After several months of waiting, the “Next Food Network Star” has been announced, and it is none other than fellow desi Aarti Sequiera! Lakshmi did a brief write up on Aarti as the competition to select the Food Network’s next celebrity chef began, and now we can see the results come full circle. Aarti’s show, currently titled “Aarti Party,” will be the first cooking show on national American television to focus on Indian food, and be hosted by an Indian American.
I consider myself to be an amateur foodie, and between tasting new cuisines, learning how
not to starve to cook, and avidly reading others’ food blogs, I always make time to enjoy the veritable smorgasbord of culinary shows. If there are any other foodie mutineers out there, you will know that the Food Network is often mocked for its commercial drive, and celebrity chefs who are more celebrity than chef. I usually don’t watch the Food Network unless I feel like listening to Paula Deen’s comforting southern drawl, but in between seasons of “Top Chef,” “The Next Food Network Star” keeps me satiated.
I have been watching “The Next Food Network Star” since its start, and the Food Network for even longer, but it wasn’t until the third season of TNFS that I noticed something about the Food Network…its lack of diversity in both food culture and the ethnicity of its hosts. One of the contestants on that season, Joshua “Jag” Garcia, was disqualified from the competition after it had been revealed that he lied about some of his culinary experience. In his exit interview, he mentioned how the Food Network has no Latino chefs or shows featuring Hispanic cuisine, and he had hoped he could be the first to bring his culture to the channel. Shortly after, Food Network produced “Simply Delicioso.” Around the same time, the first African-American hosted cooking show premiered, “Down Home with the Neely’s.” Aarti’s Prawn Masala
Since both of these programs aired, I have been constantly bothered by the lack of Asian cuisine on the Food Network, and the relative dearth of Asian chefs as well. Masaharu Morimoto is one of the Iron Chefs, and Ming Tsai occasionally graces the screen, but there is not a single desi chef on the channel, nor any legitimate South Asian cuisine. In Canada or the UK this is certainly not the case; yet even with a large desi population in America, as well as a growing interest in Indian food, it’s shocking that the Food Network, the self proclaimed “authority on food,” would not be all over this by now.
It’s frustrating that the most ethnic food on the Food Network was Italian up ’till recently, but thankfully those days are no longer. However, I still find it somewhat suspicious that the Food Network has yet to create another Asian-based cooking show, considering the ever-expanding demographic, and the even faster growing interest in the diverse cuisines of Asia. I mean, who doesn’t like/know someone who likes sushi nowadays? Isn’t it high time that we started seeing more Asian Americans in food media? I suppose for us desi-Americans, our total domination of all spheres of television is reaching completion with the arrival of Aarti Sequiera. We now have someone to look up to for culinary guidance, and a teacher for our less-fortunate friends who weren’t brought up on roti, biryani, aloo gobi, idli, fish vindaloo, and jalebi.
“Aarti Party” will air August 22, at 12 PM, on the Food Network. I hope you will join me watching it!