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Let the 'Aarti Party' begin: 'I now feel like I get it'

July 2, 2011 |  8:25 am

Aarti Sequeira_Purple 
Aarti Sequeira has been watching this season of "Food Network Star" thinking: "I'm so glad it's not me!"

The L.A. food blogger ran off with the Season 6 title of the then-named "Next Food Network Star" to become the network's first Indian host by stealing the judges' hearts and charming audiences with that lilt, that laugh and those twinkling eyes. But first, she had to engage in a protracted wrestling match with self-confidence and self-doubt. Watching Aarti overcome was like watching that magical moment when a foal scrambles to its feet for the very first time. (Am I right? Right!)

Well, look who's all grown up: Season 3 of "Aarti Party" starts Saturday on Food Network.

Taking a break during shooting in Los Angeles recently, Aarti said she thinks Season 3 will be the best season so far. Why? She's finally -- maybe? -- come into her own. Winning went a long way toward extinguishing self-doubt. But Seasons 1 and 2 were a kind of blur, with shooting for her first show beginning hours after she was handed victory. Aarti said she felt doubt creeping back in with the pressure (all self-imposed, she says) to produce recipes that delivered her couldn't-be-easier spin on Indian favorites and classics inspired by a childhood that took her from Mumbai to Dubai. (Some examples: Curry mac 'n cheese, Indian omelet and Bombay sloppy Joes.) She said she kept thinking "I wonder what they want" -- they meaning the show's producers, the network.

The break between Season 2 and 3 gave her an opportunity to regroup and refocus. "I had to get to the point where I said, 'This show is not about what 'they' want. It's about the recipes I want to share with the audience. How do I help inspire them to get in the kitchen?' That's when it really started clicking for me."

"I now feel like I get it."

On the morning when I visited her colorful set, Aarti was making chutney, a popular Indian condiment. Her version involves a can of tomatoes, sugar and spices and can adorn anything from roasted chicken to French fries to a sandwich. She easily bridged the gap with viewers who perhaps had never heard of chutney much less felt the desire to make it, by emphasizing its ease -- and it's comparison to that red-stuff that is no doubt in all their fridges.

"You guys! I just made ketchup! Boomski, it's so easy," she tells the camera.

During another break, she recalled seeing this crop of candidates while shooting an appearance on Season 7. She said their anxiety was palpable, and she recognized that fear in their eyes. (On her blog, Aarti talks about why so many of the competitors freak out during the on-camera challenges.)

"I felt for them. It was so nice to be in that room and not have a pit in my stomach. It was so nice to be on this side of it."


'Food Nextwork Star' recap: Mmmmm, tastes like human

'Food Network Star' recap: Faking out the bakers

'Food Network Star' recap: The claws are out 

-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch

Photo: Aarti Sequeira. Credit: Food Network