Melissa d’Arabian brings girl power to the table
UVM alum has chance at Food Network stardom
Published: Sunday, May 3, 2009
Updated: Sunday, May 3, 2009 09:05
In the new season of "The Next Food Network Star," UVM alum Melissa Donovan d'Arabian reveals her cooking prowess and aims to past it on to women across the country.
From her sorority girlfriends at UVM to her French husband and four daughters, d'Arabian found ample support and mouths for her cooking, practice needed to potentially become a Food Network personality.
Now living in Keller, Texas, just outside Dallas/Fortworth, d'Arabian prepares for the first airing of the competition on June 7 and the nation's response to her style of cooking.
If d'Arabian succeeds in the competition, she will win her own show on the Food Network, according to the Food Network Web site.
In an interview with The Vermont Cynic, d'Arabian discusses the competition, her inspiration and her goal to make cooking easy, fun and fruitful for women no matter where they are in life.
The Vermont Cynic: How did you get selected to be on "The Next Food Network Star?" Did you have to apply?
Melissa Donovan d'Arabian: You can either go through one of the casting calls or go through the Internet by uploading a video. I uploaded a video.
One of the things that I do is speak to women and moms around the Dallas area about making homemade baby food and yogurt.
I get many requests from people wanting to know how to make yogurt without a machine, so I made a video to e-mail out to people who wanted to know how to make my yogurt without any equipment.
That is the video I submitted to the Food Network, so I killed two birds with one stone.
VC: How was the application process?
MDD: The deadline for submissions was the last week of November and I was contacted pretty quickly after that telling me I had been accepted for the next round.
I submitted more applications with information about me, my family and my culinary interests. Soon after that, I was contacted to go the Semi-final contest.
I flew up to New York to do a live camera audition and found out that I was in the competition.
I applied a bit late, so the process only took about a month.
VC: What are you feeling going into this competition?
MDD: I'm feeling very excited because winning would be a fantastic extension of what my life is about — providing ideas and solutions to women not only all over Dallas but women all across America. And yea, I'm nervous.
[I] hope that things don't go wrong, but I'm here to win it.
VC: What are you planning on making?
MDD: On June 7 when the show runs, I'm going to make one of my favorite recipes that my kids love: an apple tart.
I spent a semester abroad and spent a year over in France working for Euro Disney. That is were I met my husband who is French, and my French mother-in-law helped me perfect my apple tart.
On the June 7 airing, we are charged with catering the party for the 16th anniversary of the Food Network.
We [the contestants] have between 75 and 100 people to cook for.
You can imagine what it is going to be like. We are going to be cooking for all the big names: Bobby Flay, [Masaharu] Morimoto, Alton Brown, Giada and Alex Guarneschelli, the executive chef at Butter.
VC: Are you going to include some Texas-style cooking?
MDD: My mom was in the navy, so I grew up in a number of places.
I've actually only been in Texas for a couple of years because we moved up for my husband's job, although I have learned a lot from cooks down there.
I know how to do a good barbeque.
VC: How has your family reacted to you involvement in this competition?
MDD: My husband is my number one fan.
He's gotta be if he has to manage all four girls while I'm in New York.
My girls have started seeing the commercials. They get so excited when they see mommy on TV, but I don't think they really know what it all means.
For now, they just see the commercial and know that's why I'm in New York. That is enough of a reason for them.
VC: Did any of your experiences at UVM contribute to your entry on this show or your love of cooking?
MDD: UVM has played a role in my culinary development.
I was a big fan of my sorority, which is Alpha Chi.
When my mom died, I wound up moving back into my [sorority] house, and my girlfriends were my network and my rock. My mom taught me that cooking was the way of loving somebody.
UVM helped me in a sense that here I fell in love with having girlfriends and that is who I am as a human being and as a cook — I was raised by a woman, my mom, and since my mom's death when I was 20, my family was my girlfriends.
That is where I learned as a cook: I cooked with my girlfriends and for my girlfriends.
I learned how to build my family with my girlfriends around me. We create our families, and that's what I did.
They are a big part of who I am and a big part of me in loving and honoring the girlfriends in my life.
My connection to my girlfriends is also why I want to help women around Dallas.
Also, through UVM, I studied abroad and learned French which is why Disney sent me overseas where I met my husband and lived in France.
Living in France chanced the way I cooked all over again. They have such an emphasis on the best and freshest ingredients.
That is a big part of who I am as well.
VC: How much did you cook while you went to UVM? Did you ever live off campus?
MDD: My first year on campus in Hamilton Hall was the lost cost housing option. There was no janitorial service – the discounted housing. There was one kitchen down at the bottom of the dorm, and I did cook there for my girlfriends.
My second and third year, I lived in the sorority house, and in sororities there was a live in cook that had dinner on the table at a certain time every night, so I didn't get a chance to cook as much during that time.