Saturday, August 8
Melissa d'Arabian won The Next Food Network Star last Sunday, as you know, and her show Ten Dollar Dinners premieres tomorrow, Sunday the 9th, at 12:30pm ET. Unlike last year's winner, Melissa and her show pretty much remained under wraps until the big reveal. And, luckily, the first episode was pretty good! She managed to not kiss any raw meat.
Melissa's first episode, titled "Perfectly Priced Parisian," sounded very similar to season 3's winner Amy Finley's show The Gourmet Next Door when I first got it in the mail. (I already pointed out the recycling of Amy's blue tiles, and now after watching I'm pretty sure she also got Amy's old oven. So green of Food Net!)
While Melissa and Amy do have some similarities (both are moms who have lived in France), Melissa comes across as much more polished and TV ready than Amy ever did. There was some debate as to whether or not Amy ever wanted to be on TV or not; with Melissa there's no question.
The big change for Melissa's show is that all her meals are supposed to feed 4 people for $10. Considering that spoonfuls of some of Ina Garten's French dishes cost $10 or more, Melissa will surely have to think creatively to stay under budget.
Budget or not, the food is pretty good in this first episode. Her potato, bacon, and gruyere torte looked delicious and is obviously the "big ticket" item in the meal, as the rest of the meal consists of a green salad with mustard vinaigrette and what she calls an applesauce granita, which is nothing more than applesauce and a squeeze of lemon frozen in a pan and scraped into a glass like a granita. (She does end up topping it with a yogurt maple sauce.)
Compared to the other budget cooking shows on Food Network (Sandra's Money Saving Meals comes to mind), Melissa's food actually looked pretty appetizing. She made me want to try that torte, which is something I don't really think after watching a lot of shows on Food Network (truth be told).
I don't particularly like the little "mini-interview" thing that they threw into her show, like they do on Down Home with the Neelys. You know, where the host takes a little time to talk to an off-camera person about the recipe or a "special story" or about how a homemade crust makes you feel "warm and special inside." Still, Melissa manages to pull them off without making them entirely unbearable.
That's not to say Melissa comes across as a pro in the first episode. She calls her $10 dinner a "lunch" twice and occasionally trails off while talking. (There are a few awkward pauses here and there... which I guess is better than non-stop, irrelevant talking.) I know there must be a million things running through your head while taping your first episode of your first TV show, so I'm giving her a pass for a while. (She's light years ahead of some hosts on their first eps.)
While capitalizing upon a trend-right, in-the-moment feeling in America (we still recessioning?), Ten Dollar Dinners, by its very nature, runs the risk of not having a very long shelf life. How long 'til inflation raises those dinners to $11.25?
Watch tomorrow and let me know what you think.