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

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

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. Here on Star Talk, we'll be bringing you the first exclusive exit interviews with the ousted finalists as they're sent home. Check back here every Sunday night for new one-on-one chats to hear from the just-eliminated competitors, learn their thoughts on the competition, and find out how they feel about the mentors' critiques of their final dishes and presentations. We're about to break down the ins and outs of tonight's new episodes and reveal who went home, so if you've yet to watch the show, read no further until then.

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

Patrick Wymore, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

The Week 8 Star Challenge had the potential to be a slam-dunk for Erin. After Ana initially chose the dessert course in the Guilty Pleasures dinner for herself, Tregaye exercised her advantage from the Mentor Challenge and gave the dessert assignment to Erin instead, which meant that this professional baker had the opportunity to make a next-level-indulgent dessert for the judges. She was thrilled about this and confident in her chocolate chip cookie offering. "What's so over-the-top about this dessert is chocolate," she explained. But that euphoria didn't last, as Bobby told her that her dish wasn't the "very, very decadent" plate she presented it to be during the meal. "When I think about a rich chocolate dessert, I'm thinking, like, so rich in chocolate that … you can feel like the pimples coming out on your face. That was not the case there at all," Bobby explained.

Ultimately, Erin was sent home this week in an emotionally trying elimination. We checked in with her to get her thoughts on preparing her final plate and to dish about her fellow finalists. Read on below to see what she had to say.

What was your approach to your final dish and presentation — what your mindset was in preparing for them and how you executed them?

Erin Campbell: The last challenge was “guilty pleasures” — making something that was just so decadently rich that it was, like, borderline ridiculous. So I went with chocolate. You know, because to me that is, like, the ultimate indulgent, rich, ridiculously scrumdiddlyumptious ingredient that I could choose for dessert within a very limited timeframe, ‘cause that is the hard part. As a baker, yeah, the sky is the limit, and it is a silver platter when you get dessert as a baker, but with time constraints you’re limited, and so I went with chocolate, ‘cause I know chocolate sets up well, I know I can execute a lot of different components in chocolate quickly. And so I made a double chocolate chip cookie with a dark chocolate ganache and a chocolate cheesecake whip, and it was quite delicious. I stand behind my dish 150 percent, and I would do the exact same thing over again if I was asked to.

Finalist Erin Campbell preparing her dish, Jambalaya Hot Dog, for the Mentor Challenge, Food Authority, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

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

Eddy Chen, 2016, 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?

EC: Doing this show was probably the most-stressful thing I’ve ever done. … Doing Holiday Baking Championship was still a longer show. You know, six to eight weeks is still a while, but you’re in your element. You’re doing what you do every day. No matter what curveball they throw at you, you have probably dealt with worse with wedding season. So that was almost relaxing compared to what this show was.

Thinking beyond your last challenge, what one piece of mentor feedback will you always remember and keep with you?

EC: I think that the one piece of advice that I was given from the mentors … is the one that they didn’t like in the end, and that was “Be confident in everything you do.” Even if you’re not confident in it, be confident — like, show confidence in what you do, and so I took that to heart.

Guest Judge Robert Irvine with Hosts Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis sample Finalist Erin Campbell's dish, Backyard Brat Bites, for the Star Challenge, Tailgating with Robert Irvine, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

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

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

What were your most- and least favorite challenges?

EC: Well, my least favorite challenges, surprisingly, were the baking challenges. … So, that kind of sucked, but my favorite, honestly, was the tailgate, because there’s just so many people, and you got to intermingle with, you know, a whole bunch of different fans and people that you’ve never met, and you got to feed them. That’s, like, one of my favorite things — is standing around a barbecue having conversations with people while they’re eating my food, because it’s so fun and you get to know people on a deeper level that way. It's very one-on-one, very engaging even though it’s in a big crowd. So, that was really awesome, and yeah, I could do that all day every day. That was super, super, super fun. It just makes me sad that I can’t say that the baking challenges are my favorite. It really does, like, hurt my heart. … As a baker it pains me to not be able to say that.

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

EC: The least expected positive thing that happened — ‘cause I like, I honestly do like, to try to stay positive. It’s been my life motto forever: Stay positive — was just meeting so many actual goodhearted people. Like, not all contestants are fabulously golden-hearted people. I wish that I could say that all 13 were, but I can’t, but of the 13, there are eight of us who’re just genuine, golden-hearted, epic-to-the-bone people that I will be friends with for years and years and years to come. So, meeting those people and forming quick relationships that I feel are going to be lasting relationships — because we’ve been through so much stress together already. You know, we’ve been through more stress than most mature friendships have gone through. So, I think that we’re past the bumps in the road at this point, and I’m excited to see what life has in store for all of us.

Finalists Erin Campbell and Damiano Carrara preparing their dishes for the Mentor Challenge, Freeze-Out, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Finalists Erin Campbell and Damiano Carrara preparing their dishes for the Mentor Challenge, Freeze-Out, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Finalists Erin Campbell and Damiano Carrara preparing their dishes for the Mentor Challenge, Freeze-Out, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names.
_____ is the class clown. Class clown, unexpectedly, would have to be Damiano, cuz he’s funny without trying.
_____ is the quietest. Jernard, but when he speaks it’s very wise.
_____ is the most daring. Probably Rob, because he is so out-of-the-box. Like, he does so many things that I’m just like, “Whaaaat? Like, where in the world did you get that idea?”
_____ has the best recipes. I would say Jernard or Joy, just ‘cause I want to eat their food every time they talk about it. Even if they mess up, like in presentation, I’m like, “I still want to try it.”
_____ is going to win this competition. I think that Joy or Jernard should win, because I feel like they are the most genuinely deserving of the bunch.

Guest Judge Robert Irvine speaks with Finalist Erin Campbell while she is preparing her dish, Backyard Brat Bites, for the Star Challenge, Tailgating with Robert Irvine, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

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

Eddy Chen, 2016, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

You saw a whole roster of special guests come in and out. And, obviously, you were working with Bobby and Giada. How did you handle the nerves that I’m sure were there?

EC: I don’t get starstruck. I don’t know if it’s because I was born and raised in California — you know, you get used to seeing them on the street. They’re just normal people. I get excited. Like, when I meet people that I’m excited to meet, like Robert Irvine, I jump up and down, I get really excited, I want to hug them, but then they won’t let me, and so for me it’s not so much nerves. It’s more like, “I want to talk to you all day long and get to know who you are.” So I wasn’t nervous at any point.

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

EC: I always love to continuously learn from Duff. … So, I always continuously like to learn from him, but definitely also Robert Irvine. I have mad respect for him. I think that he is a fantastic chef, a fantastic person, and I was very excited to meet him as well as to just hear some of his feedback on my food and other contestants’ food, because you can still learn from critiques that go to other people as well.

Finalists Erin Campbell and Jernard Wells during the Star Challenge, Tiki Takeover, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Finalists Erin Campbell and Jernard Wells during the Star Challenge, Tiki Takeover, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

Finalists Erin Campbell and Jernard Wells during the Star Challenge, Tiki Takeover, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 12.

There were so many team-based challenges this year. How did you handle the individual nature of the competition and the need to show your own Star power but also work together and manage expectations of the group?

EC: I think that me being a general manager for so long really helped me coordinate that quite well. I know when I need to take the backseat and be the supportive role that thinks about exactly what they’re going to say to get the most information into 10 words, and then I also know how to be the leader, and I know how to be just the supportive middle team player. … I’m able to morph into what’s ever needed for a team. So, I think that that helped benefit me, like, extremely well, because unlike a lot of my opponents, I never ever spoke over someone. I never ever put … one of my teammates down. … I’m a team player, because it’s my job to build teams. It’s my job to make that heartbeat go. So, for me being in teams this much this season wasn’t difficult. I mean, it was difficult in the sense that I wanted to shine, of course, but I also know that you can be a shining supportive player, and you can win being a good supportive player, because you have to be able to support your team in order to make it to the finish line, ‘cause you can’t win unless the last person crosses. So, you’re only as strong as your weakest link.

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

EC: That vanilla only grows in three places in the world: Tahiti, Madagascar and Mexico. And honestly, I am the Tahitian bourbon vanilla, and I’m OK with that, because vanilla is rare, and it’s one of the most-prized ingredients that you can have. So, even if you’re vanilla, you shine, and you remember that we’re here for a reason, and you were chosen for a reason, and it is your job to be a blessing upon others instead of a blessing for yourself.

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

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