Melissa D’Arabian: from home cook to network star


Melissa D’Arabian won Season 5 of “The Next Food Network Star” on Sunday, but what you may not have known was that since the finale taped (about two months ago, so we were told by the network), her new show, “Ten Dollar Dinners,” already has taped six episodes. The show premieres this Sunday, August 9 at 12:30pm ET/PT, and on the it Melissa will demonstrate how to create flavorful and interesting meals for a family of four for under ten bucks.

DArabian, who recently moved from Keller, Texas to Kirkland, Washington, beat out runner-up Jeffrey Saad of Los Angeles to take the title of Next Food Network Star, and we had the chance to participate in a conference call with Melissa this past Monday. Here are a few of the highlights of what she had to say…..

On her new show’s premise: “The challenge isn’t how to feed a family of four hot dogs on ten dollars. The challenge is how to feed them shrimp or a well-rounded meal that has several components. I think you’re going to be really surprised by the ingredients and by the recipes.”

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The Next Food Network Star: survival is the key word

Last night’s finale of “The Next Food Network Star” featured two contestants in Melissa D’Arabian and Jeffrey Saad who were, frankly, both worthy of winning. So the challenge that they both faced in taping their own pilot would pretty much be the determining factor.

Being that this final episode was taped before a live audience, there was a lot of time to fill. So they began with shots of both contestants with their families back home–Jeffrey in Los Angeles selling real estate and hanging and cooking at home with his wife and two kids, who I believe they said were 13 and 9 years old. Melissa, meanwhile, is from Keller, Texas, and they showed her with her husband and four kids, all girls, between the ages of 1.5 and 4….are you kidding me? No wonder Melissa is so frantic all the time…they showed a shot of her driving a minivan with the four car seats. Yikes.

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The Next Food Network Star season finale is this Sunday–who do you like?

This Sunday marks the conclusion of Season 5 of “The Next Food Network Star,” pitting Jeffrey Saad against Melissa D’Arabian. It’s hard to believe we’ve reached this point already, but I always say that after the 4th of July, the summer flies by faster than we want it to. Anyway, I’m pulling for Melissa and I think she’s got the goods to be a network star for a long time. Jeffrey, though, is no slouch by any means, and seems like he’s got incredible cooking chops himself. Below is a video preview of the finale, which airs this Sunday, August 2, at 9pm/8pm central.

So I ask you, who do you like and why?

  

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A chat with Debbie Lee of “The Next Food Network Star”

It seems like many viewers of “The Next Food Network Star” were up in arms about Debbie Lee because of several questionable tactics and comments she made during more than one episode. They were letting judge and network exec Bob Tuschman know how they felt in responding on his blog last week. Well, Debbie was eliminated this past Sunday, leaving Melissa D’Arabian and Jeffrey Saad to battle it out for the crown. Was Debbie singled out for previous missteps? Good question, but we think so, and we think she had it coming either way.

Anyway, we had the chance to ask Debbie about her experience on the show and on her future plans…..

Premium Hollywood: What do you think ultimately was the deciding factor in your being eliminated?

Debbie Lee: It’s hard to say. I would love to get inside the judge’s minds to figure out what they were thinking. I know it was a very hard decision, but I think ultimately with Melissa’s being a mom, Jeffrey’s consistency…it just was a tough decision.

PH: Do you plan to pursue your own cooking show regardless?

DL: Yes, I would love the opportunity. I would also love to do some books and have the opportunity to express my Korean-American background.

PH: Who do you think will win now, and why?

DL: That’s a tough one. Melissa is a mom, has the all-American skills, Jeffrey is a fascinating chef with an interesting background, he’s exciting to watch. Let’s just say I’m glad I’m not a judge!

PH: What can you tell us about your new hot dog restaurant?

DL: The restaurant is going to be a hot dog concept that also integrates that comfort food with Southern spirit.

  

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The Next Food Network Star: do you believe in karma?

For those of us pissed off that the judges of “The Next Food Network Star” kept giving Debbie Lee pass after pass this season, despite the fact that she was dishonest and deceitful while acting all jolly and Korean, karma reared its head in our favor. More on that in a minute, but last night’s showdown between the final three of Lee, Melissa D’Arabian and Jeffrey Saad was actually very exciting to watch.

They began the episode by having the three finalists meet Emeril Lagasse at his restaurant, and Emeril announced their challenge for the week–in honor of the upcoming film, “Julie & Julia,” the contestants would have to create their own ultimate 3-course meal for some very distinguished judges. Each would have $1000 to shop as well as the help of a sous chef. After shopping (and Jeffrey being way under budget), they arrived back to find out who their sous chefs would be….naturally, former contestants….Jamika, Michael and Katie, who would be paired with Melissa, Debbie and Katie, respectively.

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