Star Scrapbook: Jernard Wells

Jernard was a runner-up to the Season 12 crown after a hard-fought battle in the competition. Relive his journey to the finale.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Patrick Wymore ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Photo By: Eddy Chen ©2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jernard's Journey

A father of nine, Jernard came in second place in the Food Network Star competition, as he ultimately fell to victor Tregaye Fraser following an impressive run in the contest. He not only offered multiple standout dishes, but he wowed the mentors with his entertaining presentations.

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From His Perspective

Each finalist was given a journal to use during the competition, and Jernard filled his primarily with recipe notes. But on the very first page, he signed his name and inscribed a meaningful line, "Let my heart be my guide."

Feeling the Love

Jernard wasted no time in making his POV known, deeming himself "the chef of love" in his first-attempt cold open, and even from the beginning, the mentors were pleased with his presentation skills. "Nice job, especially for a first time," Giada De Laurentiis told him afterward.

Familiar Sighting

Here Jernard jotted down the ingredients — all 18 of them — needed to make his shrimp-and-grits dish, which he presented to the mentors at the movie theater in Week 1. Though the panel appreciated the flavor in the plate, guest judge Tyler Florence noted its familiarity: "I think it's a really good dish. I've just had it before."

Lessons Learned

It took Jernard watching himself in a travelogue video with Monterey to realize an early error in his presentation: the screaming. "I felt like you were going to huff and puff and blow Monterey down," Bobby Flay told him. Afterward, Jernard was determined to not make that mistake again.

Dancing It Out

In the first of several dance scenes this season, Jernard broke it down during the throwdown against Monterey in the Week 2 Star Challenge. "I'm putting the 'butt' in rebuttal," he declared, ultimately delivering a presentation that was both suave and enticing to party guests. "Part of selling a dish when you can't actually eat it is sensuality in the way you describe it," Giada noted. 

Rebounding

Jernard started Week 3 on a lackluster note, unable to fully convey the punny name "Sea and Be Seen" on a plate. But come the Star Challenge, he and Joy shined in a Family Road Trip promo that earned them the top spots that week. "I kind of felt like you guys had a show," Bobby told Jernard and Joy.

A Down Week

Once VIP hotel guest Jesse Tyler Ferguson requested that Jernard's ragoon not be fried, he was forced to resort to a baked version of the dish. The judges questioned his finished dish, but in an addition to that misstep, they also worried about presentation, which Jernard knew was lacking. "I don't tell a story, which is something that I usually do," he noted. "After my tableside element, I'm feeling pity and shame on myself."

"Get Uncivilized"

Following his Week 4 flop at the hotel, Jernard was set on bringing his A-game in Week 5, and indeed he delivered with a "martini-shaking barbecue sauce." This is just what the mentors were hoping to see from him, and Bobby told him to go even further. "You've got that Jernard swagger," Bobby explained. "Get uncivilized."

Bringing It

For the second challenge in a row, Jernard didn't shy away from letting his true self shine, and at the tailgate with guest judge Robert Irvine, he spoke of taking shots with his wife and rubbing her feet. The panel appreciated his genuine appeal, as Giada said, "You feel happiness pouring out of him." His dish, tequila-laced chicken wings, was also successful, as Bobby deemed them "finger-lickin' good." Ultimately Jernard scored a spot in the top three that week.

Mixed Results

Jernard was tasked with bringing artistic design to his Week 6 Mentor Challenge dish, but he ultimately fell short on the sophistication of his lollipop-inspired pork meatballs. But once again, his presentation was a hit, as he popped and locked his way through the video. "This is a show I want to watch," guest Duff Goldman proclaimed.

A Willing Combination

When the guys of Good Mythical Morning stopped by for the Star Challenge in Week 6, Jernard ended up with tuna and a patty melt. Despite the seemingly oddball marriage, he managed to combine them into an impressive sandwich. "You were so confident about your dish," Bobby said, "that people were like, 'Oh, I guess that does work,' no matter what they think."

Making Do

Though initially Jernard wasn't pleased to be working with Erin, who peppered him with questions about her own dish, they came together to give a winning demo at the tiki party in Week 7. The problem, though, was their cake. Because they disagreed about what constituted a glaze, Erin was forced to top it twice, resulting in a too-sweet finished product.

Feeling Fried

Neither the mentors nor Jernard's fellow finalists could believe that he wanted to deep-fry the bread for his Philly cheesesteak come Week 8's Mentor Challenge focusing on regional dishes. He was confident in his choice, but ultimately his plan flopped, as Giada found the fry to be too much. "The grease overwhelms every other flavor," Giada told him. Once again, however, his presentation was strong, and Bobby admitted, "You really believe all of this about being the chef of love."

Guilty Goes Too Far

When tasked with providing a Guilty Pleasures-inspired meal for the judges and guests Alex Guarnaschelli and Trisha Yearwood, Jernard didn't hold back on his food or his personality — and it proved to be one of his biggest missteps in the competition. He offered blatantly suggestive commentary while describing his steak-potato plate with butter, truffles and liquor, and the judges weren't pleased with any of it. "It's one thing to kind of pepper in those innuendos once in a while, but to make it all about that it's just — it's uncomfortable," Bobby said simply.

Welcome to the Final 4

The tide turned for Jernard as he entered Week 9 — well, sort of. After his wife, Keena, surprised him on set, he hosted a spirited (and dance-filled) celebration of Hot Buttered Rum Day, which was such a success that he earned the Mentor Challenge win. But come the Star Challenge, he stumbled after taking a risk in his gumbo recipe as he prepared for a Mardi Gras party.

Straying from the Classics

"I just hope that it still has that Louisiana flavors that's supposed to be in it," Jernard said of adding nontraditional ingredients like Chinese five-spice powder and Worcestershire sauce to his gumbo. Ultimately the resulting dish was more akin to "a steak sauce," according to Giada, than it was a Cajun classic. "This does not taste like gumbo to me, at all," guest judge Tia Mowry noted. Jernard landed on the bottom in Week 9 but managed to avoid elimination and advance to the top three.

Fighting for a Pilot

With everything on the line in the penultimate episode, when Jernard, Damiano and Tregaye were contending with the recently returned winner of Star Salvation for one of three pilot opportunities, Jernard proclaimed, "They want a Food Network Star, I'm going to give them a Food Network Star." And indeed he delivered, because with the help of sous chef Aaron, he put forth a pork chop-mac and cheese offering that was simply wowing. "The dish was — it was close to flawless," according to Bobby.

A Bold Finish

In true Jernard fashion, his final presentation was entertaining, and of course he managed to work in a quick dance number. Ultimately he earned the second pilot spot, and he celebrated with an impromptu backflip, much to the shock of the mentors.

Mission: Pilot

Jernard' pilot took him to Harold and Belle's in Los Angeles, where he worked with director Guy Fieri to tout and sample the restaurant's legendary Creole menu. "The goal for me today is to make Guy feel like I'm coming after his job," Jernard joked, and sure enough, he proved to be a natural as the process unfolded. "You should feel good about that," Guy told Jernard at the end of filming.

A Finale Showing

At the finale, Jernard reflected on his time in the competition, noting his feelings: "It's beyond cloud nine ... just making it this far and having this opportunity." Though indeed disappointed to not have won, he handled the defeat with grace.

Chatting with the Runners-Up

We checked in with Jernard and Damiano at the end of the season. Hear what they had to say about the competition in an exclusive exit interview.

Go Behind the Scenes

See what the mentors, finalists and crew are up to between takes by checking out insider photos from the set.

More: Behind the Scenes of Food Network Star, Season 12: Part 2

Want More Food Network Star?

Check out Food Network's official Star headquarters for more insider coverage of the competition, plus exclusive mentor interviews, behind-the-scenes photos and winning recipes.

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