Aryen Moore-Alston was one of twelve finalists who competed on season 10 of “Food Network Star.” Alston was the first finalist from Memphis, the first finalist from Tennessee in the 10 years that the show has been on the air, and the only female African-American on this season. Though she was eliminated, the Spelman College graduate and owner of baked goods and catering company Sweet Potato Baby still has big plans for her culinary future.
– International (Cuisine) Lover
Imagine having to go to places such as the Coliseum or Herculano while in Rome. Aryen Moore-Alston doesn’t have to rely upon her imagination. She simply has to access her memory.
Born in Naples, Italy, her father was a musician for the Navy and her mother was an actress and recording artist.
“My life in Italy was almost magical, because I was two years old when we moved to Italy, and I was 14 when we moved back to the U.S., and I just remember it being the best of times,” Moore-Alston said. “In Italy, our field trips were Pompeii or the Isle of Capri.” Moore-Alston said.
What became a passion for food started when her father taught her to cook at a young age. Three years after he died, Moore-Alston’s family moved to Memphis, where her mother had roots. Knowing how to cook came in handy.
“When my father passed away, my mother couldn’t cook, and my sister didn’t cook. I stepped up to the plate and said that’s going to be my responsibility,” Moore-Alston recalled.
At times, she has also lived in Japan, Atlanta and Los Angeles, with her culinary tastes reflecting the variety of stops. She has an interest in international cuisine and particularly likes Italian and Japanese food.
Although she majored in Computer Science, minored in Japan Studies and Mathematics, and has dabbled in many careers, the passion for food never died.
“I’ve always kind of been in a kitchen, and it was just something that was almost like a no-brainer,” she said. “It was just kind of like fulfilling my fate.”
Sweet Potato Baby
and Home Cooking
In 2008, Moore-Alston returned to Memphis to host “This House is Cooking!” – a show in which houses served as inspirations for meals. The show aired on ABC 24 and CW 30, and is currently on hiatus. However, episodes are available online at http://www.thishouseiscooking.com .
The plan was for Moore-Alston to be in and out and move back to Los Angeles, but she missed her family, fell in love, had a baby, and in 2011, started a baked goods and catering company called Sweet Potato Baby. Its mission is to provide baked goods with quality ingredients, with a fruit or vegetable in every bite.
The name was inspired by the nickname her grandmother gave to her and her sister after noticing their suntan color. Moore-Alston has high hopes for the future of her business.
“I’m hoping to expand the bakery’s line and get into some retail stores here like Kroger, Miss Cordelia’s Grocery, Fresh Market and Whole Foods. I just want to provide great food and a great service…I’m hoping to one day own a restaurant…so that I can provide all these delicacies to anyone who wants them.”
On Season 10 of “Food Network Star,” Moore-Alston competed against 11 other contestants for the chance to have a show on the Food Network. After struggling to present the judges with impressive plates and a failed delivery of a product tagline in Episode 4, she was eliminated.
“I should have believed in myself a little bit more. I know I have the talent; I know I have the skill, but sometimes you can feel debilitated with the smallest critique, and I think I took too much to heart and didn’t know how to shake it,” Moore-Alston said.
Upon reflection, she’s learned to trust her gut, live with a no-holds barred attitude, and to keep going. She advises aspiring chefs to go for their dreams despite hardships.
“If you want to be the next “Food Network Star” or you feel like you’re the next best chef in the world, then go after it,” Moore Alston said.
“ Don’t give up, because it is hard; you’re going to put in a lot of hours, you’re going to burn yourself, you’re going to cut yourself, you’re going to cry, you’re going to stay up late…Just go for it. No one can tell you no but yourself.”
Impact and legacy
“I’d like to leave a mark as being a world-class chef with a sincere attention to taste and detail. I want people to understand that flavor is not really complicated; it’s how you use the ingredients to create this party in your mouth. Feed your spirit and your soul, not just your palette…” Moore-Alston said.
Giving back via her culinary skills has become a focal point.
“I would love to create a curriculum for young students and young people to teach them how to cook for themselves and their families,” Moore-Alston said.
“ There are some kids out there who may feel like they’re the only reason why their siblings eat or that their parents eat, and I’d love to create a program that would teach kids that, yeah, it’s a responsibility, but now you can teach others how to feed and nourish their bodies.”
(The season finale of Food Network Star airs Sunday August 10th at 9/ 8 CDT.)
(For more information on Sweet Potato Baby visit http://www.sweetpotatobaby.co/index.html.)