It’s a friendly rivalry that’s been simmering for almost 30 years.
Jay Ducote, 33, and Jesse Romero, 29, are currently both competing in big-time cooking shows — Ducote on Food Network’s “Food Network Star” and Romero on Fox’s “MasterChef” — but they’ve known each other a lot longer than that. Their mothers, Phyllis and Elaine, have been best friends since college.
“I think I’m a little older by five or six years, but he has an older brother, Robert, that’s my age and he’s one of my best friends,” says Ducote.
Jesse Romero and Ducote lost touch when Ducote moved to Texas, but then they both ended up at LSU.
Ducote and Robert Romero were part of Third Row Tailgates — tailgate cooking is one of Ducote’s claims to fame. It didn’t take long for Jesse Romero, who has quite a reputation for tailgate cooking himself, to start teaming up with Ducote.
“We’d taste each others food, share ideas,” says Romero. “It’s been great to form a bond over cooking rather than just family.”
So, what would happen if the two were competing against each other?
“I think we’d have a pretty good competition, especially if we could do a tailgate since that’s both our specialties,” says Ducote, laughing. “Jesse’s better than I was when I was on ‘MasterChef,’ but with the experience I’ve gotten over the past four years, I think I could take him.”
“The only shot Jay has is if both my hands are tied behind my back and Jay has a barbecue pit,” Romero shoots back.
“I’d rather him be on my team,” adds Ducote. “We could do great things together.”
Now, they’re both rooting for each other on their TV shows.
“Jay was on season 3 of ‘MasterChef,’ and when I saw that I was impressed,” says Romero, a petroleum landman who’s hoping for a career change. “I already listened to his radio show (‘Bite and Booze” Saturdays at 5 p.m. on Talk 107.3) and read his blog (biteandbooze.com). He’s the first person I knew who was on a cooking show. I’m glad he took that step. It let me know I could. I like the way he went about his business and I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He’s sort of a role model … we now have this mutual respect for each others’ talents.”
“It’s great, cheering Jesse on,” says Ducote. “He’s gotten farther along on ‘MasterChef’ than I did. It’s fun to watch the show with him, and the fact that we’re both doing TV shows is just awesome. It’s really cool that we have that connection and to have a family connection, too.”