Melissa, 40 (Keller, Texas), pairs her varied culinary and life experiences to provide food lifestyle solutions and approachable recipes for today's families. As a stay-at-home mom to four young daughters, she efficiently budgets time and money to prepare the finest in fresh, home-cooked meals every day. Melissa finds culinary inspiration in family, friends, cooking classes, and world travels.
Food specialty: Family cooking at its finest
Favorite restaurant: L'Alivi – a fabulous restaurant in Paris specializing in Corsican food; it's where my husband took me on our first date (and for our anniversaries)
Three foods you can't live without (other than bread or water): Olive oil (I use it like crazy), bacon (a little goes a long way), and chicken (cost-effective and versatile)
Food you won't go near: I don't like goat cheese. My husband is still trying to convert me (like he did for lamb). I try a goat cheese of his choosing once a year. Seven years, seven tries, and so far, I still don't like it.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: I don't think it's weird, but everyone I meet does: a huge plate of steamed broccoli served with a homemade citron mayonnaise. I can eat a pound of broccoli that way – it's addictive!
Interests: I love theatre, movies, writing, and reading non-fiction
Favorite Food Network chef: I love how they all have something different to offer; each one provides a solution to a different culinary "problem," but the one Food Network chef that had me standing in line for hours (in the rain and with a potty-training daughter) for a book signing is Bobby Flay. Who would ever guess that a year later I would get to cook for him?
Favorite shows (doesn't have to be Food Network): The Office, Iron Chef America, Amazing Race, American Idol, and Jon and Kate Plus 8
Favorite food destination: One of the best meals I ever had was an al fresco dinner in Kusadasi, Turkey. The vegetables were unbelievably fresh and sweet, the meat was all marinated in unusual flavors that worked perfectly, and the Turkish coffee was a perfect finish. Every meal I've ever eaten in Turkey has been a culinary adventure.
Culinary inspirations: I'm always imagining the role my food will take and how it nourishes others; it's always about the other person. My biggest inspirations are my family – my husband and my four daughters.
Three people, alive or dead, whom you'd like to invite to a dinner party: My mother – I miss her still everyday, but I'd love to have her so she could meet my daughters. Jay Leno – when I worked in Los Angeles, he was widely reputed as one of the hardest working and nicest men in Hollywood; I admire that. Oprah – she is a tremendous role model who uses her success to help others in countless ways.
Favorite books: The Prophet, Getting to Yes, The Dancing Wu Li Masters, the entire For Dummies series (you can become a weekend expert on almost anything!), The Writer's Journey, Nurturing Good Children Now, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, The Bible
Favorite movies: The Graduate (reminds me of my mom), Mamma Mia (reminds me of my daughters), and Spy Game (one of my first dates with my husband)
Why do you think you should be The Next Food Network Star? I relate to people in a number of key demographics: the single career woman, the stay-at-home parent, and the working parent. I've been in all of these circumstances, and my experiences drive both my way of life and my culinary point of view. I have four kids (aged four and under), but I think the fact that I'm not "supermom" makes me accessible. I want parents across America to breathe a sigh of relief when they see me on TV and to say to themselves, "if she can do it, then so can I."