One-on-One with the Latest Food Network Star Finalist to Go Home

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Finalists Ana Quincoces and Joy Thompson during elimination for the Star Challenge, Tiki Takeover, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

With only 11 short weeks to ready finalists before a winner will be chosen, the Food Network Star beast is such that week after week, hopeful competitors will fall, faced with the crushing disappointment of elimination. We'll be bringing you the first exclusive exit interviews with the ousted finalists as they're sent home.

We're about to break down the ins and outs of the latest episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

Finalist Joy Thompson during the Mentor Challenge, Freeze-Out, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

In what would be Joy's final week of the competition, she and the other finalists were tasked with baking — but surely not traditional baked dishes, as the competitors had to use frozen products straight from the freezer. When presenting her chicken pot pie offering, Joy explained to the judges how she used a frozen package: "I've taken a TV dinner, which in the South is one of the sins of the world. You do not serve a TV dinner." It turns out, though, that her pot pie was unfortunately similar to what she started with, as Giada told her, "It's a TV dinner."

Joy's situation didn't improve in the Star Challenge when she was paired with Ana. "Everybody that ends up partnered with Ana [goes] home," Damiano noted. Though she was determined to not endure the same fate as those fallen rivals, she ultimately suffered missteps in both her fried chicken dish and the team demo in the tiki challenge, and she was forced to say goodbye.

We checked in with Joy following her elimination to get her take on the competition and the feedback she received from the mentors. Read on below to hear what she had to say.

What three words best describe how you're feeling right now?

Joy Thompson: Disappointed, a little bit relieved ... 'cause I was going to see my kids and still felt accomplished.

Talk about that feeling of accomplishment. What does it feel like to have this competition under your belt, so to speak?

JT: I mean, I never thought that I would make it, like, past Week 1, so to have made it to the seventh week, you know, I felt pretty accomplished, and I of course disagreed about the food ... just because I’ve sold it in my restaurant for three years, but I think it’s a different taste between the South and L.A. ... We make things a little bit differently in the South, and that’s cool. You know, it wasn’t their taste, and I was good with it. I was ready to go home and see my husband and my kids.

Finalist Joy Thompson preparing her dish, Hot Crab Dip, for the Mentor Challenge, Food Hacks Snapchat, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

In your own words, how would you explain to fans at home what this competition is really like?

JT: It’s so intense. Like, intensely intense. That’s the best way I can put it, I think. You know, at home I watched it before I came, and I was like, "Uh, there is no way they really do that in 30 minutes." Or: "There’s no way in 45 minutes, c’mon. They must take breaks and stuff." But it’s real. Like, it’s really real, and it’s the most-stressful situation I’ve ever been in in my life. It was more stressful than having twin babies. So, it was like for real, for real, and when I got home, one of the first things I did besides cook for my family, where I didn’t have any time limit, was I went to the grocery store and got some hair dye, because I got more gray hairs on this show than I have in my entire adulthood.

What one piece of mentor feedback will you always remember and keep with you?

JT: I think the main thing was just for me to be me, and it’s easy to get caught up in what everybody else is doing and [say], "Oh, well, they like that about this person, they like that about this person; I got to do that, or I got to do this." ... At the end of the day, it’s just about being you, and you know you’re here for a reason, and if you’re meant to be, you’re meant to be.

What were your most favorite and least favorite challenges, and why?

JT: Oh, good gosh, the kimchi bread pudding 'bout put me in my grave. That one was — yeah, that one was a killer, but you know what? I surprised myself, and I made a hushpuppy out of kimchi bread pudding that I could actually eat, and so I felt like: "That’s alright. I’ll take that."

Guest judges Rhett James McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln judge Finalist Joy Thompson's dish, Kimchi and Bread Pudding, during the Star Challenge, Guest Starring on Good Mythical Morning, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Which element of the competition were you least expecting, be it good or bad?

JT: When I first started on Day One, the main thing was that I didn’t — I thought I would be more familiar with the kitchen before we started. I thought there would be more of a chance to get to know where everything is and maybe practice a few times before we actually did a challenge, but that was not the case, and like I said, the time limits I thought were just for TV. ... So, those two things were a big shot for me, like, it was a shot of reality.

What's the best piece of advice the mentors or Committee members gave you?

JT: It was kind of like I came in, and I didn’t pay attention to anybody, and I didn’t rehearse anything and didn’t think about it, and then just, I just was me, and so when after being here for a while, it, like I said, just everybody’s personalities and what they did right and what they did wrong started entering your brain, and you just kind of have to get it out of the way. And so they said to, you know, just get back to being Joy. So, that’s what I hope to do now.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names.

_____ is the class clown. Rob. Love him.

_____ is the quietest. Probably Havird

_____ is the most daring. Monterey. With food.

_____ has the best recipes. Probably Tregaye

_____ is going to win this competition. Damiano or Tregaye

How did you handle the nerves of working with Bobby, Giada and all of the special guests?

JT: That was one of the hardest things for me because I’m from such a small town that we don’t have any celebrities, like, at all. So, when I was in front of them, and even in the room, they were, like, so far away that it was kind of like they were still on TV. So, when we did tableside and I had to serve them, I was like, oh, my gosh, I’m serving Giada tea. Do you want sugar in your tea? Do you want cream? And it was, like, the most nerve-racking experience ever because they’re real people, but they just seem like — it’s just a surreal experience.

Finalist Joy Thompson during evaluations for the Star Challenge, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

How would you and your fellow finalists spend your downtime between challenges?

JT: When we can, we chat a lot about what we just did and what we would have done differently, but other than that we just kind of talk about our lives at home, and it’s just like friendships in a lot of ways, and then there’s some tension between certain people, but I felt like I got along with everybody and made good friendship out of it. It’s been kind of cool.

Which special guest or mentor were you most excited to learn from in this contest, and why?

JT: I really liked Chef Anne Burrell and Lorraine Pascale. I liked both of them a lot, and I think it maybe comes from the fact that they’re such accomplished women, and ... as a woman, that’s what I aspire to be, so it was really nice to meet them and get some feedback from them.

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

JT: I think I want fans to remember that I was genuine and that I’m not super-fancy, and I’m just a small-town Southern girl. And ... if I can do it, anybody can do it as long as they’re passionate about it.

What’s next for you? What are you going home to?

JT: Going home to my wonderful children and my husband, and I’m going to cook like crazy, my restaurant. And [I] plan to cook a few meals and sit out on the back porch and watch the wild turkeys walk by and spend a little quality time with my family.

Keep coming back for the latest on the Food Network Star competition.