Melissa D’Arabian: cooking is life

For Melissa d’Arabian, work is pleasure. Her office is her favorite place in the world: a kitchen.

The perks for the host of Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners aren’t bad either. The Arizona native, 42, got to hit subtropical weather and do a little cooking at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.

“I joke that [fest founder] Lee Schrager has a deal with the devil,’’ said d’Arabian, who appeared at Jungle Island to do a demo at the Kohl’s Fun & Fit as a family event. “Warm weather, sunshine. This is definitely my favorite.’’

The first time she traveled down to the eating extravaganza was when she was a contestant on season 5 of The Next Food Network Star. The mother of four daughters won over the judges with charisma, sweet personality and budget-friendly, approachable cooking.

A lot has changed since then.

“The logistics have changed completely: I’ve become a working mom,’’ d’Arabian said. “I’ve had to manage a job, my family, priorities. But parents are doing that all across the nation. I’m just joining them.’’

The true grit of her existence remains constant.

“All the important stuff, like my family and who we are behind closed doors, are the same,’’ she said. “We’re the same goofy people we always were. We laugh about the same things, we do the same stuff together.’’

At the demo, the chef whipped together brownies with black beans as well as whole grain pasta with roasted vegetables – two dishes her girls adore.

“The brownies are a bit of a surprise,’’ she admitted. “But black beans add a nice texture and silkiness. I love adding a protein and fiber with my sweets.’’

You’d think one would tire of slaving over a hot stove, but no.

“I still cook every day,’’ revealed d’Arabian, who splits her time between Seattle and NYC. “It’s a tremendous act of love and relaxation for me. There’s nothing better than taking my time and tasting the food.

“And let’s face it, I now cook out of necessity!’’

Madeleine Marr

Watch Melissa makes her Beef and Bechamel Lasagna with Mandarin Orange Gratinee with Tangy Sabayon Sauce 12:30 p.m. Sunday on the Food Network’s Ten Dollar Dinners .


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