Melissa d'Arabian has no formal cooking training and her expertise in the kitchen is as a stay-at-home mom to four little girls. That's not stopped her from continually impressing chef and The Next Food Network Star host Bobby Flay as well as Food Network execs Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson. Now d'Arabian has cooked her way into the final two and is a fan favorite to win. (Note: Melissa d'Arabian won The Next Food Network Star. I spoke to her again in a separate interview hours after the big announcement.)
I caught up with this multitasking mom on the road to pick up her older daughters, four and three years old, with her twin two-year-old girls in tow. In this interview, d'Arabian talks about The Next Food Network Star, family cooking and her life as a stay-at-home mom.
More on Melissa:
Who's harder to cook for, Bobby Flay or four small children?
I've got to tell you, I'd be lying if I said cooking for some of the top people at Food Network didn't stress me out more than it stresses me out to cook for my little kids. I'm going to have to say it's harder to cook for Bobby Flay.
Some of the other contestants on The Next Food Network Star ridiculed you for being a SAHM, as if you didn't belong in the competition. How did you keep from doubting yourself when you were surrounded by professionally-trained chefs?
I wish I could say I didn't doubt myself. I did doubt myself. As I'm looking back at the episodes I can see when I started to feel like I earned my space there. I think that probably didn't happen until about episodes three or four.
The solution for me is to look inside and stop comparing myself to other people and what they have on the outside but to figure out what is unique about me, embrace that, celebrate that and bring that to the table.
You would probably agree that's true for moms as well. We start to doubt ourselves and compare ourselves to other mothers.
Oh absolutely! In all fairness, where else are we going to get barometers than looking around at our peers and our friends?
Some level of that is normal. I think it's a great idea actually to kind of check around and see how we're doing and share war stories. I think the danger is when we focus on one aspect of somebody or how they're looking on the outside and we compare that to how we're feeling on the inside.
The Next Food Network Star was actually a real journey for me in terms of doing that, looking on the inside and celebrating what I bring instead of panicking about what everyone else is bringing that I don't.
If you hosted a cooking show, how would you make it different from all the others?My experiences have been fairly different from anybody else on the Food Network. I have been a career woman. I have been a working mom. I have also been a stay-at-home mom. I have four kids aged four and under so I think that I do bring a lot of experience base.
I've cooked in a variety of settings and environments. I cooked for 35 years before I even had kids and my tastes were very different.
You have a big fan base out there. What would you like to say to your supporters?
Oh my goodness. It's funny that you talk about a fan base because it's so bizarre and surprising in the most wonderful way that I have fans.
That's just a notion that is so foreign to me because, remember, six weeks ago no one ever even heard my name. So to even talk about fans is just crazy.