Finalist Jay Ducote during evaluations for the Mentor Challenge on this past Sunday’s Food Network Star. Photo courtesy Food Network
And then there were four…
Ducote remained safe on last Sunday’s episode of the reality cooking show. Chef Dominick “Dom” Tesoriero was eliminated, leaving four contestants all hoping to get their own show on the cable network.
In the first mentor challenge, Ducote had to present a quick “brand-in-a-box” type of meal. His fish and grits were clear favorites in the taste category, but it wasn’t enough to give him an advantage in the main challenge because his presentation wasn’t as strong as in previous weeks.
“This was one of my roughest weeks for presenting,” Ducote says. “Most of the time, I have been able to clear my head, get up there and just start talking. With this challenge, I went up there with this bullet list in my head. I was over-thinking.”
In the latter part of the episode, mentor challenge winner Alex McCoy assigned a holiday to each contestant during the Star Challenge. The contestants would then create a dish and present it to the judges. Ducote was assigned Thanksgiving and cooked boudin-stuffed quail.
“I knew there was no way I could cook a whole turkey,” Ducote says. “I thought quail made sense because I love it, I’ve cooked it before, and it ties into my point of view that I’ve told a lot on the show and my actual Thanksgiving celebrations. It was one of my favorite dishes I have cooked the entire time I was on the show.”
Again, judges wanted more concrete description from Ducote’s presentation in the second challenge. Ducote described his dish as he was tasting it as “spectacular.”
“I had time for one word,” Ducote says. “It didn’t make sense for me to say ‘cranberry.’ When it’s on the fly, when you get the one word, ‘spectacular’ is sometimes the best option.”
However, the rest of Ducote’s presentation went off without a hitch, and his food was solid throughout the episode. In the end, Ducote and McCoy were named the top contestants.
Now, with just four episodes left, Ducote still thinks competitor Eddie Jackson is the person to beat. However, Jackson has had a rough few episodes.
“This was the first time I saw Alex [McCoy] as a real threat,” Ducote says. “I never really thought he had a chance to win until this week. This final four is a tough group. There is nobody that I could say, ‘They’re going to be the next one to go home.'”
The next episode of Food Network Star airs Sunday at 8 p.m. The finalists will host their own segment of a live ensemble show. Ducote will host a viewing party at The Londoner Sunday, Aug. 2, 6 p.m.-9 p.m.