Celebrity Chef Aarti Sequeira Loves Coachella Valley Dates

The winner of The Next Food Network Star Season 6 shares why she’s eager to return to the desert as an ambassador for its favorite fruit.

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Now a North Carolina resident, Aarti Sequeira serves as a celebrity ambassador of the California Date Commission.

Aarti Sequeira is the first to admit that she’s obsessed with dates.

The Raleigh, North Carolina–based chef — who burst on the scene as the Season 6 winner of The Next Food Network Star and with her subsequent series, Aarti’s Party — first tangoed with the fruit in Dubai, where she lived as a child. At the time, she thought of them as an acquired taste she didn’t care to acquire. As an adult, after moving to Los Angeles for a period, she gave dates a second chance and decided they’re a next-level fruit.

So next level that she’s fittingly been named the celebrity ambassador of the California Date Commission. Ahead of her third appearance at Palm Desert Food & Wine (March 24–26), where she’ll host a cooking demonstration using the Coachella Valley’s top agricultural crop alongside local date farmer Mark Tadros, Sequeira has a lot to say about this healthy treat.

So, you’re the celebrity ambassador for the California Date Commission. What responsibilities come with this title?

I let people know that dates aren’t just health food. The dates that are coming out of the Coachella Valley are truly the best I’ve ever had. They’re just like wine, in that the vines get more interesting and more complex as the years go by. It’s the same with the date trees that are growing in the Coachella Valley. They’re giving us these complex, multilayered dates. I just want the whole country to experience them, because if they do, they’ll be just as obsessed as I am.

What can fans expect from your appearance at Palm Desert Food & Wine?

I’m gonna come up with an interesting new recipe for dates. There will be lots of cool facts about dates that I’ll share. They’re not only packed full of all the good things like fiber, minerals, and vitamins, but they really are kind of an extraordinary fruit. 

What makes them so extraordinary?

You can’t just plant a date pit and then let it sprout and expect to get dates. It’s such a labor of love. That’s one of the things I really like to talk about at the festival. A farmer must love and nourish and nurture a date palm for at least five years before it has a chance to start bearing fruit.

What do you enjoy about visiting the Coachella Valley?

I love that when I enter the valley, it feels like my heart slows down a little, my breath slows down a little. There’s something very calming about the area. I grew up in [a] desert, so maybe there’s something about that that feels like home to me. Plus, seeing all the date palms really makes me feel like I’m home.


Sequeira will show how to cook up this sweet Coachella Valley crop in a demonstration.

chef demo

Aarti Sequeira joins local date farmer Mark Tadros March 25 at Palm Desert Food & Wine. Get your tickets here.