I love the concept of your show, I love Indian food. What would be the perfect dish to start? Whether it’s traditional Indian food or Indian flavors in an American dish?
Aarti: I think it would be better if you did some Indian flavors in an American dish, because the whole thing wouldn’t be so intimidating to you. I make my mum’s daal, these red lentils that we ate everyday, and they’re really easy because essentially you’re making a soup, and then you add some spices in at the end and that’s really easy. So actually I would say, try the daal, because that’s the one I’ve had so many people write in about and say, they’ve never had Indian food, they made the lentils and they ate the whole thing. So give that one a go. Plus it’s a big show piece, because you have to temper the oil at the end, put the seeds in the oil, and so the oil takes on this great mustard and cumin flavor, and then you pour the whole thing into this lentil soup and it sizzles, and people are like, Oooh! It’s a show stopper.
How did you decide which dishes you’re going to focus for each episode of your own show?
Aarti: My husband really helped me come up with episode ideas, that we would have some kind of theme, whether it was an episode of things that really make me think of my mum, or things that I would make for Bren, if I really wanted to impress him or show him I love him, or things like that, either themed or event based with friends coming over. And then I would think, What would I make for this person? And I would go through, it’s so helpful to be a food blogger because you have all your recipes on your blog! And I remember talking to Tom and he was like, Dude, I know I have 24 recipes, but I haven’t written them all down. So it’s really great for me because I have written them all down, so I can so easily plan an episode by just looking at everything I have made.
What will you be doing this Sunday for the premiere of Aarti Party?
Aarti: Well, this is a really auspicious week – yesterday was India’s independence day, today is the seven year anniversary of my husband proposing to me, Thursday is my birthday, it’s just the most amazing week! [laughs] Great week for me. So this weekend I think I’m going to keep it really chill, I think I’m going to – and this sounds so old school – I have a couple of really close friends, and so to celebrate my birthday we’re going to do an old fashioned slumber party, complete with face masks [laughs], then we’re going to wake up Sunday morning, well Sunday afternoon I guess since the show is at noon, and watch my show.
That sounds like a great plan.
Aarti: Yeah! There’s this person I’ve been talking to on Facebook, she’s a fan, sent me her recipe for ginger ice cream, so I think I’m going to try to make ginger ice cream.
What else can we expect from Aarti Party?
Aarti: Well, I will be on it! [laughs] I will have my own show on Food Network starting this Sunday, I can’t get over saying that, it’s so bizarre to me. It’s me, it’s explaining a lot of the spices that I’m using. I try not to use three or four, if that, in a recipe. And I don’t throw them in willy-nilly – I’m going to explain why I’m using turmeric, what does cardamom taste like? I think because a lot of these things are not only flavors that people may not have heard of, they may not have tasted before, so I’m going to try and explain that to them, why I’m using them in that particular marriage for that particular dish. I think that’s what you can expect. With some really great food, I’m really excited for people to try these recipes out.
In your online bio, it mentions that you were previously a CNN producer. How did that help you compete on the show? Did that experience translate over to Next Food Network Star?
Aarti: I think that it helped me because, even when I was having a really rough time, and it was really hard, I was like, All right! I’m not covering a wildfire, it’s not 9/11, I’m trying out for a job that is so much fun. I think it also helped me work with the pressure, because when you work in a newsroom, the deadline – it’s so much pressure to get everything in on deadline, especially when it’s a breaking news environment. Especially in the Iron Chef challenge, when I was cooking I was really calm, it felt very much like a newsroom where you have to stay really calm, and really focused, or else you’re going to lose it [laughs]. So that really helped me. And of course having any sort of reporting background means you’re really comfortable in front of the camera. I think that really helped me as well.