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

Hear from the eighth Food Network Star finalist eliminated from the competition in an exclusive interview.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

It's the nature of the Food Network Star beast that even though no matter how badly finalists want to achieve their dreams of stardom, ultimately only one can win the coveted title, and with that, 11 finalists will be going home. Every week Star Talk will bring you the first exclusive interview with the most-recently eliminated finalist. From thoughts on mentors' critiques to reflections on past challenges and hopes for the future, be sure to check back every Sunday night for the latest one-on-one chat. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episode and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

There are two different yet equally important elements to being a Food Network Star: culinary chops and camera charm. While Dom indeed boasted undeniable kitchen mastery, his camera presence was weak enough to land him among the bottom performers multiple times. This week the name of the game was brand building, and while Arnold was excited to get started on what he envisioned to be his "global brand," Dom was simply dumbfounded by where to begin. For his signature dinner-in-a-delivery-box presentation, he served up breaded chicken with an arugula salad, plus a one-minute performance that Bobby deemed "a huge improvement" over past video challenges. Unfortunately, though, that strength and confidence didn't last, as Dom once again fell into his old pattern of fumbling words with awkward pauses when it came time for the Star Challenge.

In a holiday extravaganza, Dom chose to celebrate Christmas, and in presenting a traditional fish stew for the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve, he appeared "scripted," according to Bobby — ultimately enough to subject Dom to possible elimination yet again. Tonight, though, after eight weeks in the competition, he was sent home, as Bobby told him during evaluation: "There's no magic here. We know that you can cook. But these gentlemen next to you, they're all good cooks too. And they're all really good in front of the camera."

Read on below to hear from Dom as he explains his camera struggles and looks back on his proudest moment of the competition.

Guest judge Damaris Phillips and finalist Dom Tesoriero during evaluation of the Star Challenge, Food Stars at Home for the Holidays, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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

Dom Tesoriero: Life is grand. At the end of the day, not because I was happy to go, but because this is the best opportunity in the whole wide world. What's there to be upset about? I came here. I did my best. You know what I mean? And that was good for me. I made progress, so life is grand.

Do you stand by your last cooked dish and presentation, or do you think the judges missed something?

DT: Absolutely. I think my last cooked dish and presentation were awesome. The food was beautiful and ... very well-executed. The presentation, although in my head went so horribly, after finally having the opportunity to see it, I was really proud of it, because from where I was Week 1 to where I am right now, is two completely different people, and that's good for me. But you are in the last five with the best people here, so even if it wasn't good enough to keep me going, it was good enough for me to feel happy about it.

If you could talk to your Week 1 self and give him advice knowing what you know now, what would you say?

DT: I don't waste wishes. So for me, I wouldn't tell my Week 1 self anything other than enjoy the moment — just like I did — and roll with the punches. That's it.

Finalist Dom Tesoriero preparing his dish, Roast Chicken, Crispy Kale, Stinky Polenta, for the Star Challenge, Trendy Dinner, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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

DT: To people watching at home, I would imagine this opportunity, this completion, is grueling. It is a lot of hours. It is a lot of work and it's not just physical, but it's mental. I think that the average person at home, before I had the opportunity to come here, if they knew what really went on, would have so much more respect for the TV personality and what they have to do on a daily basis.

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

DT: There's a lot of my mentor feedback that I'm going to keep with me, but at the end of the day when Bobby Flay told me that the only thing standing in my way is me — and you know, I get it. Because I understood it. I'm like, I understand that. It's hard. Eight weeks ago, I was selling macaroni and cheese in the street in Manhattan, and now I'm here, in Los Angeles, doing all this stuff that I've never done before. I'm putting up a good fight, so. I get it, but Rome wasn't built in a day.

While your food was consistently strong, you seemed to deliver roller coaster results when it came to talking in front of a camera. Why do you think you struggled so much with that?

DT: You realize things about your life, like in the past how I've sidestepped public speaking in every way. You don't realize it, but you find ways to just get out of that kind of stuff. And then you're thrown into this situation where it's like, you're not avoiding anything. It's my biggest fear — next to heights. Collectively, heights and public speaking are my two biggest fears, and that confronted head on with millions of people watching and taking some beatings out there while doing it. Having the willpower to get up in the morning and go out and do it again in front of millions of people — I think that that's commendable.

Finalist Dom Tesoriero introducing himself to the Selection Committee Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

It's no secret that Bobby and Giada were big fans of your cooking. What's your proudest moment of the competition?

DT: They told me that I was the best chef here, which to me is a huge compliment, when you're talking about people that are legends in food. And Bobby Flay is an elite cooking talent who was wiping the floor with top-notch competition on Iron Chef America when I was still in junior high school. For a guy to come out and tell you, like, that's like vindication. That's like, alright, all those years, all those books I read, all those times I worked in restaurants for, like, no money, and all that kind of stuff. It paid off here, and that's great.

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

DT: Honestly, I saw the last season of the show. I thought if the competition was going to be like that, the food, I was going to steamroll through everybody here. It's not even going to be a question. Last year people weren't even completing dishes in the time, and now this year, nobody even came close to not — everybody here was on point. It's a true competition. I wasn't just going to be able to beat these people out by making good food and learning to talk to a camera while I was here. You have to be the total package, and that's why the people that are left are here. It was a pleasant surprise. I was happy for my competitive nature, for my other people to be putting out great stuff and knowing that you have to top them. That's motivating for me.

Guest Judge David Alan Grier and finalist Dom Tesoriero during the Star Challenge, Improv, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

What's one or two funny behind-the-scenes moments with your fellow cast members you can share?

DT: There are more funny behind-the-scenes moments than I can keep count on, but the best part is that most of the funniest moments were on scene. Our reactions to things that happened on camera, like [the] David Alan Grier [challenge]. That whole thing. My four-minute demonstration that only lasted 90 seconds of talking, two minutes of me eating duck and ridiculous questions I posed. I didn't even. I blacked out. So ridiculous.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names.
_____ is the class clown. Eddie is the class clown, for sure.
_____ is the quietest. Who the hell here was quiet is really the answer to that question. I don't think anyone here was really quiet. Matthew is the most quiet, I would imagine, when he wasn't screaming at everyone.
_____ is the most daring. Arnold, for sure
_____ has the best recipes. I think Alex has the best recipes because they're the most hilarious, because no one can pronounce any of them.
Considering Bobby, Giada and all of the special guests, you've worked with quite a few big names in the culinary industry and beyond. Did you find that to be intimidating, and how did you deal with the nerves?

DT: I'll tell you right now, the minute I got here, I was incredibly intimidated. That first spotlight challenge, the 30 seconds — who are you? I'm standing under a light and Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis are standing in front me. That was the most-intimidating moment since I've been here. And then to have to continually put yourself out there, like, struggling against — your inside is telling you, cover up, cover up, cover up, and being out there in front of all these big names, having to try to be charming and do whatever, every moment was very nerve-racking. You just take them head on, even if you're going to fail. Even if you're not going to get it done, you have to just take it head on.

Finalists Alex McCoy and Dom Tesoriero during the Star Challenge, Food Truck Showdown, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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

DT: My favorite challenge — the food truck challenge. That was so much fun. We were running around like crazy people. My least-favorite challenge in hindsight was the 4th of July, because I lost out of my best ingredients and it was, like, the first of the huge twists that they started throwing at us. It was just at that point where I started to get comfortable with these presentations, they were like, nahhhh. Now you cook Chinese food. I'm like, wait a minute. I'm not ready for that.

Which special guest or mentor were you most excited to learn from in this contest?
DT: Bobby Flay
What's the best piece of advice Bobby gave you?

DT: Off the top of my head, just be yourself. Ultimately, he understood you're going to sink or swim here being yourself. Try to be anybody else, you're not going to. I'm not trying to be the cookie-cutter chef — never was going to happen. But I came here under the impression that I'm going to be me, and either you're going to like me for me, or they're not going to like me for me. And they liked me for me, which was great, because it certainly wasn't because of my presentations. They saw who I was, and they recognized that, and they saw potential. And him just encouraging me to be myself is great.

Finalists Arnold Myint, Dom Tesoriero, and Alex McCoy during elimination, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 11.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

DT: That's not something I ever really thought about. I'm authentic. This is no character. This is no fake person. I am what I am. Anyone can do it. Even though I didn't get it done, I had my little glimpses of my moments of who I could potentially be. Never be afraid of anything, and follow your dreams. That's it.

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

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