Star-a-Day: Jay Ducote

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

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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 Louisiana's Jay Ducote.

Jay, 33 (Baton Rouge, La.), calls himself a food ambassador for South Louisiana, and he’s ready to take the gig nationwide. Jay’s passion for cooking started at LSU tailgates, and now this charismatic chef has his own culinary media company. His deep connection to and appreciation for the Louisiana food scene has led to cooking-competition victories and media awards, and he is primed to bring that award-winning personality and charm to the screen.

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

Jay Ducote: I am a blogger, radio host, professional tailgater and Cajun boy that just wants to bring good flavor and outdoor cooking to Food Network.

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

JD: Bobby, I would want to learn some of his master grilling techniques. I mean, I'm pretty good on the grill — and outdoor cooking and barbecue is really one of the things I'm best at — but I also know that there's so much to learn, and Bobby is a master. So I would love to spend a day just grilling with Bobby Flay and learning from him.

Giada, I would really want to learn what she does best, which is Italian, and the authentic food to her. I've never been to Italy. I've been to parts of Europe — Ireland and Portugal is where I've been most of the time — but I've never experienced true Italian outside of Italian-Americans cooking in America. And so that's what I would want to learn from her is just some of the Italian techniques and sauces and pasta.

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

JD: I think the main thing that I would want to convey is my passion and my enthusiasm for food. I tell everybody that I eat and drink for a living, and that's because I love food and beverage, and I love the culture behind it. I'm blessed to be from Louisiana, and Louisiana is known for its culinary culture; it's one of the culinary capitals of America, as far as having our own unique cuisine and, actually, cuisines plural, with both Cajun and Creole and then influences from the traditional South, barbecue influences from Texas. I mean, it's all over the place, but very defined. We have our own culinary culture. And that's what drives me, and everything that I do back home is to explore and promote and celebrate that culinary culture, and that's what I would want them to know ... that's where my heart's at.

How did you prepare for this competition?

JD: Fortunately, I would say that I've been preparing for this for the last five years — maybe more than that if you really count all of my cooking experience and tailgating and everything else. I've been working on being a culinary personality for the last five years back home, doing all sorts of writing, radio, TV and other events. I've emceed seafood cook-offs, I have been on multiple television programs, I do cooking demos on the news, I do cooking demos at farmers markets and things like that. And everything that I do with food is actually in front of people. I'm not a restaurant chef and I don't cook in a kitchen where the only people I'm interacting with are my employees or my cohorts in the kitchen. I am more of a media chef to begin with. And when I do cook professionally, it's doing pop-up dinners where I'm interacting with people or it's as a private chef going to people's houses and interacting with them while I cook. And so all of that just kind of comes naturally to me. I'd say I've been preparing since I started that career path, which is about five years ago.

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

JD: Win or lose, I certainly hope I grow and develop for my own career. As I said, culinary media is kind of what I'm all about already, and I know that I'm going to leave here with at least some extra skills that I've learned, some great advice from people that have really been around the block doing this. And because of that, there's just no way that I'm not going to go home with something, if it's not winning the whole thing; hopefully it's close. And no matter what, I'm going to pick up some skills and some pointers and some tips and techniques along the way that are great for the line of work that I'm already in.

What's your greatest strength in the kitchen?

JD: My biggest strength is proteins, and I would say maybe even the more-obscure-to-some-people proteins. I grew up hunting and fishing, so cooking things like duck or quail or venison or lamb is really where I think I excel — where I have a true strength. Those are things that I'm passionate about cooking, that I really feel like I know how to cook well, and maybe foods that a lot of people don't necessarily know how to cook well, which is where I think it gives me an edge or it's a strength of mind. And then I think the other real strength that I have is kind of on the creativity and just imagination and flavor combination side. ... I eat a lot. It's what I do. And because of that, I get to explore. I travel and eat. I go to every restaurant in my hometown of Baton Rouge, or anytime I can get to New Orleans or Lafayette, La., I go eat. And so I get to see all these things that all these other chefs are doing, and I get inspired by their creativity and can kind of really get a chance to play around with a lot of different flavor combinations instead of a chef that is in the same restaurant every day cooking the same menu every day and they just don't get to get out and be inspired by the world around them.

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

JD: It's not my fridge, but it's my deep freezer. There are a couple of rattlesnakes and a couple squirrels in my freezer at the house right now. You can go look. I hunted a lot with my dad in south Texas.

What was the first dish you perfected?
JD: My blackberry bourbon bone-in Boston butt
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?

JD: My archnemesis in the food world is pickles. However, anything pickled, except just an old jarred pickle, I like. I really love pickling things. It's not the vinegar that bothers me. It's just bread-and-butter pickles, dill pickles, any of that that's like, you go to a store and buy a jar of pickles, I will not like it.

The other one that I really truly just won't eat is canned asparagus. Fresh asparagus? Love it. Canned asparagus? Why do they put it in a can? I don't get it.

What's your favorite late-night snack?

JD: I love movie theater popcorn. I will eat a giant tub of that in one sitting — and then sometimes go back for the free refill. Popcorn at home at midnight works too.

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

JD: Barbecued ribs. Have to have it. I'm a barbecue guy.

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

JD: I hope I come across as genuine as I am. I'm a very genuine, humble, but passionate and enthusiastic guy, and I hope that comes across.

Rapid fire: Think fast!
Ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise? Mustard
Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate
Bagels or doughnuts? Doughnuts
Cream cheese or butter? Butter
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Burgers or hot dogs? Burgers
French fries or onion rings? Onion rings
White meat or dark? Dark
Cake or pie? Pie

Beer or wine? Local craft beer. Then whiskey, then wine. But I do like it all.

French toast or pancakes? Waffles

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