Baton Rouge’s Ducote continues to shine on ‘Food Network Star’

Photo courtesy Food Network

Baton Rouge blogger Jay Ducote is giving the competition on Food Network Star a run for its money.

Ducote made it through another round on the food reality show. Last week’s episode saw the Red Stick native cooking with Rue Rusike, a New Yorker who ended up getting eliminated at the end of the show. However, Ducote was in the first group chosen to be safe from elimination.

In the episode, he prepared branzino and pork loin. While the food was lacking for the judges, his presentation skills and delivery were key to going on the next round.

Next Sunday’s episode is centered around “culinary improv.” The show will feature a Mentor’s Challenge and appearance from comedian David Alan Grier (In Living ColorPeeples). Food Network Star airs at 8 p.m. A viewing party will be held at Sac-A-Lait in New Orleans, Cody and Samantha Carroll’s new restaurant located at 1051 Annunciation St.

225 Dine caught up with Ducote about the experience on the show so far.

Improving his culinary skills. Ducote is no stranger to the world of culinary television. He previously competed on MasterChef and Cutthroat Kitchen. In both experiences, he didn’t fare as well as he is now on Food Network Star. In the interim, he says has been practicing inside and outside the kitchen.
“What I don’t have is the benefit of being in a restaurant every day, putting those skills to use. But I have been doing pop-up dinners, private cooking events and making myself go through the cooking process. The advantage I have is that I get to experiment and research. When I do cook, it’s something different. I eat a whole lot more than I cook. I get to experience a lot of different flavor combinations. That gives me creativity and allows me to think quick on my feet. In the short, timed challenges, that’s helpful. Everything I do—blogging, radio show, hosting and emceeing events—that has built a skill set you need to be successful on the presentation part of the show.”

Dealing with national exposure. Whether he wins or not, Ducote is now on a national stage. Already, some critics have given strong opinions on what they think Food Network needs, including Slate‘s Ashlie Stevens. Ducote says he is ready for national attention.
“I don’t know if there’s any way to be prepared for it, but going through the show is preparing me a lot for it. [That attention] is something I’ve been working towards and been excited about it for a while now. I’m very well equipped to handle that kind of stuff compared to some of the other contestants.”

What his show might focus on. If Ducote wins Food Network Star, he’ll get his own show. He says he would love to do a show about tailgating.
“I’d love to travel around the country and explore different tailgating cultures, cooking foods in different parts of the country for different styles of tailgates.”

His chances of winning. “At this point, I feel pretty good. There have been a few things I could’ve executed better. Presentation has kept me on the top. As long as I can keep that up and continute to give good food that shows my culinary styles, I like my chances.”

The one competitor who has him worried. “From the beginning, I thought [former football player] Eddie Jackson was tough to beat. He played football at Arkansas when I was attending and tailgating at LSU. Arnold Myint started really strong, too. I thought Rue [Rusike] would be a strong contestant. I was shocked to see her go. That was a real surprise.”

What he has learned about himself from the experience. “To have a bit more confidence in myself. I really can handle this kind of situation where I do cooking challenges. I need to believe in my cooking and presentation ability. Jumping out as one of the frontrunners from episode one gave me a boost that I hadn’t had [on other food reality shows]. My biggest fear was being one of the first eliminated. I didn’t want to live through that situation. Getting the feeling I belonged here from the beginning helped out with situations.”