We have a winner.
The Food Network Star winner was crowned tonight as the 11th annual installment of the reality series aired its one-hour season finale on the same-named cable network.
The lucky winner of the competition gets to host a cooking show on the network and a chance at TV (and perhaps merchandising) stardom, so the steaks, er, stakes are high.
The finalists out of a total of 12 original contestants this season were Cajun cuisine expert Jay Ducote of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ex-pro athlete Eddie Jackson of Houston, Texas, and mac-and-cheese food truck operator Dom Tesoriero of Staten Island, New York. According to Starcasm, “The eleventh season of Food Network Star has been a jam-packed thrill ride, full of some of the best cooking and most vibrant personalities the show has ever given us.”
And the Food Network Star winner is Eddie Jackson.
Unlike other similar competitions, the winner and the two runners-up got to the end after 10 weeks of difficult elimination challenges with a combination of top-notch cooking skill and on-camera charm.
“Houston’s Eddie Jackson, a former NFL player who now owns a private gym in Cypress and operates the Caribbean Grill by Fit Chef food truck, used his charm and cooking chops to reach the finale. Another finalist is Baton Rouge food blogger and radio host Jay Ducote, who has sailed through the competition with an easygoing, likable personality,” the Houston Chronicle explained prior to the announcement of who won.
Although earlier ousted, Tesoriero fought his way back into the competition via the companion Star Salvation web series, which gave a second chance to one voted-out cheftestant.
Celebrity chefs/Food Network personalities Giada De Laurentiss and Bobby Flay, both recently divorced, again served as the primary judges/mentors for the otherwise Food Network Star single-elimination tournament. Along the way, several guest judges along with Food Network execs Susie Fogelson and Bob Tuchsman also participated in the decision-making.
— Giada De Laurentiis (@GDeLaurentiis) August 16, 2015
Each of the three finalists filmed a pilot for their proposed series under the tutelage of celebrity chef and TV star Rachael Ray. The finale featured a screening of the three pilots, deliberation by the aforementioned screening committee, and the announcement of this season’s winner of the next Food Network Star by the network president. The pilot episodes will be embedded below once the Food Network officially releases them on social media, so watch this space.
As the finale reached its culmination, the judges admitted that the final decision was “unbelievably” tough because the dynamic final three were so talented.
Although several past winners, such as Melissa D’Arabian and Jeff Mauro, are still active on the Food Network, the only Food Network Star who has actually become a breakout personality on the network and in other media is the ubiquitous Guy Fieri.
Are you a fan of the Food Network Star reality show, and did you have a favorite among the three finalists? Were you in agreement with the selection of the Food Network Star winner?
[Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images Entertainment]
Added: Watch the season finale, which includes the finalists’ pilot episodes, of the Food Network Star, and the announcement of who won the competition. Parenthetically, don’t be surprised if the runners-up also get TV gigs on the Food Network or elsewhere in addition to the Food Network Star winner.