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'Next Food Network Star': It's a Party for Aarti and Tom, but what about Herb?

August 16, 2010 |  7:54 pm

Aarti
L.A. blogger Aarti Sequeira is having the best week ever. She's celebrating her birthday. (She's 32.) This week marks her seventh wedding anniversary to actor Brendan McNamara.

Oh, and she just won Season Six of "The Next Food Network Star."

"It's the most magical week ever, in history," she said with a laugh as she was headed for the airport and another trip back East where Food Network is based. Sequeira had been sworn to secrecy until the finale aired Sunday night on Food Network. "I'm just so happy to finally be able to talk about it," she said. [Sequeira will also make an appearance at the L.A. Times Food & Wine Festival on Sept. 5]

She said the on-screen journey was an emotional one. Many pegged her as the front-runner, given her experience making YouTube videos for her food blog. But that was not the case.

"I started off with not a lot of confidence, I was so intimidated by the rest of the finalists, their cooking ability and their experience," she said, adding that she had at least some reason to be nervous, noting that at one point she served raw chicken.

But she rallied back.

"I really feel like this was not only a victory in terms of me getting to do a job of a lifetime, but it's proof positive that the second that those demons come back and start pestering me...[I can face those demons and say] I won!"

 

 

 

She said she went into the finale feeling confident. The three finalists had to shoot pilots, and she was happy with her turn in front of the camera.

Then she watched the pilots shot by fellow finalists Herb Mesa and Tom Pizzica. "Once I watched the  other two pilots, I was like, 'Oh, crap! I got cocky, I fell asleep at the wheel, I could have done better.' Tom had the strongest pilot, to be honest. In the end, it was just my nose poking across the finish line."

Hey, wait a sec. Doesn't that sound like the old Aarti?!

Her parents, who live in India, were excited to learn of the win. "When I told my mum...her voice was so high pitched she sounded like a 16-year-old who was just asked out by the cutest boy in high school."

For now, Aarti will remain living on the West Coast. If her show gets picked up for a second season, who knows.

While she blogged at "Aarti Paarti," her new show will be called "Aarti Party." "I suppose its easier for people to spell. As long as people remember the name of it, I don't care. As long as people watch, I don't care," she said. She said she immediately fell in love with her set, which reflects her girlish personality, and yet still echoes her culinary POV with its earthy colors.

The new show will be a full exploration of the point of view she developed on "TNFNS," weaving Indian flavors into American cuisines. It premieres Aug. 22 at noon, and the first episode is titled “My House”: "Aarti takes viewers on a journey back home with recipes inspired by her family in India. First, she cooks up Sloppy Bombay Joes, an all-American classic updated with warm Indian flavors like garam masala and cumin. As a refreshing starter, she prepares a crisp Massaged Kale Salad with pumpkin seeds and honey. For an indulgent end to this savory meal, Aarti whips up cool Creamy Pistachio Pops."

That all sounds good, but I'm already looking forward to Aug. 29: She's making something called "I Ain't Chicken Chicken" and "Huggy Buggy Bread Pudding."

Food Network also announced Monday that runner-up Tom Pizzica will host a new prime-time series, "Outrageous Food," premiering in November 2010. It will be a traveling food show featuring "out-of-this-world eats," according to the press release.

But what about Herb Mesa? No word yet on whether the network has anything planned for him.

Additionally, casting for Season Seven of "The Next Food Network Star" is underway. Details are at  www.foodnetwork.com/starcasting.

--Rene Lynch
Twitter.com/renelynch

Photo credit: Aarti Sequeira, on the new set of "Aarti Party."

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