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One-on-One Interview with The Next Food Network Star Winner Melissa d'Arabian

Melissa d'Arabian Dishes on Life As the Winner of The Next Food Network Star


Melissa d'Arabian Wins

Melissa d'Arabian Wins The Next Food Network Star

Photo Courtesy Food Network
The last time I spoke to The Next Food Network Star's Melissa d'Arabian, she was in the final four and keeping a big secret. Millions of people watched last night as her secret was revealed. Chef Bobby Flay announced the stay-at-home mom and only contestant with no professional cooking experience was the season five winner of The Next Food Network Star.

Just hours after her big win, I talked one-on-one with the Food Network's newest star.

Twitter went crazy when you won last night. How do you take the fans who were excited about the competition and keep them excited about your show?

One of the things that Food Network does, which is really smart, is they set it up so that Ten Dollar Dinners starts next Sunday. Fans can go ahead and start programming their DVRs for 12:30/11:30 Central.

We're just going to jump right in. You don't even have to go a weekend without me. Ten Dollar Dinners is right around the corner.

In the competition, you won after producing a pilot called The Kitchen Survival Guide. But your new show is going to be called Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian. How did that change come about?

The notion of me being a survivor in the kitchen is just part of who I am. We've all been there where we just need to get the meal on the table. You'll see some of that.

I love the $10 premise. The idea behind it is that I make a $10 promise to my viewers. I will feed a family of four a full meal, not just one dish, but a full meal for $10 or under. I will do it in a way that makes you feel good about the food you're serving, gets you excited about the food that you're serving and that's going to surprise a lot of people.

I think people who aren't on a budget are going to really like the show and really like the recipes. Even if you don't need to be on a budget, who wants to spend more money if you don't have to? I've got some really fun tips and techniques to share, not only on the budget side, but, you know me, there will be the little tip or technique that pops out, the crazy little thing I do at home.

The show's going to be a fun half hour but I also think it's going to give people some great recipes and some tips and techniques that will float around in their mind. I still have people who email me about the whole green onion thing. That's the kind of thing I want.

It's great to learn something but if you don't remember it, what good is it? My goal is to have stuff that people remember.

What do you hope moms take away from your show each week?

A lot of people have budgets but I don't know a mom who is not on a budget. As a mom, we're sort of the CEO of our small corporation. We're all on a budget.

I think Ten Dollar Dinners is not just going to show you how to make dinner for four for under $10. My regular viewers are going to actually start changing the way they shop. Little by little, they're going to be shopping differently and saving tons of money.

A little-known fact about me on The Next Food Network Star, but not where I'm from, is that I actually speak to moms' groups. In the Dallas area, before I left, I would speak to them about guerrilla money-saving techniques.

I'm the person who gets $300 worth of groceries for $58.92. I've taken the small techniques that can save you a lot and I've incorporated them into, not only my recipes but my show, and I've turned them into tips and techniques people can take away.

It's not just about, "Oh I learned how to make a cheap, inexpensive cut of meat," which is part of it but I've also learned how to buy some of these groceries for less. People are going to shop slightly differently if they watch my show. I really think so.

You're now living on the West coast. The Food Network is on the East coast. How have you been balancing your family responsibilities with your commitments to the Food Network?

Today is, sort of, day one of me being a working mom. It's going to be a balance that a lot women across America, a lot of men across America, make.

How do we balance career aspirations and having dreams and balance who we are as women and as people with our role in the family? Clearly for me, my family is my highest priority. I'm also ready to make the step and go out and pursue something that's important to me.

It's going to be a tricky balance. I'm sure I will not do it perfectly.

As long as I keep in mind what's the priority here, I'll just have to make the best decisions that I can for that day. That's how I'm planning on doing it. It's hugely new territory.

I think I'm excited and ready for it. This is a little like talking to someone who's pregnant with their first child. It doesn't matter how much you tell them how crazy those round-the-clock feedings are, until you do it, you just don't know.

I'm going to do my best. I'll do exactly what I did without kids. I will take it day by day and learn as I go.

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