We’re all guilty of spending hours — heck, days — zoned into the Food Network, mouths watering as we watch tantalizing pastries created, laughing as incredible chefs figure out how to prepare a dish using rock candy, or groaning when a giant sculpture made of cake collapses. With a huge range of shows that cover seemingly every food topic under the sun, it’s no wonder the network ranks so high in viewership year after year. The channel has produced some incredible shows over the years, one of them being Ten Dollar Dinners, which featured Melissa d’Arabian, a winner of The Next Food Network Star.
Though Ten Dollar Dinners has been off the air for some time now, its legacy lives on through d’Arabian’s cookbook of the same name. D’Arabian has also gone on to write more books and has since been featured in a host of shows from Food Network, as noted on her website. But what else is there to know about d’Arabian?
Ten Dollar Dinners’ host didn’t always have enough money for food growing up
Ten Dollar Dinners was fairly straightforward, providing viewers with meal ideas for families that wouldn’t exceed a $10 budget with a focus on keeping the meals both healthy and budget-friendly. One detail that wasn’t always made public, however, is d’Arabian’s background and her very real experience needing cheap, healthy food options.
According to an interview d’Arabian did with HuffPost, the Food Network star’s mother was a single mom pursuing medical school during d’Arabian’s childhood. Growing up in Tucson, Ariz., D’Arabian learned early on that even the "simple everyday act of feeding your child" can be difficult, and sometimes altogether impossible, for people. She often came to grade school "without lunch, or lunch money," relying on a pay-back system at the school and consequently racking up IOUs. Unfortunately, even the cost of the lunches (45 cents, according to the interview) was too much for d’Arabian’s mom, and the young girl had to find new options for daily meals.
D’Arabian had an unlikely hero in her youth
Thankfully, d’Arabian found a hero in an unlikely place. When a kind receptionist noticed d’Arabian’s situation, she set up a way for d’Arabian to earn her lunch: She could help serve food to the other kids in exchange for a free lunch. This, d’Arabian told HuffPost, "had a huge impact on the trajectory of [her] life." D’Arabian didn’t realize it then, but this one kind gesture made by a school faculty member would stay with her well into her adult life and would even serve as part of her inspiration for her future career. "I am thankful for the people who reached out to me, shared life through food and found the compassion to put me in a school lunch program," she told Coronado Eagle & Journal, noting that she performed better in school with a full stomach.
Being raised by her mother and having the help of the benevolent receptionist imparted on d’Arabian a desire to go on to make a difference in the lives of other women. She shared with HuffPost, "My girlfriends were my family, we were each other’s support. I love women, and I’ll always try to help any woman achieve her goals!"
Melissa d’Arabian’s past is full of tragedy
As easy as Melissa d’Arabian may make life seem, her past is full of obstacles she’s had to overcome. In an interview with Parade, when Melissa was 20, she called home to ask her mom for her credit card number, but was instead greeted by an officer who informed her of her mom’s death. Her mom had committed suicide, and Melissa was left to fend for herself in her 20s.
"My 20s were a mess," she admitted to Parade. Though this tragic event played a big part in who d’Arabian is today, she said her "anger at [her] mom for leaving [her] morphed into imperfect understanding." While it’s a painful memory, the TV star acknowledged she "wouldn’t be the mom [she is] today — or the wife, the woman, the friend" without having gone through all the turmoil and struggle that came during that period of her life.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
D’Arabian laughs off people calling her a "trophy wife"
While d’Arabian and her mother may have struggled financially during her younger years, the Ten Dollar Dinners host actually went on to land a successful job working in finance and strategy for Disney in France. But when she and her husband, Philippe, started a family, she gave up her career, despite her earning more than him. And, of course, we know she later focused on Ten Dollar Dinners after winning The Next Food Network Star.
Turns out Philippe does hold a high-ranking position at Microsoft, according to his bio on Crown Growth’s website, so we can assume he’s probably making pretty decent money. Plus, as noted on Melissa d’Arabian’s Food Network bio, her family lives outside San Diego, a pretty expensive area to own a house. But that’s not to say d’Arabian needs her husband’s money.
In the face of criticism that she no longer needs to budget her meals because she has a husband supporting her, she joked to HuffPost, "The idea of some wealthy husband bankrolling anything I do is really, well, kind of a joke! My husband and I have laughed over what we’ve read about me, that I’m a ‘trophy wife.’"
D’Arabian has been sober for over 22 years
D’Arabian is not often outspoken about her sobriety, but occasionally something pops up and she will make a comment. For instance, in a January 2021 Twitter thread, she discussed her choice to remain sober. She claimed to being very open about her decision, despite her assumption that "lots of folks don’t even know this."
The topic arose after Bachelorette Tayshia Adams ultimately chose to be with contestant Zac Clark, who is sober, as noted by People. D’Arabian voiced some of the concerns she had before going sober, and admitted that she’d wondered, "How will I turn 30 without drinking or get married one day without champagne?" Though she hasn’t spoken on why she made the decision to be sober — and she doesn’t claim that it’s a right choice for everyone — she has now been sober for more than 22 years. She even said that "sober life is awesome." You keep doing you, Melissa d’Arabian.