53Mom. Chef. Both are jobs that require massive energy and the ability to multi-task. Combine the two and you get the talented Melissa d’Arabian, Kirkland mom of four young daughters (under the age of 4) and finalist in Season Five of The Next Food Network Star.

Since moving here from Texas (she’s still unpacking boxes), d’Arabian and her family have had fun discovering the beauty of Seattle and Eastside living. “The parks here are phenomenal”, says d’Arabian as she recalls recent trips to a Phyllis Houghton Park in Kirkland, the Juanita Farmer’s Market , and Idylwood Beach on Lake Sammamish. The playgrounds and the beach together are “like Nirvana for my children”. Now that she’s living in the Northwest, she’s been excited to incorporate local ingredients into her cooking such as Washington apples and cherries.

d’Arabian is the only non-trained finalist on the show, having learned to cook from her own mother and adding her diverse life experiences. She likes people to “take away new ideas and strategies” for cooking and has this tip for parents with young kids: Make two vegetables for dinner every night and then give them a choice. Kids love choices and she’s found that everyone in her home is eating more vegetables this way.

Meet Melissa in person at these two local events and be sure to tune in this Sunday night to find out if she’s The Next Food Network Star. Go Melissa!

Sat, August at 10:30 am: Spots still remain at her demo class at Sur la Table in Kirkland.

Sun, August 2 from 5 – 8pm: Watch the Finale Show with Melissa and her whole brood while cheering her on at a viewing party at Hector’s in Kirkland.