'Next Food Network Star' winner talks 'Aarti Party,' celebrating and her mum
"It was an expletive that I probably can't say," she tells Zap2it the day after her win was revealed on the Food Network finale Sunday night (Aug. 15).
"Yesterday was India's Independence Day. So it was a huge day for me to win," she adds. "Today is the seven-year anniversary of my husband proposing to me. And then Thursday is my birthday. So this couldn't happen at a better time."
Her mother, who heard the news by email, couldn't contain her excitement.
"My mum called. Her voice was so high. I'd never heard her voice so high," says Sequeira. "She sounded like a 16-year-old who the cutest boy in school had asked out or something. She was so excited."
Sequeira and her husband, actor and director Brendan McNamara, have been celebrating her win for about a month.
"We've been going out to eat, which we hadn't been able to do for a long time," she explains. "I wasn't working, he wasn't working. We were surviving on one unemployment check between the two of us for a long time. We both bought new phones. Samsung Vibrants. We wanted iPhones, but then we'd have to change carriers. My husband came up with a really cute term for it: 'It's an iPhoney.'"
Her new show "Aarti Party" will launch Sunday, Aug. 22 at noon ET. Her fellow contestant Tom Pizzica isn't missing out on his chance though. His primetime food and travel show, "Outrageous Food," debuts in November.
Read more to see what Sequeira has to say about what to expect from "Aarti Party," her blog and her hopes for a Food Network-branded kitchen accessory:
Do you think being a food blogger helped you compete on the show?
Aarti Sequeira: Yes, I think having blogged for years, I really knew what I could make. I knew what my culinary point of view was, which is Indian flavors woven into American classics. Having such a strong point of view and knowing how to express that point of view in different dishes was a huge leg up. Especially having done an online cooking show for the past year, it was basically a year-long practice. Every week, I'd make a new video and get more and more comfortable in front of the camera. That is so critical.
What happened to the Aarti Paarti blog?
Sequeira: It's alive and well. I've been blogging all the while throughout the show. I think it's a really powerful way to connect with people who are watching. I talk about food but I also talk about my emotions and I analyze myself a lot. I think it's cool for people to see you Sequeira a human being with all the raggedy edges showing and everything. My blog got me here, so there's no way I'm abandoning it.
Sequeira: I'm getting new people looking at the blog because of the show. I think Indian food can be so intimidating for people. I do not take the responsibility lightly. I want people to start experimenting with a lot of the spices you can get at your regular supermarket. Tumeric is there, so is cumin, so is coriander. You don't have to go anywhere special. Start with those and see what happens. It's exciting.
Why is your Food Network show now named "Aarti Party" Sequeira instead of "Aarti Paarti"?
Sequeira: Yeah I think it's just easier to search for and maybe easier to understand. It allows me to keep my blog going, so I'm excited about that.
Where is your show shot? Are you still shooting?
Sequeira: We shot it New York. They built a whole new set for me. It was amazing. We finished shooting. It's all in the can.
Will you have a viewing party for your first episode?
Sequeira: Yeah, I'm getting together with a couple of my really best friends who really helped me get here, and we're doing a slumber party and then we're going to wake up and watch the show.
Will you cook for the viewing party?
Sequeira: My friend was saying, "I'm never asking you to cook again." I don't know. I have a couple things I want to try out. Someone actually sent me a recipe for ginger ice cream. I know. It's very smart because you use the syrup from the ginger you get from a jar. You use the syrup from that. I'm really excited to try it out. So I may be making some ice cream this weekend.
Will the new "Aarti Party" have any of the song, dance or puppet elements you had on your blog?
Sequeira: I really wanted to bring the variety element onto this one, but we really didn't have a lot of time between the finale and starting, and starting to shoot "Aarti Party." There really wasn't enough time to plan all of that. So knock on wood, I'd love to bring that back. I love music and I'm heavily involved in one actor in particular, my husband. I better be. So to give them a venue for what they can do. I'm really passionate about it.
Sequeira: For this season, it's just me. It's an opportunity for people who hadn't watched "Next Food Network Star" to get to know me and get to know me and my food. There's a lot to teach people with Indian food. I've got to talk about every spice, what it was like, where they can get it, why I'm using it. I don't know if anybody else could get a word in edgeways. So I'm really happy with the format for this first season.
Rachael Ray has her pans, Alton Brown has a salt container. What Food Network kitchen utensil would you want to market?
Sequeira: I would like spice tins. In India, every mum has a round tin and inside the tin are maybe 12 small containers with little spoons. Every single one of those has a spice in it. I'd like to do a simplified version of that with maybe five spices, so it's kind of like your Indian starter kit. I think that would be a very great idea. I think people would really benefit from having the spices in one place and a lot of people are intimidated by going out and buying them, so this way you have small quantities of each one and you're ready to go. I'd also put some recipes in there.
What's your most disastrous recipe?
Sequeira: When I made the egg curry at Frank Sinatra's house, that was pretty much a disaster. It's so funny. I remember tasting it, and being like, "Okay, that tastes alright." You're under so much pressure, you wouldn't think it would affect your palate, but it does. You're not entirely sure you can trust it I learned after that egg curry because I thought it tasted good, but everybody was like, "It had no flavor."
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Photo credits: Food Network