Star-a-Day: Yaku Moton-Spruill
It was only recently that Star Talk broke the news that an unprecedented 12th season of Food Network Star is set to unfold this summer. For the first time ever, a prequel competition — Comeback Kitchen — will bring together seven past Star contestants for a no-holds-barred battle. The winner of this three-week tournament will join the dozen first-time Food Network Star finalists in the premiere episode on Sunday, May 22 at 9|8c. But before the new season kicks off, we're introducing all 12 of the hopeful rivals in exclusive, one-on-one interviews. Keep checking back every day to meet a new member of the cast. Today we'd like you to meet Yaku Moton-Spruill.
Standing at 6 feet 9 inches, Yaku, 33 (San Francisco), was pretty much guaranteed to have the basketball world’s attention from an early age. But even while playing professionally in Europe, he couldn’t shake the fact that nothing made him as happy as cooking did. Born in Inkster, Mich., Yaku learned the art of the hustle, selling chicken dinners out of his dorm room in college to make money. Yaku draws his food philosophy from his Southern and Caribbean heritage, and he specializes in Latin American, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that's shareable .
YMS: Probably Bobby just 'cause you get to see him — he goes out places and beats people at their own thing, and he's kind of stone-faced ... so it's kind of intimidating.
YMS: I'd say Italian food from Giada. ... I mean, she's rustic Italian and that's something I love.
YMS: I would just be so new to the Food Network. I would be something refreshing but also something — I mean, it's the food, it's the chef that knows his food, but it's also a different package, I guess you would say. It’s like when you rebrand, when you got cereal and you change the box. I kind of feel like I'd be that changed box for Food Network.
YMS: A lot of monologues, talking to myself a lot and really trying to work within 30-second time periods of being able to explain myself and explain things that I like in my food and things like that.
YMS: I just want people to see that [you can] go out and live your dreams and aspirations, and never [let] anybody put you in a box. If you want to do it, jump out and do it.
YMS: My leadership. I'm an excellent leader in the kitchen. I have no problem guiding the reins or guiding the team through a rough, busy night. I have no problem with that — I actually like it.
YMS: Probably something my fiancée has in there. ... She has some pretty funky sauces in there that I don't even know what — I don't know if they're good or not. They just stay on her side.
YMS: My signature dish probably is Jamaican tortilla soup. I love it. People try it. It's something familiar 'cause everybody has heard of tortilla soup, but not with that Jamaican spin.
YMS: My favorite food city to visit would probably be North Carolina. I love the food in North Carolina 'cause it's not just the barbecue, but it's the little red hot dogs that they got at the gas stations ... with coleslaw. And they're the best things in the world. I eat six of them at a time.
YMS: Chitlins. You'll never see me eating chitlins. You'll never see me cooking them. You'll never see me around anybody that's cooking them.
YMS: Cereal. A huge, gigantic Tupperware bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
YMS: Ice cream. I'm a huge ice-cream fanatic. Häagen-Dazs, any flavor. Oh, my gosh. I'll kill off that whole little pint, but I'll swear to myself, "I'm going to save half of it." But I normally end up finishing it.
YMS: I got to have macaroni and cheese. I love macaroni and cheese. ... It's that comfort food, and it's one of those things that my grandmother, my mother, all my aunties make, so it would just be so comforting to me.
YMS: I'm a little bit of everybody that's going to be watching. I feel like I share a lot of things that a lot of people will be able to film in and catch: I'm from a rough neighborhood, I'm from a rough area, but I made it out, and I'm living my dream. So anybody that wants to step outside the box and live their dreams, I'm a living testimony to that.
Don't miss the premiere of Food Network Star, Season 12 on Sunday, May 22 at 9|8c.