I just feel so comfortable on set. You know, it's like when you shower and you're singing and you hit that one note that really resonates—this is my note! This is what I'm supposed to be doing.
Will your show focus on a specific region of Indian cuisine? Well, I feel a lot of responsibility being the Food Network show host that people will equate with Indian food. Especially because Indian food can be intimidating to some people. So I'm still working on introducing spices—I'm just going to keep focusing on weaving Indian flavors into American food.
What's your favorite comfort food? Ooo. I think after the first or second day stressful day of filming I had a big bowl of ice cream. I went back to the hotel and the first thing I did was call room service and said "I would like a sundae with three scoops of ice cream and everything that comes with it," and I hung up the phone [laughs]. It's always been ice cream, I never get sick of it!
Check out the series premiere of Aarti Party on Sunday, August 22nd at 12 p.m. ET, on the Food Network.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves consuming and learning about as much food as possible. She blogs at Feasting on Providence.
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