Ducote talks pressure, top three on ‘Food Network Star’

Finalist Jay Ducote prepares a Coconut Chocolate Tart and Strawberry Basil Bourbon Smash for the Star Challenge, Summer Live, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11. Photo courtesy of Food Network

It came down to the wire, but Baton Rouge’s Jay Ducote made it into the top three on Food Network Star.

On this week’s episode, Ducote looked to be in trouble from the beginning. During the mentor challenge, creating an after-school snack, he served judges ants on a log and pigs in a blanket. The items were deemed too basic and unmemorable.

Judge Bobby Flay said the dishes didn’t give him that “Jay flavor” he wanted.

“It was a stumble I made for several reasons,” Ducote says. “I’m not a parent so I’m not sure what to cook for kids, so I thought of what I used to have. And the ingredients that I wanted to use, they weren’t present for that challenge. I would have loved to give my version of pigs in the blanket, maybe with some andouille sausage, but all I had were these hot dogs.”

Ducote’s troubles didn’t last too long, though. He picked himself up in the main challenge. There, the four remaining contestants participated in an ensemble cooking talk show, called “Summer Live.” Each contestant would create and present a dish based on the premise of a summer family reunion, and each would have his own segment of the show.

Ducote was tasked with dessert and created a chocolate tart and strawberry-bourbon cocktail.

“I certainly felt pressure to deliver on both the food and presentation part of the [‘Summer Live’] challenge,” he says. “I was able to just calm down and relax and clear my mind in the moment. It was the opposite of what happened the week before. I just got in there and had fun.”

However, Ducote barely finished his chocolate tarts. He finished plating in the final seconds of the allotted time. It was an intense moment that had fans at the Sunday viewing party gasping.

“That truly was down to the wire,” he says. “It was down to the last second. I was literally burning my fingertips, getting those tarts out of the oven and onto the plate.”

Ducote and contestant Eddie Jackson were deemed safe. Alex McCoy was sent home for his questionable bacon ramen. McCoy and two other contestants will have a chance to return to the show. During the season, Food Network has hosted a web series, “Star Salvation,” where one eliminated contestant can come back to compete.

As of now, there are two episodes left. The remaining contestants will cook the best dish of their lives in the next episode. Following the presentations, the judges will determine who will get to film a pilot, directed by special guest Rachael Ray.

“It’s our last effort to convince the judges,” Ducote says. “We’re basically going back, proving ourselves and what we’ve learned along the way.”

Ducote will host a viewing party Sunday, Aug. 9, 6 p.m.-9 p.m. at City Pork Brasserie & Bar.