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

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

Finalists Rue Rusike, Arnold Myint, Dom Tesoriero and Michelle Karam in elimination for the Star Challenge, Perfect Match, 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 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.

The name of the game was matches in Week 5, when finalists not only had to trade their most-favorite ingredients with a partner but later pair up with one of their rivals and fuse their culinary perspectives into a single dish. For Rue, the episode started out strong; after cooking Jay's venison loin well, she appropriately critiqued the dish he'd made with her branzino, which earned the win in the Mentor Challenge and an advantage come the Star Challenge at Patina Restaurant.

In downtown Los Angeles at Patina, Rue used her earlier win to trade her assigned partner, Dom, for Arnold instead; as she explained, "I know that we can really blend well together with our flavors." Despite the duo's best plans for combining their South African and Thai cultures into a single surf-and-turf offering, Rue and Arnold failed to execute the dish, underseasoning and undercooking its key elements, and unfortunately for them, their presentation didn't help matters. The Selection Committee was left wondering about the whys and whats behind the plate, and Rue and Arnold joined Dom and Michelle in the bottom. Ultimately, though, it was Rue who learned her fate tonight, as Bobby explained, "She doesn't give us what we want, which is to really define what she's cooking and who she is."

Read on below to hear from Rue in her first exclusive exit interview and find out what she had to say about her last-cooked dish.

What three words best describe how you're feeling right now?
Rue Rusike: Disappointed, shocked and hurt.
What was your initial reaction in hearing that you were sent home tonight?

RR: I literally went into shock, because I wasn't expecting it. I know it sounds a little conceited, but it's not. But I just was not expecting to go home. And the minute Bobby was like, "Sorry, Rue," I was like, "What? You're kidding me."

Finalists Rue Rusike and Arnold Myint preparing their dish, African and Asian Land & Sea, for the Star Challenge, Perfect Match, 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

Do you stand by your last-cooked dish and presentation?

RR: They said that Arnold's vegetables were raw. I tasted them during cooking, and there was a point where I was like, they're too crunchy, let's put them back in. So he put them back in, but then he didn't want them to overcook, so during the heat-up, I didn't taste them then, and neither did he taste my steak and shrimp in the heat-up. But I stand by my protein. I have never seasoned anything so much in my life, to the point where I almost felt it was too salty. And had they said to me it was overseasoned, I actually would have been like, you're right. But in fact they said it was not seasoned — I used about 11 spices, so I stand by my dish.

How would you explain to fans at home what this competition is really like?

RR: This competition is tougher than you could ever imagine. It is like doing a marathon in five minutes and thinking that you're going to be OK.

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

RR: That I need to bring out my personality more. I think I do this thing where I worry what people think, so it's very easy to have a facade, and then I'm also really young, but I'm lucky enough to have had great success in my career. So I've constantly been, like, "Oh, yeah, you're the boss and you're putting on this face and you're being this person," and you forget to just be the silly you. And so that advice about bringing out my personality for me is going to stick with me.

If you had the chance to talk to yourself on Day One of the competition, what would you tell yourself?

RR: I would say, "You are an idiot, and you need to stop being as nervous as you are, because it's just about having fun." And I think I would say to myself, "Don't be nervous. Just have fun, but, like, seriously understand it." Because thought I understood it throughout the competition, but I didn't.

Finalist Rue Rusike preparing her dish, Mozambican Shrimp Curry, for the Star Challenge, Food Star Showcase, 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?

RR: I loved the food festival challenge, the first challenge. It was outdoors. For me, cooking outdoors gives you a relaxed element. It makes you relax a little more, and had I been in a kitchen for the first challenge, I probably would have just not even smiled or I would have gone into, like, chef mode. So food festival was definitely my favorite challenge because it put me in a relaxed state of mind. And then least favorite actually happened to be Patina, the episode I got eliminated from. I find that being in a professional kitchen, like I was saying, definitely puts me in this chef-focused mode, and a lot of the kitchens I've worked in, them being fine dining, you don't talk, you don’t smile and joke around; there's just no time. So I immediately put myself in this space that you are in a kitchen, you are a chef, focus. So it was my least favorite because it made me my most-professional self, which took away the fun personality that people need to see.

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

RR: I was least expecting the talent to be as good as it is — my fellow finalists. I wasn't expecting everyone to be extremely talented in what they do and to be as personable and as lovely as they were. I did expect that I would have a leg up, being a chef and coming into this, and then I came, and I just wasn't expecting everyone to be as great as they are.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names:
_____ is the class clown. Rosa
_____ is the quietest. Matthew and me
_____ is the most daring. I would say it's a contest between Arnold and Rosa.
_____ has the best recipes. Dom
Between 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?

RR: It was intimidating to work with all these amazing chefs, because they're tasting your food, and when you have someone who is that well-trained in their craft and that well-known in their industry, you want them to like your food and you want them to give you good feedback, so it was nerve-racking.

Behind the scenes shot of finalist Rue Rusike in evaluations for the Mentor Challenge, Kraft Pantry, 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

You were one of the few finalists who came in with a very narrow, defined point of view. Do you think that put you in a box, so to speak, to a certain extent?

RR: I think it did put me in a box to a certain extent, but I also think it helped me. I found that going on this competition helped me in more ways than I thought. I came on almost wary of being comfortable showing the world my food and what I do and having people be comfortable with it — because not a lot of people know what it is anyway. And outside of the competition, it made me comfortable with what I do. On the competition, I could have given myself a little bit more leeway with my culinary point of view; I could have helped myself in that regard, because I do cook a lot more French and Asian food than I do actually African in my professional life. So I did kind of put myself in a box, but I'm happy I did it, though.

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

RR: That it's OK to be different. I want fans to remember that they should have conviction for what they believe in, they should stand for what they believe in. I never used to have conviction within my Southern African culture, and I never used to highlight that that was a huge part of who I am. So I think people should take away from the show, about me, that it's a good thing to embrace your culture and it's a good thing to be exactly who you are and that people will love you anyway.

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

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