Another culinary battle begins Sunday night for Baton Rouge blogger, cook and radio show host Jay Ducote.
Ducote, 33, and 11 other finalists are competing to be the next “Food Network Star” on the show’s 11th season, which premieres at 8 p.m. The winner gets his/her own show on Food Network.
To win, they’ll have to impress chefs Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis and some of Food Network’s biggest stars.
“Bobby Flay and Giada DeLaurentiis served as judge, jury and executioners for ‘Food Network Star,’ but despite that, they were extremely great to work with,” Ducote said. “That certainly doesn’t mean they were all sunshine and butterflies, though.”
As the season unfolds and the pressure mounts, Flay, who early on is heard telling the finalists, “This is an excellent, excellent group of people,” tells one contestant, “You don’t know anything about television.” Likewise, De Laurentiis is all smiles, telling the 12, “You’re one step closer to being the next Food Network Star,” but later, gritting her teeth, “You HAVE to focus!”
In addition to mentors/judges and Food Network fixtures Flay and De Laurentiis, the third judge’s chair will be filled each week by other network personalities, including Duff “Ace of Cakes” Goldman, Bobby Deen and Sunny Anderson (“Cooking for Real”).
“As mentors, they want us to succeed,” Ducote said. “Their job just happens to be one in which they have to demand a lot of us in a short period of time, and sometimes that much truth without the time to sugarcoat it can hurt.”
It looks like it’s every cook for himself, as one scene shows the Ducote and the rest of the finalists running for the refrigerators to secure crucial ingredients for a challenge. Each week, the kitchen challenge is different, but all are designed to show the judges who has “the personality, on-air charisma and cooking skills to be a star.”
“Not only is the competition about showing off your culinary chops, but you also have to bring a dynamic, charismatic personality to groups of people and display it through the lens of a camera,” Ducote said.
Last season, New Orleans chef Christopher Lynch (executive chef at Atchafalaya Restaurant) was the fifth finalist eliminated from the show.
Ducote, who credits cooking at LSU Tiger tailgating events with sparking his career in the kitchen, previously has competed on Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” and Fox’s “MasterChef.” He started his blog, BiteandBooze.com, in 2009 and went on the air in 2011 with the Bite and Booze Radio show.
Airtimes are 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and 8 p.m. Sundays on Talk 107.3 FM.
“Work that I’ve done with Bite and Booze over the last six years, such as writing and doing my radio show to develop my food knowledge and vocabulary, built essential skills for ‘Food Network Star,’” Ducote said. “Since I’m not a restaurant chef and have never attended culinary school, the training that I’ve given myself doing pop-up dinners, barbecue competitions, private cooking events, cooking demos and more gave me a foundation of culinary skills to be able to go and give it my all in the ‘Food Network Star’ kitchen.”
In tonight’s premiere, titled “Food Network Star Festival,” the dozen finalists arrive in Los Angeles and meet the judges. Each finalist then has to produce a 30-second introductory video and make their signature dish for a food festival the next day.
At the festival, attended by a crowd of Food Network fans, each video is screened and a signature dish tasted by a judging panel, including Flay, De Laurentiis, Food Network executives Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuschman, and People deputy editor J.D. Heyman. It’s over for one finalist, while the others continue on to next week and “Savory Baking.”
The winner will be chosen Sunday, Aug. 16.