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


Teammates Contestants Matthew Grunwald, Coadan Tran, Toya Boudy and Nancy Manlove giving their introductions to the guests at the Star Challenge Be Our Guest!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

The nature of the Food Network Star beast is such that no matter how much mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis have to teach the finalists, their time is limited, which means they're forced to make quick decisions about who has the greatest potential for success. Week after week finalists will fall in a series of eliminations, and following each gut-wrenching exit, we here at Star Talk will bring you insider interviews with the fallen hopefuls.

When selecting the dish she wanted to make for this week's Beauty and the Beast-focused challenge, Toya Boudy opted for shrimp and grits, because she knew she needed to reinforce her relationship with her food, given her struggles with that objective last week. Her plan was straightforward: She'd made the shrimp and grits then explain how it connect to her family's Christmas morning traditions. The problem, though, is that her story didn't resonate with the challenge theme, and the judges were forced to offer her that critique. "You sort of skirted the actual assignment," Giada explained to her at evaluation. Ultimately, Toya's misstep was enough to send her home in a shocking double elimination that saw the exit of one of her fellow teammates as well.

We caught up with Toya on set for an exclusive interview. Read on below to get her thoughts on the competition.

What three words best describe how you're feeling right now?

Toya Boudy: Empty, confident and reflective.

What was your initial reaction in hearing that you were sent home tonight? What was going through your mind?

TB: I really wanted to keep composure, and I wanted to separate my feelings from my words, and also separate from the truth of the matter. I wanted to keep all those things in their separate compartments, because when you receive a judgement on yourself and your art, your craft, whatever you gave, your feelings immediately try to rush into the other rooms. And that’s what was happening, so even when I left and when I gave everyone their hugs, I looked back on it and I thought, "I hope they didn’t feel like I didn’t like them, because my hug was very calm and not embracive, but that’s only because I was trying to contain all my emotions." Agree with what they said. I didn’t personally agree with it, but I understand what they’re saying.

Contestant Toya Boudy serving guests at the Star Challenge Be Our Guest!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

What aspect of their feedback did you not agree with?

TB: That it wasn’t really connected to the competition. Well, I think I was confused. I wouldn’t say I disagree with it, because I felt that I was supposed to tie in my background and history into the competition, and my history included Creole/French. I thought I was tying that in, but it just didn’t fit the parameters of the challenge.

Talk to me about the last dish you made, Creole Shrimp and Grits. Do you stand by it? Do you think the judges missed something when they were evaluating it?

TB: I stand by that dish. I feel like that was the smartest choice. Anybody and their mama would love to have barbecue shrimp and grits. We’ll have Creole shrimp ‘n’ grits for breakfast, for brunch. You could throw a glass of wine with it. I stand by that. I stand by the flavor profile that I put together, how the grits came out perfect — thick, rich. Felt like dinner but a little bit like morning time at the same time. I stand by it.

In your own words, how would you explain to fans at home what this competition is really like?

TB: You have to stick to the rules. You can’t overthink it. If you have time to sit on your couch to think, you have more time than us. If you have time in the middle of a commercial, you literally have more time than us. There's so many tests involved in this competition: character, food, personality, everything. You walk over to the protein refrigerator, you see all this food in there, you have to think quickly, and then if you’re not the first person to the protein, then you can hang that up. You can’t just say, "Oh, I would pick, I would have done, I would do this." You can’t say that, because you have to see what the other 11 people are going to do. There are many tests in this. It’s not just food. It’s not just personality. It’s a lot.

Teammate contestants Nancy Manlove, Coadan Tran, Toya Boudy and Matthew Grunwald competing together in the Star Challenge Be Our Guest!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

Did you learn anything from your fellow competitors?

TB: Yeah. Matt. Be relentless. Just keep running, keep going, and even if it seems simple, present it like it’s 20 stars.

Fill in the blanks with your fellow finalists' names. 

_____ is the class clown? Cao, myself and Trace.

_____ is the quietest? Blake.

_____ is the most daring? Cory.

_____ has the best recipes? Nancy, the grandmother. She’s been on Earth longer than us, so Nancy.

_____ is going to win this whole thing? Addie’s going to win.

Contestants (left) Blake Bladwin, Trace Barnett, Addie Gundy, Cory Bahr, Suzanne Lossia, Rusty Hamlin and Amy Pottinger (right) behind contestant Toya Boudy introducing herself for the Mentor Challenge, Ready, Set...Rehearse!, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

How did you handle the nerves of working with Bobby and Giada and being in this world?

TB: Literally not drinking water, because I will throw up. So I didn’t drink water on set. That’s why I never had to go to the bathroom. I refused any water that came to me, because I was about to throw up every time. That was the best part of getting eliminated — I could stop feeling nauseous.

Tell me a little bit about how you spend your time between takes when you do have a minute.

TB: Making fun of each other.

Which mentor or guest did you learn the most from in this competition?

TB: Monti Carlo.

What did she teach you?

TB: I learned that I dealt with some self-doubt that I didn’t know was causing the feelings that I was having. So, when she said that, it was like a lightbulb.

Contestant Toya Boudy presenting her dish to the judges at the Star Challenge, Food Network Firing Squad,, as seen on Food Network Star, Season 13.

Photo by: Eddy Chen

Eddy Chen

What do you want fans to remember most about you?

TB: I love the people.

What’s next for you? What are you going home to?

TB: Loving on my family. Working on my YouTube channel, getting that out there, because I’ve been kind of wrapped up with this, and putting myself out there to get on more shows to eventually get my own show.

Who’re you rooting for now?

TB: Cao, Trace, Addie and David. I have a personal connection with them.

Tune in to Food Network Star on Sundays at 9|8c.

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