Millions of people are watching her on the Food Network but Melissa d'Arabian's biggest fans are her husband Philippe and her four daughters, ages four, three and a set of two-year-old twins.
You might expect this stay-at-home mom's new life in the spotlight has earned her five-star treatment. I interviewed d'Arabian while she was on the clock at her favorite job: stay-at-home mom.
On the road with her two toddlers, d'Arabian conquered a scenario familiar to moms everywhere. She passed pacifiers and milk to satisfy her little bosses in the backseat while driving to pick up her other two daughters and still managing to talk to me.
More on Melissa:
When you applied to be on The Next Food Network Star, you knew if you won you wouldn't be a stay-at-home mom anymore. How did you talk over that possibility with your family?
One of the blessings about having a big family and having a lot of responsibilities is before we do anything like having me to apply to be on The Next Food Network Star, my husband and I really thought it through. We talked through the eventuality of me winning. We talked through the eventuality of "does this mean we'd have to move to New York?"
I mean, we really thought this through because we don't take it lightly. We weren't just throwing my name into the ring and seeing what stuck.
We knew that, no matter what happened, if I went on the show I would be transitioning into the work force again, which was actually perfect for me. I love being a stay-at-home mom. I do not want to go back to my old job of 80 hours a week, leaving the home at seven in the morning, coming home at nine or ten at night.
That isn't a good fit for me because my family is just too high of a priority. But doing some level of getting back into the work force was really the right thing for me now that the twins are hitting two and the big girls are now in preschool.
Describe your personal support network that actually cared for your children so you could be on The Next Food Network Star.
My in-laws flew out and watched the kids for a couple of weeks. We also had a nanny who was with my kids all the time, sort of like a constant force at the house.
Philippe, my husband, was a consultant at the time. We just got lucky that he was in between projects and was able to work from home for a good portion of the time.
My aunt flew out to Dallas and stayed with the kids for a week. We just kind of piecemealed it together. I had neighbors who were fantastic and drove my kids to preschool and came by and took them for playdates.
We really tried to get as much continuity in their lives as possible because I'm with them all the time. It was a very big change for them for me to be gone for so long without seeing me.
It was a big sacrifice certainly more for my family than it was for me. I missed them terribly but it was harder on them than it was on me.
At a time when most moms stayed home, your mom worked. These days, a lot of moms work and you're staying at home. How did your mom's sacrifices lead to your decision to be a stay-at-home mom?
You know, that's very interesting. No one's ever asked me that.
I don't know that it was this direct, sort of, my mom didn't do it so I will do it. In fact, I want to think it had the other influence on me.
I was through and through a career woman until I was 35 or 36 and I had my first child. I never pictured myself being a stay-at-home mom. I never did.
I was picturing myself having maternity leave and then going back to work. So that was just not on my radar.
I got pregnant right after Valentine was 3 months old. I got pregnant with Charlotte, which was a fabulous and wonderful surprise but it was a surprise. I had to push back going back to work.
My husband was also in graduate school so we knew were going to be leaving in a year. That pushed off working for another year.
I fell in love with being a stay-at-home mom. I'll tell you this, that was sort of when I transitioned into it. I thought, well, I'm going to do this for a couple of more years.
I decided to have a third child and, of course, got two. I ended up having twins so then I had four. Then being a stay-at-home mom really made sense.
I understand that, my mom included, not everyone has that choice. And it is truly a luxury.
For us, we decided let's cut our expenses. Let's live with less money. We made significant sacrifices on the financial front so that I could be a stay-at-home mom to these four kids.
I'll have to explore a little more the link between my mom not doing it and me doing it. But I do know this, as a daughter, I wish that she had been more present. She was very much there in terms of quality time. I wish she had been there more in terms of quantity time. Maybe I also feel that way since she died when I was 20 so the quantity ended up getting cut short.