Although Baton Rouge’s Jay Ducote didn’t come out on top on “Food Network Star” on Sunday night, he still sees this as a beginning.
Clearly emotional, Ducote took the stage at his Varsity Theatre viewing party just after Houston’s Eddie Jackson, a personal chef and former NFL player, was named the winner of the cooking competition’s 11th season.
“Thank you all. I thought I had it. I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished. This is just the beginning,” he said.
He congratulated Jackson for his win.
“That guy deserves it. He was a great competitor, and I’m sure we’ll be working together in the future,” Ducote said.
The packed house had cheered for their hometown cook throughout the show, but boos erupted at Ducote’s loss.
“We love you, Jay, no matter what,” a man yelled from the audience as Ducote spoke.
From the marquee outside announcing the finale to the packed house inside chanting his name, win or lose, it was Ducote’s night.
Taking the stage just before the show started, Ducote explained that three endings were shot for the finale in June, and even he “has no idea what’s about to happen.”
The Baton Rouge band The Anteeks warmed up the pre-show crowd with an acoustic set.
Before the winner was announced, the episode featured three-minute pilot shows from the three finalists. Ducote created a Cajun version of chicken and waffles for his pilot. His dream is for a show spotlighting the best in fried food across America.
Jackson’s pilot centered on finding barbecue in unusual places.
Finalist and food truck owner Dom Tesoriero, of New York, meanwhile, centered his pilot on family-owned Italian eateries with a lot of history.
The show was shot in Los Angeles, but the finalists went to New York for their pilots, where they were mentored by Food Network celebrity cook Rachael Ray.
Ducote, who turns 34 on Thursday, has been a judge’s favorite from the start with his Louisiana-inspired dishes and jovial persona. His fellow finalists, who he competed with for 10 weeks, nicknamed him “Jayoncé” (a nod to singing megastar Beyoncé) after the first episode.
“When I nailed every camera challenge and was put in the top three … by the time that episode ended, we had all been around each other for about 10 days. The other contestants — I think it started with Rosa Graziano — called me Jayoncé because of my ‘flawless’ performances and they knew I’d be the one to beat,” Ducote said earlier Sunday.
No stranger to food competitions, Ducote also competed on FX’s “Masterchef” in 2011, Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” in 2013 and “Last Call Food Brawl” on Destination America, also in 2013.
Ducote graduated from LSU in political science and credits Tiger tailgating with triggering his interest in cooking. He’s host of the radio show “Bite and Booze” on Talk 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge, pens a blog by the same name and markets his own barbecue sauce and wine, among other ventures.
The “Food Network Star” winner will get his own show on the Food Network, will be featured in Food Network Magazine and appear at the Food Network and Cooking Channel New York City Wine & Food Festival on Oct. 15-18.