Baton Rouge’s Jay Ducote safe halfway through ‘Food Network Star’

Jay Ducote mixing pizza and oranges? C’mon! The Baton Rougean dishes the dirt on how he survived this week’s episode of Food Network Star. Photo courtesy of Food Network

Ducote talks latest Food Network Star episode

Despite some twists and turns and tough ingredients thrown his way, Baton Rougean Jay Ducote remained safe in last Sunday’s episode of Food Network Star.

In the first challenge, Ducote and the contestants had to prepare a pizza for guest judges CiCi’s Pizza CEO Darin Harris and pastry chef Duff Goldman of Ace of Cakes.

What got left on the cutting room floor was the fact that Goldman assigned Ducote with the random ingredient of oranges. A pizza with oranges in a half-hour? Ducote was still game. However, his gameplan to cook the pizza on a cast-iron skillet had to change, too.

“When I got into the pantry area, I saw that all the cast iron skillets were gone,” Ducote says. “That’s no good. That’s the style of pizza I wanted to do. I was left with these aluminum baking dishes.”

Ducote prepared an orange basil and mozzarella pizza. While he thought the flavors were there, he knew he had undercooked dough, and he still sold the hell out of it. Judge Giada De Laurentiis complimented his presentation.

“It was my best presentation to date,” he says. “[Duff] Goldman said I should bottle that orange basil sauce. It sucks going out there, knowing I had to present a pizza with raw dough. At the the same time, it’s part of it. It’s one of the hardest things to do—present something that you know isn’t up to your standards.”

As in previous episodes where his food has come up short, Ducote bounced back Sunday. During the main “Comedy Improv” challenge, contestants randomly selected each other’s proteins, unlikely ingredients and color for dishes. Comedian David Alan Grier appeared to lighten the mood.

It wasn’t an easy challenge for Ducote given his ingredients: calamari, pink lemonade and the color black.

“It was like a more intense version of Chopped,” he says. “When I got my ingredients and color, I was like, ‘What am I going to do with that?'”

Contestants then had to discuss and present their dishes for four minutes. During the presentation, the contestants had to provide a little comedy along the way, too. Ducote was confident about his presentation.

“I knew I could fill up that time,” he says. “That’s what I wanted. That’s where I have the advantage.”

His fried calamari with black fish sauce rice and frozen pink lemonade gastrique wasn’t bad, either.

“It all worked out really well,” he says. “I believed in my ability to get the calamari done. I had a good seasoning blend to fry them. I found this Chinese black rice and several dark Asian-style sauces. The only thing that came down to the last minute was the rice.”

The episode marked the halfway point for the show, and the judges said Ducote and Eddie Jackson, a former football player for the University of Arkansas, were on the top of the list.

There is no local viewing party for Food Network Star this week. The show airs at 8 p.m. on Food Network Sunday, July 19.