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Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian is a daytime cooking series on the Food Network. On the show Melissa shares scrumptious recipes and a $10 promise. Melissa made her first debut on the Food Network channel in 2009 as the winner of the fifth season The Next Food Network Star . Melissa and her recipes have been featured on NBC's Today Show , CBS's Early Show , and many more publications. Apart from hosting her successful show, which is currently in its fourth season, Melissa is also a full time mom of four young daughters.
TheCelebrityCafe.com: What inspires you to cook?
Melissa d'Arabian: There is absolutely nothing like necessity. It is to be the mother of invention. And I'll tell you what, I cook on Ten Dollar Dinners the way I cook at home. My family is my number one inspiration. The second place I get inspiration is from my relationship with my husband. We have date night since we had kids, so we love to go out to dinner and we always find inspirations from the restaurants on our date nights.
TCC: You didn't attend cooking school, so where did you learn to cook?
Melissa d'Arabian: You're right, I did not go to culinary art school and was not a professional chef before I went into The Next Food Network Star. I have been cooking since I was five. I started with my mom doing these mother-daughter holiday teas, and that's where I developed my love for entertaining and cooking for people. That's where I learned about cooking as a way of showing people that you care about them.
TCC: What made you want to do the show Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian?
Melissa d'Arabian: Well, I grew up with very little money. My mom raised me--she was a single mom and was in college and then in medical school--so we grew up being on a tremendously tight budget. It's funny how we just grew up with something, it just kind of gets into your blood. In fact, the story about how my mother came home one day with a package of chicken wings long before chicken wings were actually something you ate--they were individual slices of chicken wings, not the twelve packs--and she had spent 35 cents on dinner on these chicken wings. And I remember her saying how she was serving dinner for 35 cents that night. So, I think I got a lot of that from my mom.
TCC: Would you say the way that the economy is now, Ten Dollar Dinners is kind of what inspired you to do the show?
Melissa d'Arabian: You know, I understand the temptation to say "Oh, well the economy is bad ergo Ten Dollar Dinners makes sense." I really think that Ten Dollar Dinners is a celebration of a bigger paradigm shift, which is one of resource responsibilities in our society. We are all paying more attention to our carbon footprint, we're paying more attention to our earth resources, and I think we are paying more attention to our financial resources. I think we all understand that we need to be more responsible for all of our resources no matter what they are.
TCC: What is your favorite dish you have done so far on your show?
Melissa d'Arabian: One of my favorites is coming up and I think it's so much fun. I'm doing a show called "Take Out, Fake Out" and I like it because, number one, I think the name makes me laugh my head off. I love it also because I got the name from a Facebook fan. We had the 'name the episode' sort of discussion on Facebook a couple months ago and this was one of my favorites. It just makes me smile. One, because I think it's hilarious and two because it came from a Facebook fan and I love my Facebook fans. And three, the show is really clever and fun.
TCC: How do you juggle being a full-time mom and also doing the show?
Melissa d'Arabian: Being a full-time parent is indeed my biggest challenge; sort balancing those priorities and figuring out the logistics of all that. I think that has been the biggest change over the past couple of years. I really compartmentalize my work and my kids. Meaning that when I'm in work my door is shut and I'm focused on work. We sort of have this rule at our house which is no Windows phones, Blackberries, or iPhones; none of that while we're there engaged with the kids. And then the last strategy for me is really more of a philosophy, which is I believe that having a job that advances my personal life mission makes it much easier for me to live with saying good-bye to my kids and doing some work.
TCC: It seems like you got it all figured out [laughs].
Melissa d'Arabian: [laughs] Figured out in my head. In fact, just yesterday I had one of those days where you feel like you haven't given 100 percent to your kids and you haven't given 100 percent to your job. There's nothing more frustrating, in my opinion, than spending hours and every ounce of your energy to a variety of items on your agenda. I have days like that.
TCC: How do you get your daughters to eat healthy foods? I'm sure you've had your case of picky eaters.
Melissa d'Arabian: My kids are in the picky eaters' zone. They're aged 3-and-a-half to 6. It's very tricky. Here's the thing, I have certain principals that I've decided I'll live by food wise. And I live by them and I don't sweat the rest. That's just is what it is. I'm also a believer in everything in moderation. Every Friday night we have date nights, my husband and I. My kids they have a babysitter or whatever, and they know on their Friday night they get to pick out something fun to eat. So they know not ask me for Mac-n-cheese or chicken nuggets on Tuesday night. So that is really helpful.
The other thing that's really helpful is that I try to include my kids in on the process of making food. So we will go to the produce department and everybody can be in charge of picking out the vegetables and the fruit. And then I'll make a dish with, let's say collard greens that we just bought the other day. I make something with collard greens, they look at it, they take a bite of it and they say 'umm, no thank you.' You know what, I still think of it as a victory.
Be sure to check out Melissa and Ten Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian at its new time on Sunday at 10am ET and 9am PT.