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Los Altos teen turns TV spotlight on Estrellita Mexican Bistro

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Courtesy of KQED
Roshni Sangani, second from left, poses with “Check Please! Bay Area” host Leslie Sbrocco, second from right, and her two fellow guests who appeared with Sangani on an episode of the show that aired last week.

Ever since Roshni Sangani was a small child, she has had a love of cooking and food, but last week was the first time she got to share her passion on television.

Sangani, a freshman at Woodside Priory, appeared on “Check, Please! Bay Area” last week, sharing her favorite restaurant, Estrellita Mexican Bistro, located on San Antonio Road in Los Altos.

“I’ve always wanted to be on a TV show, and I love food, so it was a win-win,” Sangani said.

“Check, Please!” is a long-running show on KQED where local diners, rather than professional restaurant critics, come together to share and review their favorite restaurants. Sangani was on an episode of “Check, Please! Bay Area Kids,” paired with two other students.

The process to get on the show was a long one. She originally applied online in the summer of 2018 and then underwent a series of in-person interviews. Eventually, she received a call telling her that she had been selected to appear on the show.

They gave Sangani a month to visit the restaurants the other two students had picked: Teni East Kitchen in Oakland and Kabul Afghan Cuisine in San Carlos.

“That was a really neat experience, just to try new types of food,” Sangani said.

However, it wasn’t just the food Sangani was focused on. She was also instructed to take note of the service, ambience and general tenor of the restaurant.

The restaurant’s staff weren’t supposed to know that she was there to review it, so she wouldn’t receive any special treatment.

Keeping it under the radar was the hardest part, Sangani said. She went with her mother, father and older sister and all four tried to talk quietly as they discussed the food. When she got home from each restaurant, she would write up a one-page summary and send it to one of the show’s producers.

Sangani didn’t meet the other two students until the day of filming. The three were told not to discuss which restaurant they had each chosen until they were actually on the set and filming with the host, Leslie Sbrocco.

“Literally when they’re at the table, they’re having those reactions,” said Misti Sangani, Roshni’s mother. “I think that’s a really clever way to do it, so you get the real reaction.”

Although the show itself runs 30 minutes, filming took three to four hours. The producers were careful to fact-check each statement that was made about the restaurants. Any time an error was made, they would refilm the exchange, such as when Sangani accidentally said a dish had tomatoes instead of potatoes.

Broad palates

During the segment on Estrellita, Roshni said she has long loved to eat at the restaurant, even celebrating her birthday there. When the episode aired last week, she had a watch party with her friends and catered food from Estrellita.

Sangani and her mother have both always loved Mexican food, but their palates are broad. At home, Sangani said she enjoys cooking all types of food, including Indian, Thai, Italian and Chinese dishes. Mediterranean food is a particular favorite.

She grew up cooking with her mother and often her grandmother, but now she frequently creates complex dishes on her own.

“I love to cook, but she’s taken things to another level,” Misti said.

Sangani often invites friends and relatives over for multicourse meals, creating homecooked feasts for family and friends as a way to share her love of cooking and show that she cares for them.

“What I find satisfying about cooking is you get to see what you make,” she said. “And also, it brings people together.”

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