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Friday, September 4, 2015

Jay Ducote's Food Network Star Journey

by Jay Ducote

Jay tells his story to the camera on episode 1 of Food Network Star
Jay tells his story to the camera on episode 1 of Food Network Star
Food Network Star has consumed my entire 2015, but I'm not upset about it. From the casting process to filming the show in Los Angeles to going to NYC to film my pilot, then of course watching the show and doing more media interviews than I had ever done in my life, the experience couldn't have been more overwhelming. But then again, I was ready for it.

I went into this competition knowing that I could be really good at it. I wanted to prove that I had what it takes. I've been fortunate enough to spend the majority of the last 6 years (ever since I launched this website in September 2009) building the skillset required to compete on Food Network Star. I didn't know that right away, but for the last couple years I've been eyeing this show, thinking that I could be really good at it. I write about Louisiana culture on my own blog and in other publications, I've hosted and produced the Bite and Booze Radio Show since April 2011, and I've definitely been working on my cooking even though I've never worked in a restaurant. Add to that the TV and production experience that I have through working with tommysTV and many other TV shows like Masterchef and Cutthroat Kitchen, and I really felt equipped for this next challenge.

The Cast of Food Network Star Season 11 all together in a contestant holding room  with Robert from wardrobe and PA Goldfish
The Cast of Food Network Star Season 11 all together in a contestant holding room
with Robert from wardrobe and PA Goldfish

From the very beginning I knew that this would the most intense and challenging adventure that I had ever been through. It is a mental game. You have to be your own harshest critic and biggest cheerleader. You have to be your own coach and guidance counselor.

Alex, Dom, Jay, Arnold and Eddie  Food Network Star 11 Final Five
Alex, Dom, Jay, Arnold and Eddie
Food Network Star 11 Final Five
The cast and crew couldn't have been better. If it looked on TV like we were all cheering for each other, that's because we genuinely were. We each wanted to win, but we wanted to beat everyone else at their best, not because they screwed up. Food Network and their team of casting and production companies put together an outstanding group of people, and it helped me relax and have fun.

Speaking of having fun, that was one of the keys to the entire process for me. I took the competition very seriously. I went to set each day as if it was my job. But I also realized that if this is my job, I better be having fun or it isn't worth doing. So I made sure to put a smile on my face and have fun even when I had no clue what would come next, or I felt particularly stressed or nervous. No matter what, I still had a good time, and the people around me helped with that.


Throughout the competition I remained very proud of what I was able to accomplish. I'm proud of how I represented Baton Rouge and all of Louisiana. While we were filming I knew I had been performing well. In fact, the judges never put me on the bottom. Not once was I up for elimination, and I knew that. Still, living in the moment, I didn't realize exactly how well I was doing.

Jay, Eddie and Dom drink some sparkling wine to celebrate being the top 3  and would get to film pilots on Food Network Star!
Jay, Eddie and Dom drink some sparkling wine to celebrate being the top 3
and would get to film pilots on Food Network Star!

I had four goals for myself on the show, four milestones that I wanted to reach. The first one was simple: don't be the first contestant eliminated. That's always a big hurdle because everything is new and you don't have much time to get your message across. Next, I wanted to get into the top 6... the halfway point. After I made it there, I knew I shouldn't slow down. My third goal was to be in the top 3 and get to film a pilot for my own Food Network Show. When Bob Tuschman from the Network told me how consistently I had performed all season and that they wanted to see a pilot from me, it really hit home. That's pretty much as far as I could take it that was still in my control. The final goal, of course, was to win the show. All I could do was film my pilot to the best of my ability, then wait and see.

Unfortunately, in the end, I did not win. The first thing I did on that day, and the first thing that I'll do right now is congratulate Eddie Jackson on his performance and victory. I knew from episode one that Eddie would be my toughest competitor. He had the that athlete look in his eye like he knew how to be a winner. He had been training for this too. We took very different paths to get there, standing it that room on the Food Network Star Finale, but when his picture popped up, I felt happy for him. Of course the disappointment sunk in for me as well. I knew how well I had done. I heard the judges and mentors have nothing but praise for me. But in the end, on that day, it just wasn't meant to be.




The good news is that this should be a launching pad for whatever is next. I've said "just the beginning" before, but truly the beginning came at deer camps with my dad and LSU tailgate parties with the best group of friends a guy could ask for. Starting the blog and growing Bite and Booze into a culinary media conglomerate was the beginning. My Food Network Star journey represents the turning of a page and the start of a new chapter. I have plenty to focus on with the blog and radio show. I have my Jay D's Louisiana Barbecue Sauce on the market and a BBQ dry rub and Louisiana Molasses Mustard to follow very soon. And of course, I'm waiting for that next big opportunity. It'll come. I just need to be patient... but also keep working my butt off.

Thanks to everyone for all the support throughout the entire journey. Thanks to my team, Blair Loup and Sydney Blanchard, for having my back to whole time. I could write a long list of thank yous, but you know who you are. Thanks to all my family, friends and fans that supported me along the way. Thanks to everyone who showed up at a viewing party, posted on social media, or gave me hug. I really appreciate it.