Star-a-Day: Jason Smith

Get to know Jason Smith, a finalist competing on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

It was just last week that we here at Star Talk broke the news about the upcoming season of Food Network Star, which kicks off on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c. Among a crop of talented hopefuls judge-mentors extraordinaire Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis will search for that one contender who has the coveted combo of culinary chops and on-camera charm. Each of the 12 finalists comes to the Star stage with unique personalities and kitchen experiences, and in the coming days, we'll introduce you to all of them. Today we'd like you to meet Jason Smith.

From his bright and vibrant outfits to his off-the-cuff sayings, Jason, 39, describes himself as the down-home chef. A school cafeteria cooking manager and caterer, Jason has been cooking his entire life, with his modern, elevated recipes not only tasting delicious, but also being budget friendly. A self-taught chef and baker who previously competed on and won Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship, Jason shows viewers you don’t have to be a professional chef to cook delicious food.

Describe your culinary POV in one sentence.

Jason Smith: My culinary POV is country bling. Now, that’s not where I’m cooking with rhinestones on my jeans. What that is, is I take old, dying country recipes, and I bring them back to life and make them modern, elevated and fancied up a little bit.

What would you most like to learn from Bobby and Giada, be it something in the kitchen or on camera?

JS: As much as I can, because I know they know exactly what they’re doing, and every little thing that I can learn from them is just another notch in my belt.

What do you think is the most valuable thing you could teach a Food Network viewer?

JS: The most-valuable thing is how to make quick and easy recipes. Instead of doing a recipe that’s 10-hours long, cut it down to make that same recipe in four hours. There's tips and tricks that we can do or that I can teach to show you how to do that.

How did you prepare for this competition?
JS: Just everyday life.

Which part of this contest — the cooking or the camera work — intimidates you the most? Please explain.

JS: I guess I would have to say neither because I’m very confident in my cooking, but then I’m also confident on camera. And I guess being on the holiday baking [show] helped me a whole lot because I’ve already been in front of the camera, so it’s a little toss-up. It can both be a little intimidating at times.

Win or lose, what do you want to take away from this experience?

JS: Just the whole experience in the whole because it is an experience of a lifetime. Not everybody gets to do it, so you take every minute and you just learn from it. You enjoy it and you learn from everything that happens.

What does the term "Food Network Star" represent to you?

JS: I started kind of in the bottom, nobody really knowing who I am. And [for me] to become a Food Network Star, it would show people: "Hey, where has this boy been all of his life? We've needed him, and now here he is. Where has he been?" So, it would mean so many different things to me, not only to be a Star, [but] to show people: "Hey, look. This is a country boy from Kentucky, and he’s a Star now. He’s on TV. He’s up there with the big dogs, just showing people that, hey, just because you’re not a culinary chef who's been through school, it doesn’t matter. You can still do it. Whatever your dream is, reach for it."

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

JS: I have very good time management. I know a lot of quick, easy fixes to things that can make it seem like it took days to cook, but only a few minutes to do it. Preparation — I’m a fast-paced cook. I’m always two steps ahead, so I think that’ll help out a lot.

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

JS: It's a Phenergan suppository in case you get a sick stomach. Not that you want to cook with it, but.

Let's say it's a regular Tuesday night and you're at home. What are you having for dinner?

JS: Tuesday night is usually taco night, so it’s either going to be tacos or taco salad. In the summer, Tuesday nights are grill nights. So you just never know what Tuesday night’s going to hold. It just depends on what I wake up with on my mind that morning.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?

JS: One of my signature dish is a garlic-studded polenta with pan-seared pork chops and a tomato gravy.

So you’re going to focus on savory dish, not necessarily baked goods, in this competition?

JS: I’m known for savory and sweet, so I kind of have both sides that I can work. If I decide that the sweet side’s going to work better, then I’m going to go sweet. If savory, then I’m going to go savory.

What dish or ingredient will we never see you eating?

JS: Lavender. Well, I'll eat it, but I’m just not fond of it because it makes everything taste like your granny’s dish-washing liquid, and I just don’t have nothing for lavender.

What's your favorite guilty pleasure food?

JS: I have so many. I would have to say lobster mac and cheese is one of my favorite guilty foods.

What's one dish you have to have at your last supper?
JS: My homemade Italian crème cake.
What do you want to say about yourself to fans watching at home?

JS: I’ve taken my fans on a journey of the sweet side. Now it’s time to show them [that], hey, there’s another side of Jason. Not only can I do sweets, but I can do savory as well. So, I’m kind of the whole package.

What's the first dish aspiring cooks should master?

JS: Besides boiling water is always frying an egg. You should know how to soft-fry an egg, poach an egg, how to boil an egg, because eggs are everything.

Mark your calendar for the premiere of Food Network Star on Sunday, June 4 at 9|8c.

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