One-on-One with Aarti Sequeira, a Judge on Clash of the Grandmas

Hear from Aarti Sequeira, a host on Food Network's Clash of the Grandmas, about what's to come in this old-school-meets-new-school competition.

Photo by: Jeremiah Alley ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jeremiah Alley, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

We're just a few weeks into the premiere season of Clash of the Grandmas, and if the first battles were any indication, it's clear that top-quality cooking knows no limits, age or otherwise. Aarti Sequeira is a judge on Sunday's all-new episode (airing at 10|9c), and she noted the downright fierceness of the ladies facing off in the competition. They are "vivacious, spunky grandmas who love nothing more than to feed people, whether those people are their grandchildren, or someone else's," she explained, noting that their dishes often boast that extra something-something. In addition to the "love" that goes into their offerings, she said, there's also "a little bit of I-don't-give-a-damn," which we can only assume is what makes their food so treasured. Read on below to hear more from Aarti and get her take on what it's like to judge grannies' cooking.

Aside from the age of the competitors, what makes Clash of the Grandmas different than other culinary battles?

Aarti Sequeira: There's something special about the way that grandmothers cook. They can make the simplest of dishes, but there's something in the way they turn their wrist, sprinkle in that brown sugar, layer in the cheese; it's all so infused with a sense of comfort that every round, after eating their food, I felt like everything was going to be OK. I don't get that when I taste even the best chef's cooking!

Were you surprised to see the gumption in these grannies and notice how fearless they are?             

AS: Totally! I think we all imagine that once you get older you lose your inner sparkle. But I'm happy to see that it doesn't disappear! That's a comfort to my soul! I also think that it's wonderful that no matter how old you are, you can always do something new and challenging. These women inspired me.

In general, what do you think makes grandmothers’ cooking so darn good?                                                  

AS: Love, experience and a little bit of I-don't-give-a-damn.

There's no shortage of surprises thrown at the grandmothers this season. Do you think there’s any way for them to prepare for this competition?                                                                                                     

AS: Try making your tried-and-true recipes with unusual ingredients. Just knowing that you can do it will make you feel even more fearless when the show tries to spook you!

How does the fact that the competitors are grandmas influence the way you judge them, if at all?   

AS: I come from a culture that REVERES the fact that we get older, because it means that we ostensibly are wiser. So I had a hard time being critical with these grandmas because my inner Indian was shouting, "Who are you to judge them?!" Plus, you gotta watch yourself — that's someone's gran! People are very protective of their grans! Tread lightly!

Do you have any special memory of cooking with your grandma? Please explain.                                        

AS: Sadly, both my grans passed away before I had a chance to cook with them, but I do remember that my paternal grandmother, Winnie (who I resemble a great deal), would always put the container of freshly churned butter right next to me at breakfast. It was her way of saying, "I see you and I love you."

Was there one dish your grandma was known for? Please explain.  

AS: So many! My mum has written down my paternal grandmother's recipes in her own journal of family recipes, and I can't wait to get my paws on them. I always think of her spicy mango pickle. No store-bought version has ever come close, and even though she passed on the recipe, no one has been able to make it quite like she did. Rest in peace, Winnie — until I get to heaven. And then you better have a pantryful of that pickle to feed me through eternity!

Tune in to Clash of the Grandmas on Sundays at 10|9c.

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