Jay Ducote is so close to being the next “Food Network Star” he can taste it.
With the finale airing Sunday night, the Baton Rouge radio host and food blogger will gather with about 400-500 expected family members and friends at the Varsity Theatre to watch the show. The winner will be announced at the end of the one-hour episode, which reunites all the Season 11 competitors.
Still in the running with Ducote are former NFL player and Houston chef Eddie Jackson, and Staten Island, New York, food truck owner Dom Tesoriero. Previously eliminated, Tesoriero rejoined the competition on the Aug. 9 episode after winning the companion online series “Star Salvation.”
Also on last week’s show, the final three were sent to New York City to make a pilot show for a potential Food Network series should they win.
Last week, Ducote expressed anxiousness over Tesoriero’s possible return.
“I think I was right to be worried about it, because he ended up claiming one of the spots in the pilot so … I was reasonably happy to see him, but certainly knew that it was stiff competition coming back and definitely, had he improved on any of his camera skills, it’d be really tough,” Ducote said Tuesday. “And, clearly, he had one of his best performances he’s ever had when it really counted the most.”
In the Big Apple, FN celebrity chef Rachael Ray mentored the men through the pilot process.
“This woman is everything in food TV, so I’m excited for her to impart her wisdom in my direction,” Ducote said during last week’s show.
At Sweet Chick, a chicken and waffles spot on the Lower East Side, Ducote met Ray and Sweet Chick owner John Seymour.
“My concept is ‘Deep Fried America,’” Ducote said, explaining his series scheme. “I travel the country and experience the most amazing fried foods out there.”
For the pilot, Ducote made a Cajun version of chicken and waffles, which Ray laughingly dubbed “Big Jay’s Chicken and Waffles.”
“You made it animated, fun,” Ray said of the intro to Ducote’s three-minnute pilot.
“That was really cool. I really got along with her really well. We kind of hit it off right from the beginning,” Ducote said. “She made it really easy to work with her and gave me some really good pointers and tips, and just ideas for how to inject a little humor and fun into my pilot.”
He is likewise pleased with the result.
“I feel great about it. I think the pilot was exactly what they were looking for. I think I was able to bring my own personality and my own point of view into it, and just have fun with it. I think it’s educational and at the same time, just a really fun piece to watch,” he said.
Ducote is also pleased with the response he’s received from his “FNS” appearances.
“I’m getting feedback from all over the country for sure. I’ve even seen some from Europe, United Kingdom, it’s around the world,” he said. “It’s a bit overwhelming, the amount of social media traffic that I’m getting and the outpouring of support from the people of Louisiana, and a lot of people who’ve moved away, reaching out and saying how much I make them miss the food back home, things like that. It’s been cool to kind of be seen on this show as an ambassador for Louisiana food, and for people to really appreciate how well that I’ve been able to represent Louisiana on the show.”
Ducote said he’ll jump on stage Sunday night to thank all his fans, and is hoping for a packed house.