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The Next Food Network Star Episode 3: 'HOT HOT HOT!'

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Aarti has her red carpet interview moment (Photo courtesy The Food Network/Used with permission)

Aarti has her red carpet interview moment (Photo courtesy The Food Network/Used with permission)
For its sixth season, The Next Food Network Star was shot in Los Angeles, and among the 12 finalists vying for their very own Food Network show are 3 locals, including food blogger and LAist alumn Aarti Sequeira. Each week, Aarti will give us her take on the episode, from her unique insider's perspective. Will she be named The Next Food Network Star? We won't know until the finale. Last week, they cooked carnival food with a savory twist on the Santa Monica pier; here's how Episode 3 looked from inside the kitchen...

I'd always imagined myself on the red carpet.

But not the way you think.

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My husband, Brendan, is a gifted comedic actor and writer (and believe me, I'd say that even if I wasn't married to him), so I always imagined myself standing beside him with a proud smile on my face thinking, "Isn't he great?!" If I was lucky, someone might ask me what I was wearing. And I'd say, "Oh this? This is just a little number from Forever21."

Ah, but God has a sense of humor.

That morning, I smiled as I slipped on the traditional Indian shalwar kameez that my parents had brought me all the way from India to wear at my sister's wedding just a few months prior. It still smelled like India. I thought of the Indian artisan who'd carefully stamped gold flowers and sewn tiny beads all over the kameez (tunic)... had he or she imagined that this particular effort would end up on a Hollywood red carpet one day?

Walking through the Hollywood & Highland complex that morning was bizarre. I'd walked through there dozens of times, but never like this, never at this hour, dressed in the fanciest clothes I owned. We stepped out of the car onto the Walk of Fame, dressed in our heels and finery -- the people walking down Hollywood Blvd peered at us with the jaded wariness of people who've lived in LA too long. "Oh great, another TV show messing up my walk down Hollywood." We walked through the complex in that classic Armageddon style, all in a row, walking with purpose, but I had such a hard time focusing because I was behind Brianna and I couldn't stop checking out her gorgeous figure (aka her booty. Damn, Bri! I miss you!!).

When it was finally my turn to walk down the red carpet, I took a deep breath, and found that I couldn't exhale. You think it'll be easy... I mean, what could be easier than walking, smiling and responding to people screaming your name, right? Ah, but those seasoned red carpet-eers make it look easy. It's overwhelming. You want to give everyone your time, hug them, sign their autograph books, make sure that no camera catches your double chin (eeeks!), and that's before you get to a reporter asking you rapid-fire questions like, why should you be The Next Food Network Star? Thankfully, Guy told me I looked like I been doing it for 20 years.

While we were waiting for the second part of the challenge to be issued, I remember turning up my nose. A foul stink curled its way up my nose, conjuring up images of backed-up toilets, or perhaps someone's upset tummy. What the heck is that?


Aarti and Brad serve the Selection Committee (Photo courtesy The Food Network/Used with permission)
Imagine my surprise when I realized the source of that smell was in my swag bag. Tallegio. I felt Serena's eyes widen with delight, and perhaps a wish that she had gotten that ingredient. I bet she'd know what to do with it! I'd never had it before, so I had no idea what to expect flavor-wise. That stank was not a good omen. How do I showcase this stinky cheese that I'd never tasted before? And then make it sing a gorgeous duet with dark chocolate?!

I loved cooking in that kitchen though. It just felt so grand. Set up on the patio of the building, looking out over Hollywood Boulevard and the El Capitan Theatre, it felt so glamorous. A cool breeze caressed our flush faces as we quickly got to work.

But once we got started, the challenges of that kitchen became clear. You can always tell when you're in the kitchen with a chef. They make the fewest movements possible, wasting the least time and energy to get from point A to point B. Plus, we were cooking in our fanciest outfits. I thanked my stars I hadn't worn a tight dress -- I can't imagine moving quickly through the kitchen with my legs exposed to hot grease and even hotter pans. And with our safe kitchen shoes back at the house, kitchen etiquette was a must: had Serena known to yell "BEHIND!" as she walked behind Brianna (a restaurant kitchen veteran), she wouldn't have ended up with a bruised foot. That wasn't her fault of course, nor was it Brianna's. It was an accident, and Bri felt really bad about it that night.

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So in the interest of public safety, here's my message to future contestants: learn kitchen etiquette. You're going to be competing with chefs. If you want to save yourself a trip to the emergency room, always, always yell "Behind!" as you walk behind chefs on the line! If you're walking around the kitchen with something hot, yell "HOT HOT HOT!" And, if you happen to be passing behind someone, whilst carrying something hot, yell "HOT! BEHIND!" And no, I'm not talking about Bri's booty again!

The Next Food Network Star airs Sundays @9 p.m. on The Food Network.