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Interview with ‘Taste in Translation’ Host and Chef, Aarti Sequeira

January 7, 2013 | By More

Aarti Sequeira, the winner of Food Network Star season six, returns with a new show, Cooking Channel‘s original series Taste In Translation. Aarti explores the most popular dishes from around the world as well as the history and cultural significance behind every bite. Each country has its own unique and delicious way to celebrate a holiday, commemorate a special moment, or even satisfy a ravenous craving. From the number one comfort food in America to the most popular first date dinner in Thailand, Aarti not only tastes her way from dish to dish but also discovers how they became iconic from both local cooks and culinary experts.

Aarti and chef Dan Kluger of ABC Kitchen

We recently spoke with Aarti about her passion for food, inspirations, her new show Taste in Translation and much more!

What got you started in food? What was your first cooking experience/job?

I’ve always loved food (I was a 10-pound baby!), but I got it from my mum.  She loves everything about cooking, except doing the dishes… and she passed that on to me and my sisters.  We all love watching cooking shows, flipping through cookbooks, talking about food, cooking the food and of course, eating it.  My love of cooking is as much a part of me as my skin.

My earliest memory of cooking was making a plate of scones in the brand new microwave.  I waited until everyone had retired to take a nap after lunch on the weekend, and then started pulling out the flour and sugar.  By the time they were awake, they had a warm scone to accompany their steaming cups of tea. That memory still makes me smile.

Who are some of your inspirations?

My mother is my biggest inspiration — she is such a great cook, with a wonderful balance of cooking with care and with joyful abandon.  She still sends me recipe ideas every day, and I credit all my talent to her.

I also love the way Yotam Ottolenghi cooks — lots of fresh vegetables, herbs and spices.  And you can very rarely go wrong with an Alton Brown recipe.  I love his attention to detail (although I like my garam masala recipe better than his, ha!).

Who are your greatest supporters?

My husband is my number one supporter, challenger and fan.  He is the one who first noticed my love for cooking and bought me a very expensive cooking course at the neighbourhood cooking school.  Today he is my recipe taster and judge, and a constant source of inspiration.  I love him so much.

What are some of your favorite recipes to make at home? Favorite foods to eat?

Lots and lots of vegetables.  My favourite thing to do is load up bags and bags of veggies at the farmers market and then cook them off so we can snack on them during the week.  I am perfectly content with a meal consisting of roasted, sauteed and raw vegetables.  I love them!!

What are some of your favorite tips/tricks to use while cooking?

Finishing dishes with not only salt and pepper, but a little acid (citrus or vinegar) and even a little honey or sugar to balance out acidity.

Aarti making cake at Vanilla Bakeshop in LA

What made you sign up for the Next Food Network Star?

I’d made a hard shift from producing news for CNN, and a documentary for HBO on the genocide in Darfur… to shooting a cooking-variety show in my kitchen with my husband.  Three friends from totally disparate parts of my life suggested I try out for FNS, and I’ve come to realise that when that kind of thing happens, it’s usually God trying to get my attention.  So, I sent in a video.  I knew that hosting a cooking show was something that I  had the talent to do — and that eventually I’d have to try out for Food Network.  I just didn’t know my chance would come so quickly!!

Have you tweaked the way you cooked or learned anything new from being on that show?

Absolutely.  When I first won the show, I felt very inadequate, and so I felt like I needed to gussy up my food in order to be accepted.  Accepted by whom?  I couldn’t tell you.  I just thought that my simple food wasn’t good enough.  I quickly realised that my simplest recipes were the ones people made the most often.  I’m still learning, but I’m trying to remember that I don’t need to gild the lily.  Sometimes, simple is best.

What should we expect to see on your new show, Taste in Translation?

In every episode, I go in search of different cultures’ answer to particular occasion (birthday food, game day, date night, lunch on the go…), and show viewers what America’s favourite version is.  I loved learning about the culture that gave birth to particular dishes.  For example, in Honduras, they don’t just celebrate birthdays with cake… they make a huge pot of Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice).  Why?  Because in Honduras, there’s no such thing as an intimate little dinner celebration.  No, if it’s your birthday, then at least 60 people are going to show up, whether you invited them or not.  So you need to make a dish that’s budget friendly and hearty enough to feed a ton of people!  That says a lot to me about the connection in the Honduran community.  Kinda beautiful, huh?

What’s your favorite place that you visited while filming the show?

One of my favourite episodes was the BBQ one; my best friend is South African, and in South African culture, BBQ’s are a huge part of everyday life.  So she threw a traditional “Braai” at her house for me and the crew.  It was so lovely to not only learn more about her, but to also share this part of my life with my best friends.

What’s a dish that you’ve experienced while filming the show that you want to recreate?

I want to make the Jansson’s Frestelse — potato gratin with Swedish-style pickled anchovies.  I can just imagine how comforting and warming that dish will be on a cold night.  Now if only it would get cold in LA!

What are you most excited about for the future?

I’m starting to work on my cookbook, a project that I never ever imagined for myself!  I’m intimidated by all the work ahead, but so honoured to have the opportunity.  I can’t wait to actually see the manuscript in my hands, but there’s a lot of cooking and writing and hard work ahead of me before I get to see it!!

Aarti and Fat Spoon owner Michael Cardenas

About Aarti

In August 2010, Aarti Sequeira won season six of Food Network Star, landing the ultimate dream culinary job: her very own Food Network show, Aarti Party. She draws from her Indian heritage to put approachable and delicious twists on all-American classics. In January 2012, Aarti made her Cooking Channel debut as food correspondent on Drop 5 lbs with Good Housekeeping. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism with an adjunct major in International Relations then worked at CNN in both Chicago and New York. She married her college sweetheart in 2003, moved to Los Angeles, and produced ‘Sand and Sorrow,’ a documentary about the genocide in Darfur. She decided to explore her culinary calling by attending The New School of Cooking in California where she earned her professional cooking certificate. She then combined her educational and professional backgrounds in journalism with her passion for food into a successful blog and online cooking-variety show, “Aarti Paarti” (www.aartipaarti.com). She currently resides in Los Angeles with her husband, Brendan.

Taste In Translation airs on the Cooking Channel Friday nights at at 9:00PM ET / 6:00PM PT.

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Category: Food, People

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