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Mom Makes It Big on Food Network

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This stay-at-home mom took a chance -- and it paid off, big time!

Melissa d'Arabian

Susannah Locketti: "Next Food Network Star" and stay-at-home mom of four, Melissa d'Arabian, will debut her new show, "Ten Dollar Dinners." Melissa brings her real-life experiences as a home cook and mother to the small screen by showing viewers how to whip up easy, delicious, and inexpensive meals impressive enough for adults at a dinner party, yet yummy enough to please her kids. And the best part? They're all for ten bucks or less!

I had a chance to chat with Melissa about her win, her family (she has four daughters under the age of four!), and what tips she can offer busy moms in need of kid-friendly fare.

Susannah Locketti: When I competed on Season One, it felt like a mommy vacation because for once, I was sitting on a clean toilet seat without pee. How did you like being away from the kids?

Melissa d'Arabian: A lot of finalists would complain that they were so tired, but for me it was the most sleep I had in four years. It was hard to leave my family, and a huge family sacrifice, but it was nice to focus on me, my creativity, and my experiences. It was nice to get in touch with who I am as a person. It was also great for my girls to see me doing something that I love.

Susannah: You have a "no-thank-you" rule at your dinner table, where your kids can pass on food if they at least try it once. Was there a "no-thank-you" challenge on the show you could have done without?

Melissa: I'm not a caterer, and the catering challenge taught me a few good lessons. That was hard. I made a vegetarian option with a vegan option to go with it, so it opened my eyes to the world of vegetables and the variety of options you can have with food from farmer's markets.

Susannah: I spent my per diem for the show on cosmetics from the MAC counter. Any confessions you have or behind-the-scenes stuff that went on?

Melissa: During the Jet Blue challenge, I was stuck wearing the same clothes for three days. We were under the impression there would be no challenge, so I dressed very casually for the airport. My hair and makeup were messy and I had to duplicate that look for three days of shooting.

Melissa's pilot episode, "Perfectly Priced Parisian," will feature her creamy Potato-Bacon Torte, which got rave reviews when she made it on the show. "I made this dish for the $1,000 Dinner Party challenge, and it was a favorite even though it cost pennies to make."

Be sure to check out Melissa's new show. I predict it will be a huge hit!

next: The Potty Training Chronicles
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