Star in Training

The Next Food Network Star winner Aarti Sequeira takes us through the making of her new show, Aarti Party.

Page 2 of 2

Wardrobe time! Woo hoo! My stylist, David White, shows me some gorgeous jewel-toned outfits. I have to wear colors that are a little dark, so if oil splatters on me, it won’t show on camera. Yet another lesson! Makeup consultation: ah, my favorite. I go from looking tired and splotchy to glamorous and well rested. I'm especially enchanted by the individual false eyelashes. If I had steady enough hands, I'd put these on every day!

Rehearsal day. Oof, this is it. But I'm strangely calm. I have to remember that I love this; this isn't a chore. The second I forget that, the camera is going to catch it, and so will you! And I can’t let you down. I go to see my set and I’m breathless. It's as if the set designer, Wendy Waxman, crept into my head and designed from all the kooky stuff she found in there. I add a couple of things: a photo of my mum, and one of Bren. Now it feels like home. Then reality sinks in that I'm on my very own Food Network set and I think I might start to cry. But I remember those false eyelashes and I relax. I can't mess them up! The rehearsal goes great. The executive producer, Mark Dissin, allows me to improvise my intro, which instantly puts me at ease. I'm still learning my way around (where are those damned tasting spoons?) and trying not to turn my back to the camera, but I get through everything fine, and we can go home early. I high-five myself. The first call I make when I get back to the hotel: room service. Three-scoop sundae, please, with all the fixin's.

The first shoot day is harder than I expected. I have to remember all my steps and weave in my stories and cooking tips. But at the end of the day, Mark tells me I did a great job. And I feel it, too -- this is what I'm meant to do. We shoot each segment twice: one wide shot, the second up close. Between takes I watch what I just shot. This is surreal. It looks like a real cooking show! It's really helpful to watch and learn from each take, but it's also a little disconcerting to see myself in high-definition. Every blemish is glaring! On the third day of taping, I walk out of makeup and get changed. I'm just pulling on my Spanx (yeah, girl, the secret's out!) when all of a sudden, the lights go out. There's a blackout at Food Network. We can't work, so I'll have to shoot one and a half episodes and the show intro the next day, in addition to doing a promotional photo shoot during my lunch break. Tomorrow's going to be a looooooong day. Can I keep my energy up? The next day during the lunchtime photo shoot, we go through four outfits in an hour! I've always struggled with photos: When I smile, my normally massive eyes disappear into little slits. The photographer helps me figure out a half-smile so you can still see my eyes. It feels weird! I wonder which of these photos will hang on the wall with the others. My photo's going to be on the same wall as Guy Fieri’s! Agh!

After five days of taping, I'm done. That's my show. Six episodes are in the bag. We organize a toast for the crew, and I make sure to clink glasses with every one of the 45 people on set. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for making my dreams come true, and tell them about how I used to pretend to be a cooking show host with my tea set as a kid. It is so much cooler than I ever imagined.