Star-a-Day: Eddie Jackson

Get to know Eddie, a finalist on Food Network Star, Season 11.

There are traditional job interviews, which are surely daunting, then there's Food Network Star: an intense 11-week journey that requires nothing short of flawless technique in the kitchen and a downright sparkly personality on camera. Beginning June 7 at 9|8c, 12 all-new rivals will put their dreams on the line as they endure mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis' lofty challenges, all in the hopes of scoring the most-sought-after culinary career: Food Network host. Star Talk is bringing you the first look at each of the finalists in exclusive, candid interviews, and today we're introducing Texas'  Eddie Jackson.

Eddie, 33 (Houston), is a former NFL player who is a fierce competitor both in the kitchen and on the field. Now a food truck owner, private chef and personal trainer, he is dedicated to making healthy food taste absolutely delicious. In Eddie’s world, there is no need for a “cheat” day, because his good-for-you food is packed with flavor and does not leave you feeling deprived.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence — if you can.

Eddie Jackson: My culinary POV is all about cheat day.

If you could ask Bobby and Giada to teach you one thing in the kitchen, what would it be?

EJ: I would probably ask them how to mask or tame everything that I'm thinking in my head and present it on camera.

What one thing do you really want to convey to the mentors about you, your food or your would-be Food Network show?

EJ: My food is fun. I am fun. I am all about simple, fun and delicious. But at the end of the day, I am a big fan of cheat day. I preach it all the time. You deserve it. You need it. You've been working hard. So my food is going to be made packed with flavor, because you deserve it.

How did you prepare for this competition?

EJ: You really can't prepare for this competition. You just have to be yourself. I think if you prepare too hard, then you'll come off as being something that you're not.

Win or lose, what's something you want to take away from this experience?

EJ: That's what I want to take away: the actual experience, being amongst like-minded peers that are trying to accomplish the same goal that I'm trying to accomplish. But also being around people like Giada and Bobby, people that I've looked up to for a long time.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

EJ: My greatest strength is to be able to mix and match dinner flavors. I don't just cook one specific type of food — not just Asian or Caribbean. I try to do a little bit of everything to mix and match flavors and see what I come up with.

What does your ultimate cheat day meal look like to you?

EJ: My ultimate cheat day meal would have to be something off the grill because I am a grill fanatic. That's why I love Bobby Flay so much. I make a dish called a pulled rib taco. We actually slow-roast ribs, then we pull the meat and make tacos out of it.

What is the strangest thing we'd find in your refrigerator right now?

EJ: The strangest thing you may find in my fridge would probably be something pickled. I love pickling things. So you might find pickled eggs or something like that. I like using a lot of pickles in sweet and savory stuff.

What was the first dish you perfected?

EJ: The very first dish that I perfected was probably an escabeche fish, which is a Jamaican dish in which you lightly fry fish, but it's topped with pickled veggies. So it's kind of on the borderline of being healthy but not healthy, 'cause cheat day.

What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

EJ: I really haven't come across something that I would not at least try or something I would not at least use it. Because just I because I don't like it, maybe somebody else likes it.

What's your favorite late-night snack?

EJ: I am a fanatic for french fries. I hate to it. Being a personal trainer, I teach my people not to eat french fries. But that's my weakness. So on my days, when it's my time to cheat, I go for french fries.

What is one must-have dish at your last supper?

EJ: I'm going to have to have tacos. I am a fanatic for tacos. I was raised in Texas, and the Latin American, the Mexican culture is so big in Texas; we're eating tacos. So some form of tacos, whether it's pork tacos, caritas, something like that, I have to have it. Soft shell — corn.

What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?

EJ: I am you. I've been through a lot of ups and downs in my life, from playing professional football to getting hurt to where I couldn't play anymore and turning my life into food because it's something I've always wanted to do. And I'm a personal trainer. In this day and age, everybody's all about being healthy and being fit, but I also want to give people a chance to express themselves through cheat day. You've been working so hard, everyone is telling you not to eat this, not to eat that, but I want you to eat this, because if you've been doing what you're supposed to do, you deserve a reward.

Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Barbecue sauce
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Bagels
Cream cheese or butter? Cream cheese
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
French fries or onion rings? French fries
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Pie
Beer or wine? Beer
French toast or pancakes? Pancakes

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