Your NFS Questions: Answered!

Posted by Aarti on July 1st, 2011 . Filed under: Uncategorized .

A couple of days ago, I opined on some of the struggles the Food Network Star finalists face… and asked if you guys had any questions about the show.

That was kind of a dumb question, huh?

Thank you for all your thoughtful questions!

I’ll do my best to answer you without giving away all the mystery behind the show. It’s kind of like a magic trick — once you know how it’s done, you kind of wish you hadn’t asked.

Here we go!

Amber: In cases like Penny’s or any other drama for that matter…do they edit it to seem more dramatic than it is?

I think you and I both know the answer to that question.

That said, the team shoots hours upon hours of footage that they have to boil down to a 42 minute show. Anytime you boil anything down, you concentrate the flavour. That means that your most significant characteristics, those you exhibit most often, are the ones that are going to make the cut… if you’re a snarky person 60% of the time, guess what? You’re going to be the snarky one on the show. If you display self-esteem issues more than any other issue (hmmm, I wonder who I’m talking about!), those take center stage.

DI: Do you know already as to who has won this year’s show?


Sue: They obviously have a large pantry of items so when you go shopping, how do you know what they already have in the pantry versus what you need to purchase?

The pantry items are amazing. I remember being able find nearly every spice and ingredient I’d ever need in there, and in the fridge. But those ingredients are solely for the camera challenges. For the elimination challenge, you have to buy everything yourself! I found that tricky because often, Whole Foods (where we’d shop most of the time) didn’t have as wide a range of ingredients as the pantry.

Kel: How in the world do chefs recall recipes (such as for cupcakes last week)? That is just not something I carry around in my head. Were you allowed to bring any copies of your recipes with you to the competition?

Good question! I have NO IDEA how these guys remembered cupcake recipes. I have a horrid memory under peaceful circumstances; I can’t imagine how it would have fared with Robert Irvine breathing down my neck. So I say kudos to those contestants who did memorize a cake recipe before they left.

In my season, Brianna made a sponge cake during one challenge, and Aria made fresh focaccia during another… my jaw was on the floor. People who bake often probably have an easier time remembering those types of things. That said, baking is all about ratios, as laid out by the great Michael Ruhlman (which inspired the fantastic Ratio Rally). If you can remember what ratio works for what baked good, then you’re golden. All of that to say, NO, you are not allowed to bring recipes with you. It’s all up here baby (imagine me tapping my temple)!

Sandra: The challenges are once a week, right? What do you guys do during the week between challenges?

Nope, we often did multiple challenges a week. There were times when we would work for 10 days straight! I’ve never been to bootcamp, but this was as close as I ever hope to come. Oh Lord, it was hard! Don’t do this if you think it’s going to be a glamorous walk in the park. Or if you value sleep. HA! Every now and then, we’d get a pure day off, but more often, we’d have a quasi-day off where we’d spend about 3 hours in the interview room, then go home and sleep. SO. TIRING.

Mary: I always wonder about cell phones in this hyper-tech smart phone world we live in. Do you get to use them? I esp wonder because what if you’re given an ingredient to cook with but you don’t know what it is– are you not allowed to have a phone during challenges because you could google it?

Nope. No cell phones, no computers, no radio, no newspapers, no books (my Bible was ok)… I still remember coming back after shooting, and my husband talking about the iPad. I stared at him blankly and he said, Oh my goodness. You have no idea what that is, right? It had come out while we were quarantined away. It really feels like you’re in a different world.

If you don’t know what a particular ingredient is, you’ve got to figure it out. I remember not knowing anything about Tallegio cheese, which I was given during one challenge. I’d never heard of it before. All I could do was taste it, figure out what would go with it and hope for the best!

OOF! Alright I can’t do anymore. My fingers are knackered!

Do you enjoy this kind of post? If so, let me know in the comment section… and I’ll keep going with the rest of your questions.

Yours in carpal tunnel,


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55 Responses to Your NFS Questions: Answered!

  1. Jenn S.

    Yes, dear Aarti! We love these kind of posts. We love knowing that you read our comments, and we love your answers. As a side note, I know you’ve gotten a lot of play in recent Food Network Magazine issues, but I was disappointed that they didn’t have you in this most recent one. I know, I know… they need to give everyone a turn, but I always cheer when I see you in the magazine!

  2. Nadine

    Love this inside scoop! Keep it coming!

  3. gina

    Yep! Fun to know what’s really going on.

  4. Becky

    YES I love these kind of posts. Even though I’d never want to know EXACTLY how a ‘reality’ show comes together as I wouldn’t want to lose the “mystery” as you put it……….it IS fun to get peeks and inside opinions! Keep it coming!!

  5. Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon

    I love the peak behind the curtain!

  6. Carrie from Denver Bargains

    I LOVED this post! We’ve been watching NFNS on Hulu (just wrapped up your season and loved you from the beginning) and I have all sorts of questions, so this was fun to read!

    I think the biggest question I have is when do they do the interviews – the ones where you talk about your feelings during each of the segments. You always looked the same, but were talking as if it were very recent. My husband and I can’t decide if they do them all at the end of the person’s stint, or what.

    It seems like from what you said above that they must do it midweek and just make sure you look the same?

  7. Sarah B

    I have always wondered these questions! Keep ‘em comin’, Aarti! Love it!

  8. Stephen

    Neat. I love learning about the behind the scenes stuff. Thanks

  9. Kathy S.

    Thanks for posting, but don’t get carpal tunnel! That would prevent any cooking, I fear – at least for a while! One of the things we (my husband and I) enjoy about TNFNS is the chef’s encounters with ‘alien’ ingredients. Sometimes we know them, other times they’re new to us, also. (Oh, I enjoyed the scene where Penny commandered all the boxes…..they were Cambro boxes, and I worked for that company for 15 years!)

  10. Carol Suzuki

    Thanks for answering these. I wondered about ingredients you’ve never worked with. I was surprised when someone used such an ingredient WITHOUT tasting…how can someone do that? I’m often surprised when people can’t find things on a shopping trip, especially pretty readily available things (normally). Last week, I think there were no radicchio nor endive. He complained he couldn’t find 5 of his ingredients! That’s a lot. Is it that there isn’t the QUANTITY they need for, say, 150 guests or they just don’t have it? Seems like they’d find someplace better equipped. Or is this embraced (maybe encouraged?) by production to pose a challenge? Also, with baking, even if you know the recipe, some can be doubled or tripled and be okay and others can not. So knowing the ratios become really critical. Thanks so much for letting us all in. And I didn’t hear you…WHO did you say won this season?

  11. Jen @ a delicious life

    Yes I loved this post..
    so interesting. I always wonder when the contestants say, “oh well last week you did this” even though it was probably yesterday…do they make them say last week? random question I know but I always think of it.. haha

  12. Carla

    When will Aarti Party air on Food Network Canada already!!!! this is ridiculous that we haven’t gotten the show- come on- we are just next door you know!!!

  13. Dani

    I LOVE this Aarti! You are fabulous and I’ve loved your blog for a while… I’m so addicted to Food Network Star already this year! :)

  14. Ana

    I love this post too!!

  15. Maria-Emilia

    I love knowing more about you and your answers. Makes me feel like I’m having a chat with you (wishful thinking). Yes pretty please do more of these and maybe different subjects as well, not just about Food Network Star (look at me! So demanding!)

    Thank you for your inspiration, in more ways than you’ll ever know.


  16. Leah

    Aarti – SO LOVE these kinds of posts – so many questions come up as I watch, and there’s no way to ask questions. I really like your ‘you are there’ type descriptions of the experience. It’s nice to have a peak at ‘behind the curtain,’ as Wendi said. And it’s so nice to have the perspective of a wonderfully real, down to earth, nice and INCREDIBLY TALENTED chef and tv personality!

  17. Kim R.

    Thank you Aarti for taking the time to answer these questions. You did a great job of giving us insight without taking away the magic if the process. Looking forward to your new season!

  18. Matt

    Yes I love these kind of behind the scenes posts.

  19. Kel

    Thank you so much for answering my question. You are very sweet. And I will be taping your show tomorrow morning. All the best!

  20. Petra

    I love this! Thanks so much, Aarti. I loved watching you and I’m enjoying this season too.

  21. Rebekah

    Great post! Thank you for sharing your insider knowledge, haha.
    My father was wondering if the Judges see the cut footage of the contestants before they choose their winner.

  22. nina

    Love it and would love to read more!

  23. Just B

    Yes, please, keep going! What an addictive show!

  24. Jim

    I feel like the kid at the horror show putting spread fingers over his eyes :)

    Thanks Aarti


    what is the brand of Aarti’s dress on today’s show (07-02-11) @ 9am!
    where did she buy it? online? I want! I want!

  26. Neil

    Dang, I was worried they cancelled Aarti, I’m so glad to see her new season premiere today, she always makes me remember how good and kind people are and that food….YUM!

  27. Linda

    I also want to know where to get the sun dress, adorable.

  28. Linda

    I also love the dress and wonder where I can get one?

  29. Patty Knox

    Yes! I love your feedback. It helps us all understand our cooking so that we can cook better. Keep empowering us!
    That said, on NFNS & Iron Chef, when you have a “secret ingredient” type challenge, how much time are you given to scheme up a recipe or a whole several-course meal before you have to hit the ground running? At least on Iron Chef, where the chefs have several assistants helping them, it seems unlikely that they can all read each other’s minds & know what dishes they’re going to make & just happen to have the ingredients they need on hand, as well as some of the weird machinery to produce microbubbles & foam & immersion cookers. Do they give you any planning time to muse on developing a battle plan?

  30. Alice

    I love the inside scoop! It’s so interesting to see what ends up on the cutting room floor for things. I also love your use of the word “snarky.” It’s definitely a good word.

    It’s unfortunate about not being able to get ingredients on the show… I realize it creates drama and forces people to work in new and inventive ways, but sometimes it’s just sad because a dish that sounds really great ends up not happening because of the lack of ingredients. But, such is reality TV. I still love watching anyway :)

  31. Heather

    Yes, yes, yes! I LOVE behind the scenes info!! Please give us more. :)

  32. na

    LOVED the qa session. All of my questions were answered by you….perfect :-)

  33. Dorothy

    Thank you so much for your great answers. I do have another one for you: if you’re cooking something that is delicate (prawns come to mind) and you don’t want them rubbery, how do you get them to keep their texture if you are the last on on the camera challenge?

  34. Ohiogirl

    yes please – fab post, throw these into the mix too!

  35. Teresa

    I love these posts too! And, I love reading your blog. I love that I have been able to learn more about you and to discover even more how kind, compassionate, and sincere you are. This brings me to my question… I was so happy that you won your season because I genuinely respected you. You are, however, the polar opposite of Penny, at least Penny’s personality as portrayed on the show. I love watching your show, but if someone like Penny won, I would have no desire to watch. It seems to me that others would feel the same. Do the judges consider this? They seem to applaud Penny’s attitude, to view it as an asset. Wouldn’t they at least consider someone’s personality as it might affect their ability to work with others, as is obviously crucial? They never seem to mention this or to set it out as something to work on. Just wondered what your thoughts are. Thanks!

  36. Susan P.

    In a couple of your episodes you were wearing a longer cardigan that I love. One was in white and the other was a taupe color. The sweater was light weight with short sleeves and a lacy edge. Would you please share with me what store it came from, so I can get one? It is very pretty and feminine. Thank you.

    Susan P.

  37. kelly

    Yes, love this! But love you more!!!

  38. Meg

    Love the behind the scenes – I’m obsessed with Food Network Star now! I watched the last season and am now hooked on this season. My question is from today’s episode: you said that you aren’t allowed to use any technology, but how come Whitney was able to have her iPhone in today’s episode and call her mom on the phone? And how much do they actually film? And what is the secret of the reality show! You got me curious now!

  39. Sarah

    Love the behind-the-scenes! Thank you!

  40. Sam

    Yes! Answer more of our questions, Aarti!

  41. Susan

    Love your show and your outfits. They are always so feminine. You wore a white cardigan sweater with a lace edge on an episode that aired on July 2, 2011. Please share the brand, so I can buy one. I have been looking for a cardigan like this for several years.

  42. Erin

    Thank you! Loved answers to some questions, however I am still curious about my question re: Penny & the judges. Haha don’t mean to be a pain, just very pregnant with not a lot to do besides think and try to stay cool :)

  43. Jane Hamilton

    Yessss! Love it! The curiosity about how a reality show works, especially a cooking contest, is something that is endless. So, yeah, your post is definitely fulfilling that appetite! :D Keep them coming, Aarti!

  44. moi

    Love behind the scenes scoop! Keep the Q&A coming!

  45. Savannah

    I love this insider look! (haha!) I have been watching this show since Melissa D’Arabian won, and it’s so fun to see the inside story on how things work! Keep ‘em comin’, Aarti!!!

  46. Lisa

    Putting in my “more please” vote!

  47. Madalaine

    Yes! Yes! Yes! I love this kind of insight. Thank you sooooo much for answering these questions. Please keep answering them. I loved watching you on the show and I adore watching your show. Thank you for all the hard work you put in!

    So here’s another question: Now that you’ve got your show, what does your typical day look like? And is your schedule like through the year? How much do you tape at once? Time off???

  48. Andy

    I loved hearing the insider bits! Maybe you could answer this one–it’s a question that nags at me any time I watch a show like NFS.

    When, exactly, do the interviews take place? Because the contestants are commenting on the process as your watching it. Surely they don’t whisk you away the moment you’re confronted with the challenge details and ask “What’s going through your mind RIGHT NOW?” Are you coached to “speak in the present” and how much time has actually passed between the experience and talking about it?


  49. Jill

    My question is actually about YOUR show – what’s the story behind the title artwork? I just love it – and it seems so very YOU! So glad you’re back on.

  50. ATG

    Love your show. Love your food. Lov your warmth. Wanted you to win from the very beginning of NFNS. And I love this post. I have to say, I respect your beliefs and posts about religion. The caveat, for someone like me who is not religious and does not hold similar beliefs, is that those posts do not interest me and sort of turn me off. I hate to admit this because, as noted, I love your food and think you’re probably the sweetest, most genuine, and down to earth FN star, at least as far as a viewer can tell. Bottom line, I would love more posts like these and those related to your amazing culinary creations.

  51. LV

    Aarti, Love you, Love your show. In fact, it’s the only thing that will get me out of bed on Saturday morning at 9AM (OMG!!!), which is when it airs on the West Coast. However, is there anything that can be done about the “background” music on your show. It’s so loud that I can hardly hear you. And … sort of creepy, too. It’s not going to keep me from watching your show, but would enhance the viewing, tremendously, if it were gone or a different genre! Thanks so much!

  52. Kim

    Yes, please! I love hearing about the show!

  53. Diana

    Love your show! btw, I do have a wild guess regarding who won this season (purely based on something u posted in the past). let me wait and see if the person wins. :)

  54. Sean J. Schluntz


    I like posts like this and I love your show! My wife and I are trying quite a few of your recipies and really them (and how they are different from most of the other stuff on FoodTV).

    Thanks for being out there and sharing with us!

  55. Diana

    hey aarti! i knew jeff would win… just based on this post

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