Last night was the premier of the Food Court Wars episode, on The Food Network, that was filmed in my hometown of Midland, Michigan. For those of you who have never seen the show, each week two teams battle to win a one-year lease for a restaurant space in a mall food court. Of course there are challenges, along with coaching sessions from host Tyler Florence. In the end, the teams open up their concept restaurants in the food court for a day. Whoever makes the most money wins the episode and the coveted lease.


I knew from Facebook posts by a local restaurant that the show was coming to the Midland Mall, but I didn’t realize exactly when. So unfortunately I didn’t make it to the mall on the days the contestants were competing. When the first episode of Food Court Wars aired the Midland Farmer’s Market began posting on Facebook that one of their vendors would be competing on the Midland Mall episode. That vendor was Melania Paser (in the blue skirt above) from The Pie’d Piper. I’ve been buying her delicious pies, treats and hot pepper jelly at local farmer’s markets for several years. I love stopping to talk with her and to see what kind of interesting pie flavors she’s offering like Fuzzy Navel or BlueBarb (blueberry/rhubarb). My husband prefers her spicy pie creations like apple with Red Hots candy and a mixed berry spiced with chile peppers. The tangy, sweet and spicy pepper jelly she offers is fabulous on sandwiches, especially BLTs. By the way, if you watched the show, the Chicken Shawarma prepared without the time constraints and pressure of the show is fabulous and very tasty.

The very first time I met Melania she was wearing a brightly colored dress and a headband with a tiny, Pied Piper style hat on it. As a writer I love observing people, collecting in my mind bits of interesting personalities and physical traits to use as inspiration for my writing. That little hat caught the attention of my writer side, but her warm personality is one of the reasons going to the farmer’s market is so much fun for me. I hope the brush with Food Network fame gives her career a huge boost!

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking at Beth Fish Reads.

34 thoughts on “Food Court Wars Was Here…I Know Her!

    1. I’ve gotten the chance to chat with quite a few people in Michigan who have been on Food Network shows. The network seems to look for talented chefs in the state quite often!

    1. I know! I just wish I would’ve known when they were taping. I have to wonder if there purposely wasn’t a lot of promotion so there wouldn’t be more people in the food court than the contestants could handle.

    1. Unfortunately, the other team won. Sorry the pie lady didn’t win, but at least I’ll still get to try the food from the winning team now too!

  1. That is neat that you know Melania, sorry her team did not win.
    I bet the pies are good, I do like pie 🙂

    Janel, I’ve tried to subscribe to you blog via email but it does not work for me, it did work on your mail list, though.

    1. Yes, her pies are very good and often with unique flavors.

      I’ll look into the subscription problem. Thanks for letting me know!

    1. The show has an interesting concept. I’m excited that there is going to be something other than chain restaurants in my local food court now.

  2. Thank you for your support. It was a crazy adventure to be involved with the food network.
    You can find me at the Midland farmers market on wed. and sat. At the end of August you can find me at Mac’s in Saginaw on Michigan ave (demo permitting) where the Curran Brothers Joel and Jason are opening a brand new Bar/Restaurant featuring me as their Chef. I look forward to seeing everyone there
    To taste the savory side of my menu but of course there will be Pie. Stay tuned more info to come.

    1. Thanks for stopping by Melania! My husband put in a request for your pepper jelly, so I’ll probably see you at the farmer’s market tomorrow. 🙂 Can’t wait for Mac’s to open to see what you’ll be offering there!

  3. How cool is that to know the contestant! I’ve seen the ads for the show, but hadn’t intended to watch. Now I’ll have to keep my eye on it.

    1. It’s interesting and so fun that they decided to do a show in the middle of Michigan. We have some fabulous restaurants, but aren’t a big metropolitan area.

    1. I didn’t know that, Diane! I have a feeling running a restaurant is a bit easier when you aren’t doing the crazy Food Network, time-constrained challenges, though.

    1. Yes, the red hots pie was very good, quite spicy yet sweet. I know Melania will continue to do great, even though they didn’t win. I’ll keep everybody up to date!

    1. Yes, it would be great to have a lot of fresh, healthy options in food courts. The team that won the local spot puts homemade potato chips on sandwiches, though, so definitely not as healthy as the Lebanese food team Melania was on!

    1. It’s interesting and a great opportunity to start a restaurant and not worry about paying the lease fees for a year!

    1. The farmer’s market and local newspapers have been talking about the show, so I’m guessing even not winning has been a boost to business. I haven’t been to the mall in awhile, so I’m not sure how the new restaurant is coming along. I’ll definitely do a post when it’s open!

    1. Sweet and spicy isn’t really my thing either, but my husband loves those pies. The heat is subtle, but you still know it’s there. 🙂

    1. I agree, many reality shows have too much drama for my taste. Food Court Wars is interesting, kind of like they’re trying to bring some nicer food into the malls and I love that!

  4. That’s cool that this took place near where you live. Too bad your favorites didn’t win but that’s great publicity for them!

    1. Yes, there was a newspaper article that interviewed the woman that owned the restaurant in Bay City. She said business had picked up since the show.

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