The Bible is full of metaphors for how God sanctifies us, but in my book, the metaphor that sticks best is French onion soup. I know, stay with me.
Growing up, my cultural identity was a big question mark. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool third-culture kid: I’m Indian, grew up in Dubai, but attended a British-run school. My ancestors were Christ-followers in a country dominated by Hindus and Muslims. I didn’t feel at home anywhere.
But when I was eleven, I watched real journalism for the first time: CNN covering the first Gulf War. I knew then that I wanted to be an international correspondent, and I made it my life’s goal to become one. This identity rose above race and religion; it was vocation.
I got into journalism school in the States, and after graduating, I began working at CNN. My dream was on track — I was a working journalist! But a few years later, I married my college sweetheart, moved to Los Angeles from the news-mecca of New York, and for five long years, every employment door I knocked on stayed shut.
I was unmoored. If I wasn’t a journalist, who was I? A new Christian, I shook my fist at God. Why wake me up every morning if You won’t give me a purpose? Just take me home!
In many ways, I related to an onion: overlooked and stagnant in the darkness of the soil.
The kitchen became my solace. Here, I turned chaos into order, ordinary ingredients into extraordinary dishes. My husband and I launched a cooking variety show on YouTube called Aarti Paarti, and soon after, some friends suggested I audition for Food Network Star, a cooking competition that awarded the winner their own cooking show.
I knew I could cook a few things, but I wasn’t a chef. Until then, the shame from my journalism career ending had been private; I couldn’t bear America witnessing my inevitable failure as a cook too. But I submitted an audition anyway, hoping they’d say no.
Except they didn’t. Their yes ripped me out of the safety of the pitch black soil.
The first challenge on the show was to make 150 servings of a dish. The lights of the soundstage burned my eyes; sweat streaked my upper lip. The arena was populated by chefs trained in top kitchens and culinary schools. What am I doing here? I’m a dirt-splattered onion on a chopping block, I thought. With my heart in my mouth, I prayed, God, I can’t do this. Help.
I made Tandoori BBQ Chicken on Scallion Blinis, and to my utter surprise . . . I won! Astonished, I felt the papery skin of self-doubt begin to loosen at the root.
Each week, the challenges threatened to slice my onion-heart open and expose me as a fraud, but while chef after chef lost, I inexplicably remained. With every win, I felt the truth of 2 Corinthians 12:9:
. . . My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.
As the competition heated up, the flames felt unbearable at times. But through it all, God was close, and His voice in my ears said, The only identity that matters is that you’re Mine. And even though I went on to win the show, understanding that truth felt like the biggest victory of all.
I read somewhere that sanctification is the closing of the gap between our identity and our behaviour. That process isn’t pretty, and it for sure isn’t painless. But here’s why it’s worth it: We don’t see all the potential God packed into each one of us. One of the benefits of being a child of God is that He’s intent on unleashing our full potential on the world!
Take for example, a raw onion. Take a bite, and you’d hardly describe it as sweet. But here’s the crazy thing: all the sugar you taste in a caramelized onion is there in the raw one! We just can’t taste it. Only heat can transform the onion’s large sugar molecules into the smaller ones our tastebuds can detect. And for French onion soup, you must slice the onion in a particular way — across her bow, slicing rainbow arcs that will melt into silky, sweet ribbons. Likewise, God knows how to slice and dice each of us to reveal those innermost parts of His glory.
Though our journeys are unique, one thing that unites us all is the refining fire. Just as onions release their moisture when they first hit the hot pan, God evaporated the misshapen molecules of my identity through the show: that my career was all that I was, that people’s opinions of me were paramount, that I had to earn His affection and attention. He replaced the lies with the truth that I am wonderfully made and that “ . . . he who began a good work in [me would] bring it to completion . . . ” (Philippians 1:6 ESV).
If you’re in the middle of the refining fire, don’t give up! Caramelization only happens at a whopping 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull the onions out of the frying pan too early, and they won’t reach their full potential. Our growth and sanctification can’t be skirted or hurried because each step is vital to the end result.
While I was named a Food Network star, I’m in no way a completed dish. I’m still simmering away on the stove, deepening in flavour. Every day, I trust God’s capable hands to build a dish out of this unpalatable, unremarkable allium that I am — to turn the raw, unpolished sting of my fallen heart into a tantalizing near-perfect bowl of soup, poured out for Him, declaring to all who draw near that there is nothing sweeter than being called a child of God.Leave a Comment
Kristin Dahl says
Thank you! You have a wonderful way with words, pointing me right to God. Thank you for using the gifts he gave you.
This is wonderful! It’s such a great visual of when we remain close to and depend on God during the trying and refining times of our lives, He will transform our onion thoughts and ways into sweet French onion soup. I pray that we will be patient while we are “simmering” remembering that God is always close to the fire.
Aarti Sequeira says
Yes!!! Thank you!
Wow. I really needed to hear this today. Thank you so much. I’m saving so I can read it again.
Ruth Mills says
Absolutely love your ability to draw deep theological truths from the making of french onion soup. (One of my favorites no less). Thank you for sharing how God used worldly success to draw you to Himself & highlighting that that is the bigger reward! Amen sister!!!
Susan Ashcraft says
Thank you so very much for sharing yourself, Aarti! I love the analogy of the onion, peeling away and experiencing growth and sanctification through the fire. I so enjoyed watching your excellent cooking segments on Home and Family and was always drawn to your happy and beautiful smile and loving nature. The best analogy you give though is being wonderful soup, poured out so that others will see His grace and love in action.
Aarti Sequeira says
Wes R Burger says
Such a marvelous story of God’s provision and direction in Aarti’s life and also in our own lives. God does provide and in ways that we might not recognize at first, but His way is best and we appreciate Aarti being willing to share this part of her life with the rest of us.
I have followed Aarti since her time on Food Network Star, and her warmth immediately drew me to her! Her love of food and what it can mean to people truly shined onscreen, and I rooted for her success. This devotional is how I remember her on Food Network Star, and her words resonate with me. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of God’s love for us!
Betsy Wisler says
Thank you once again for sharing your heart. Even though we won’t meet on earth dear sister in Christ, I look forward to meeting you in heaven. May God bless you and your family!
Love & prayers and may we grow and serve Jesus daily.
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Your words came at the perfect time for my daughter and I. We are at different steps in the simmering process and feeling maybe we aren’t doing the right next step which can be paralyzing.
Your inspiring story gives hope to us by reminding that God’s best work is done throughout weakness. We do not have to figure this out on our own. He is with us every step of the way. Thank you and God bless.
Aarti Sequeira says
Oh man patience… it’s a skill earned only by time!!! ❤️❤️
Sarah Geringer says
As a foodie, I love this devotion so much! Aarti, I remember cheering you on during that season of Food Network Star. So glad to be reading your encouragement today in a totally different format. Thank you for always being humble and encouraging.
Leone Byron says
This is amazing and encouraging. I really needed to read this!
Diane Muryn says
I can relate to this wholeheartedly. Thank you for your perspective, your analogy hit me in the gut.
This really hit home for me this morning. I have watched you for so long and loved the light that has come off of you into my home. Knowing you are a fellow believer and that it is His light giving you that glow just made it more special to me. Thank you for this analogy. It is wonderful
I recognized your name and I’m filled with joy that not only are you a great chef but a Christian too. Thank you for sharing your story. Such a great devotion to start my day.
Robert Boer says
Thank you. I won’t be alone in saying that, either. I am a choral conductor, with a master’s and a doctorate in that field, longing for recognition in that field. A short, short version: 15 years ago I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, had to drop out of that “meaning of self,” and am at some point of knowing – REALLY knowing – what not being a conductor first means. My head and my heart will fully understand that at some point of this trip.
Connie Keene says
I am a child of God. Praise God for his plan.
Barbara K Rothman says
I have followed you since your first time on t.v. & love watching you. You shine for the Lord & there was something about you that really brought a smile to my face! You have a ministry right there with Guy & the other chefs while you judge others cooking as well as at the Ranch.
My son-in-law is half Indian but not a Christian. He is a wonderful man & treats my daughter with so much love & respect. We pray for his salvation daily. Hearing that you came from India & a Christian is amazing & a blessing!!!
Lord bless you Aarti in your home as a wife & mother as well as in your very wonderful career on Food Network. People can tell there is a sparkle in your eyes & your demeanor is different from the other cooks. You are in a place to really shine for Him!
Melody P says
I’m not much of a cook so I was not aware of Aarti from the Food Network show, and I have food issues so I wouldn’t be able to eat French Onion Soup, but I still found this an interesting and meaningful analogy not to give up if we’re in the middle of the refining fire. Thank you to Aarti and best wishes for God’s blessings!
Becky Keife says
Aarti, for some reason my eyes are stinging with tears and I’m not chopping onions. The beauty of your words and deep truth they convey are hitting me deep this morning. I know I’ll return to this article again. Thank you.
Aarti Sequeira says
Thank you sweet Becky!
Thank you for this. The timing couldn’t be better. I’m somewhat in “ the fire”, and also, have the ingredients out on my counter right now for French onion soup. I’ll make it, (the soup & me,) with a whole new perspective.
Aarti Sequeira says
Seeing you for the first time during the Food Network Star, there was a difference about you. And, since then, I still see that light and warmth as you continue your career on TV to instruct all of us foodies. To be able to read writings from you now is a bonus! May God bless you and your family as you throw all the spice nuggets to us with written word.
Aarti Sequeira says
Thank you Sheree. I love when I see His light shining out of others’ eyes too. Isn’t it so encouraging? Love and peace to you.
Being a foodie, and a gal who loves to cook, bake, invent recipes all while carrying way too much self-doubt….this one was beautifully said and meant for me. I read it aloud to my husband if he could even understand my words through my tears LOL. I have shared your message today with several of my friends and family. Thank you so much Aarti for this amazingly tender and vulnerable devotional word today.
Elna (Kathy) Hampton says
Thank you Aarti. Even at my age of 72 I need to be reminded of God’s truth and awesome love. God is really using you in a mighty way. I love watching you sweet sister in Christ. May God continue to bless you and lead you on your journey. ❣
Thanks for this Aarti! Xoxo
Renna Peer says
Just, wow! I watched you on Star and kept cheering for you! I knew nothing about Indian cuisine, but I saw Christ in you!! I was elated for your win, and I’ve followed you ever since. I’m not a stalker, just a woman who loves Jesus and His children. And, Brennan is great, as well! God bless you, Aarti!
Jessica Warner says
Wow! Thank you! I am a Pakistani girl who also grew up in Dubai and went to St. Mary’s. I came to America to study, eventually met Jesus and I have been in the fire, being refined, being purified, being transformed, being made new, beauty for ashes. FYI, I love to cook and never felt like I belonged but I belong to Jesus and his validations and praises is all I need and desire. A work in progress! Be blessed and continue on your adventurous journey with Jesus.
Aarti Sequeira says
Wow Jessica! What a story! I hope that you write it down one day. I’d love to hear how Jesus met you and changed your life!
Loved it Aarti!
Lisa Wilcox says
Wow- I’ve known Him almost 50 years and haven’t ever considered how God wants us to be like caramelized onions. What a great illustration of His grace and faithfulness! I remember watching you on FN and was so thrilled when you won!
Janet Williams says
Oh My Goodness what a beautiful story Aarti. I feel like I’m grinning ear to ear!
“across her bow, slicing rainbow arcs that will melt into silky, sweet ribbons. Likewise, God knows how to slice and dice each of us to reveal those innermost parts of His glory.
Jenny Burlingame says
Just what I needed today. Thanks be to God!
Sharon Robinson says
God is so good! He knows what we need and I needed this uplifting word.
Renee Kennedy says
Thank you so much!!! You have no idea how much your words meant to me..
This was so inspiring!
This is such an encouragement – thank you!! I think of my life as a bean soup…flavored by the Master Chef…changing and developing as He adds seasoning and skims off what I don’t need 😉
The Lord speaks to me through food also..Im a retired caterer/recipe developer…once while canning applesauce from apples I picked the Lord spoke to me..I had to peel, clean, cut out worm holes in those poor apples, then dice, simmer season, then process and clean the jars, then put the beautiful sauce into the clean jars, the end result was beautiful..he spoke to me through that whole process…I could probably write a book about me and the Lord in the kitchen…Food truly is a universal love language and I love how he spoke to you through onions…
Margo Rubio says
Aartfully said And very poignant too…I weeped with blissful happiness for you. I enjoy watching you on television along with your peers. Bravo to you Mrs. S!
God’s love is great
With much respect
Wow. Thank you. I have moved you from GGG and then FNS. Backwards I know. Learning your journey with God has continually blessed me. Thank you for being willing to share the dark places.
Now excuse me while I go rewatch your season of Food Network Star
Jennifer Johnson says
I’m a Food Network fan and I was watching the year you won. I was always talking to the TV “Doesn’t realize how talented she is??” 🙂 I look forward to seeing you on TV for years to come!
What a beautiful story, I really needed to read this. Thank you so much.
Marie Van Orden says
I needed this boost today!!!! I shared this article on FB. But the most precious share to me was with my husband’s family. 22 years ago, we lost a 2 year old niece in an accident. Plus, at the end of last June, we lost a 24 year old nephew in a biking accident. He was buried on the 4th of July, and we are soon coming up on the year mark of his passing. We are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we KNOW that we will see our loved ones again!! But finding a way to carry the pain is the challenge is the challenge, because this as an experience we never get over. We do our best to give the burden to Christ so he can lighten our load. But sometimes, the pain still flares up. But I KNOW Heavenly Father is the architect of the Plan of Salvation – He would NEVER leave us alone to wander blindly and wonder where He went.
Your article was so beautifully written – it touched my heart and gave me great peace. So instead of waiting for family to find it on FB, I texted it to them so I know they got it. I’m grateful for your testimony of Christ – thank you for developing all the talents you’ve been blessed with!! You’re one of my favorite Food Network Stars, and I enjoy hearing what you have to say. Much love and blessings to you!!!!
Karen Knowles says
Thanks, Aarti! Your post was so good!
Carol Brown says
Awesome word picture of moving forward.
Kathy white says
Such a timely read! We are talking about sanctification all month in Fellowship Kids. I loved listening in last week as Rebecca shared with the kids how the process of becoming more like Jesus can take quite a long time -only through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I loved reading your story! I love learning from you!
June Lindensmith says
I love reading your thoughts and how God effects your life. We all have our firey moments when God brings us closer to Him. I think of our Lord moulding(clay) our lives(clay), but your expression of our lives like an onion/French onion soup is much more defined in a world that is changing and slipping away. The ugly sensation is almost too consuming, and becoming an ostrich is appealing. LOL
Keep sharing, it’s beautiful, brings hope and love out of people.
Today, is my birthday and you are a great present
Sue Christiansen says
Thank you for sharing this! I can identify with your onion picture. I recently used an onion as an example of God’s blessings…layer upon layer just like an onion’s layers, in the ladies ministry at my church. Thank you for being so authentic in your love for Jesus.
This absolutely touched my heart so much. I am navigating the world as a pastor’s wife and although I know I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me I am looking around waiting to be found out as a phony. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I feel like the Lord sent it just for me.
Shellyn Snowden says
Yeah. I’m crying. I’ve been having this conversation almost daily with different people for the last couple weeks! Shadrac, Meshac and Abednego felt the heart of that furnace. God didn’t give them an air conditioner for it. He gave them SO much more! Jesus (preincarnate) was THERE. WITH THEM! In the middle of that furnace! And He’s with us, in the frying pan, helping extract that sense sweetness from our bitterness
I love you precious one! I needed to hear this today and each day: The only identity that matters is that you’re Mine.
I am! I am so happy I am HIS!
Love to all <3
Absolutely in awe of this article. I LOVE it. The metaphors, the full circle story about something as complicated as life and the simplicity of French onion soup. I look forward to reading more articles you write! Sometimes learning about The Lord and The Gospel is too dense or too immense to understand or to relate to and this article is just a beautiful way to bring people like me back to The Good Book. Thank you.
Refreshing words! Amen! I needed this reminder today!! I
Debora Herrera says
Ptaise God!! That is so beautiful, and elegantly put!! I love it@@ Also congratulations for your win on Food Network!! I had a website but it is under construction now. I do have a Fan Page on Facebook called Debora’s Artistry. Find me under “Deby Herrera” and check out my work.
This is so uplifting and beautifully written. I only wish I knew his plan for me. Widowed at 47, now 53 I still feel lost. No career and no clear path. I often feel this is it.
Olga Holloman says
Wow just wow!!!! My family is going through a drain right now! Praying and believing is all we can do or we would sink. Then God works through a food network star, and the words she shares on Facebook! Thank you! God’s working on a “sweeter “ tomorrow. ☺️
This is awesome and so true. Each of us are on a different journey and GOD is with us each step of the way. Sometimes it’s hard to remember He is there when all heats up. He has a wonderful and amazing plan for each of his children.
Thank you so much for sharing.
Amazing, poignant, heart felt and just what I needed to hear/ read. Thank you for taking the time to do this. An unintended outcome (or maybe part of God’s plan!) was for me to read this and realize that I am loved and being worked on every single day.
Brenda R says
That was beautifuly said. Thanks for always sharing in a thought provoking way. I Love the Lord too. God Bless you and your family always
Sabrenia collins says
This is so awesome, to read and truly feel your Love and dedication to God. It makes me enjoy watching everything you do even more. Knowing where your heart and passion really is, makes you a real person not just someone on tv with a script.
Debbie M says
Wow ..!! thank you great read ….. makes alot of sense
What a good metaphor you used.
May God opens our spiritual eyes and mind to hv more this type of metaphors ya.
Thanks for sharing
This is undoubtedly one of the sweetest and most powerful inspirational testimonies I have read to date, the lowly onion will never be the same for me ever again. Blessings to you.
Paula Ruot says
That was a beautiful story. And I thank you for sharing. I watch Food Network all the time and absolutely look up and respect you and so many other chiefs. I am a faithful person and have worked hard all my life and this pandemic has hit me so very hard however it breaks my heart to look at all the restaurants that have gone out of business or closed. I love your attitude of life it’s fabulous. I’ve always been an upbeat positive person and at my age I should not have to worry about my home but unfortunately I do. So you sharing your story was really touching and helpful. I can only pray that it all works out. Thank you so much. You were only continue to be more and more successful.
I have thoroughly enjoyed watching you on tv but this post and this ministry is your greatest work. Thank you for the encouragement.
Matthew Campbell says
Thank you for your vulnerability, especially in this crazy online world of ours.
I remember fondly watching your season of Food Network Star. I’m not a fan of the show, in fact, yours is the only season I’ve ever seen in its entirety. Your smile, attitude and magnetism are what had me coming back.
How delighted and impressed I have been to learn that you are a bold and open Christian as well! Such a person is so rare in show business.
These worlds from your post resonated with me most: “sanctification is the closing of the gap between our identity and our behaviour.” How interesting, how true! I’ll be reflecting on this for a while to come. Of course, I also enjoy your comparison to an onion. For a moment I can’t help but think of Shrek, but I quickly move past this as I appreciate your sugar metaphor.
Thank you. Keep it up!
Anne Frase says
Perfect. I love that you are so unashamed of your faith. You are not a star because you won on the show…although so many of us rooted you on and celebrated with you. You are a star because God uses you as a lighthouse to shine his light out to all the nations. That’s what people see in you, they may not even recognize what exactly it is about you they are drawn to. His light shines through you to call to others and you are beautiful. All for His glory! I like the onion comparison.
Sonya Heyward says
This is an amazing analogy and I found it a great way to end my morning Bible study! Thank you
Jeffery Dibble says
I’m a Youth Pastor in Oklahoma and will be sharing this with my students. There is so much wisdom here. Thank you for sharing your heart.
My wife and I have followed you since “Next Food Network Star.” We knew you loved Jesus the first time we saw you. Just watched a “Guys Grocery Games” with you judging just yesterday.
Blessings to you
Carolyn Theil says
I’ve always enjoyed watching you ,no matter what show you are on, on the food network channel.
Now I know the person you are and appropriate you even more.. I liked reading your story, and your love for God. I don’t know how people can survive without God in their lives. You are a humble, and wonderful person. You are also a wonderful chef. Thank you for your story. God Bless everything you do.
Carolyn Theil says
I don’t have a website
Stacy K says
This was so beautiful. What an amazing comparison to something so simple yet complex. You offer hope, encouragement, and love. You are a gift to us. You speak to our soul. Your recipes make our tummies happy and bring peace to our hearts. Please keep writing.
Thank you Artie❤️
Diane Holland says
I’m savoring this God moment! This is such an incredible writing! What makes it such a God moment for me is that I spent the month of March 2021 in the hospital. I have an incurable cancer called neuroendocrine cancer or NET’s. I had developed an intestinal obstruction due to a tumor and had lost so much weight, I had to be fed a nutrient-rich concoction through an IV before my body was strong enough to even have surgery. While lying in the hospital bed, I became hooked on the Food Network! I had never watched it before. So, I feel like I know you. You and others on the Food Network helped me through some very difficult times. I hope it’s okay if I copy and paste this writing to a group of inmates to whom I send devotionals and encouraging words!
Aarti Sequeira says
Diane! I am humbled that my little trial could help you at all through your challenging one. What a beautiful God we serve! Glory glory. I pray He continues to bless and heal you. ❤️
Beth Williams says
I remember the first time I saw you on Food Network. You have such a bubbly personality & you shine God’s light to all who see you. God sends trials & tribulations our way to grow & mature us. It takes time for our thick skins to shed & the full flavor come alive in us. Only He know the right time to take us out of the fire. When we are just right-juicy, tasty & fully matured Christians. Love this: Our growth and sanctification can’t be skirted or hurried because each step is vital to the end result.
Our growth and sanctification can’t be skirted or hurried because each step is vital to the end result. –
Brittni Z. says
You are such a beautiful writer. PLEASE write a devotional for women. I would give it to all my girls! I recently listened to your That Sounds Fun episode with Annie. You are hilarious and you explain biblical truths so poetically. A devotional from you would be food for the soul! GOD BLESS YOU!
Aarti. Thank you for your words.
. Things you have stated in this article are things I have been hearing in my head but thought it was just me. Just as too little or too much seasoning will ruin a dish so does too little faith or too much doubt ruin our walk with God. As with seasoning there is a fine balance.
May God continue to bless you and your family.
PS I thoroughly enjoy you on Guy’s Grocery Games and when you were doing the competitions in your homes I rooted for you and cheered when you and your husband won. Way to go!