Auditioning for the Next Food Network Star: What I Would Bring to Aarti’s Party

by Jen Wanous

Filling out the application to be the next Food Network star is no easy task. There are 28 essay questions like, “If you were an ingredient, what would you be and why?” and “What are your top five original food/cooking/ingredient tips that demonstrate your food knowledge?”

I busted out my poster-sized post-it notes and started brainstorming.  In the center was “What is my unique culinary point of view?” In clusters around this were thoughts ranging from existential “Who am I?” to the more tangible like, “Eat what feels right for you.” Slowly but surely, I started to whittle my ideas down into something that resembled a T.V. friendly shtick.

Jen Wanous is an adventurer who follows her heart and hunger.  She brings raw, approachable honesty through sharing her doubts and highest aspirations.  Her optimistic, “go-getter” approach to life lends inspiration to others to follow their dreams.  She is food-savvy, business-smart and always has a quirky story to tell.  Through a commitment to loving life and doing by it consciously, Jen Wanous is the “Healthy Hedonist”.

Hedonist: Pursuit of or devotion to pleasure, especially to the pleasures of the senses. 

I brought this 11 page whopper of an application to an open casting call. I wasn’t sure what to expect but was surprised to see that when I reached the address, it was a bar. Every chair in the joint was full and I put my name on the queue.  I was number 123.  I took that as a good sign.  I waited in my 40’s style summer dress and red lip stick biding my time by chatting with different war-torn catering veterans, some of which were taking full advantage of the bar (it was 11am, mind you).

When my number was called I took a deep breath, pushing my nerves away and made my way into a big open room where a small table was set up.  At the other end of the table I was half expecting to see Simon or Paula but instead I was met with a nice woman with a friendly smile.  Right away I felt at ease.  She gave me a warm handshake and we sat down to talk about why I want to be the next Food Network star. Words came flowing out of my mouth. I was going on and on about my school and health and people’s lack of connection to their bodies and my ideas for cooking demos.  All in all, it was maybe five minutes and then she said that they will be going over everyone’s applications over the next few weeks and will call if it’s a good match.

She was the type of person who you can’t tell if they like you or not because they are so smiley all the time, so I wasn’t sure if I’d get a call back, but heck, I felt good! Who knows exactly what they are looking for. It was invigorating to get myself out there and do something different. Even though the application was challenging to get through, it helped me define my culinary angle.

I will keep you posted on any happenings, fingers crossed!

As some of you who are fans of the show know, Aarti Sequeria of Aarti’s Party was named Food Network Star last season.  Here is a recipe of what I would bring to her party:

Pakora Pancakes with Broccoli

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup brown rice flour

1/4 cup coconut flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons cold water

1/4 cup broccoli, shaved

1/4 cup red onion, small dice

1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil for frying

1.  In a bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, spices and salt.  Stir until free of lumps until the consistency of pancake batter, adding more water if needed.

2.  Add broccoli, onion and cilantro, stir until combine.

3.  Heat oil in a medium skillet over med-high heat, before oil starts to smoke.  Add about a two tablespoon of the batter and pan fry each pancake until golden brown, about 5-7 minutes. 

4.  Quickly transfer to a paper towel lined plate, just to absorb the oil, then onto a rack to maintain the crispiness you just worked hard to get.  Enjoy!

I would like to thank Chef Richard LaMarita for his inspiration of this dish, from which this recipe was adapted.

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6 Comments to “Auditioning for the Next Food Network Star: What I Would Bring to Aarti’s Party”

  1. Jen….I am sooo proud of you for putting yourself out there and going for your dreams!! You would make an amazing food network star…….I have been watching that show since it’s beginning and you fit the profile!! I LOVE your POV and would totoally watch your show :) Healthy Hedonist………LOVE IT!!! I will definitely keep my fingers crossed for you and send out some prayers!!! Love you, girl!!

  2. Jen, this is spectacular! “Healthy Hedonist”. . .that’s brilliant! Can’t wait to hear the next chapter of this marvelous adventure you’re on. Wonderful photo of you too :-)

  3. Thanks so much! It’s a self portrait from after the audition. I can’t wait to see what comes of all of this too! :)

  4. hey rockstar…
    i see you! you are so happening…happy becoming & realizing the fulfillment of your dream.
    -so, so many people to touch w/ your magic. much love in your adventure. Xxx MoMMaroo
    p.s. just back from michfest last night.
    couldn’t ever, ever thank you enough for the invite/inspiration.

  5. Glad to hear it went well. :) You def should have used the photo on this entry! (btw, which two photos did you go with?) Wishing you the best!…

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