All Posts By Maria Russo

Maria Russo is an editor at Food Network, now living in New York City after being born and raised in the great state of Michigan. She likes her eggs runny, her pasta cheesy and has been known to throw back dozens of oysters at a time.

Getting to Know New Star Eddie Jackson: 11 Fun Facts

by in Community, Food Network Star, August 18, 2015

Food Network StarMere hours after accepting the title of Food Network Star, Eddie Jackson took to Food Network's Facebook page to chat with the fans who stood by him through 11 weeks of competition and are ready to see him on his upcoming show, BBQ Blitz (premiering Friday, Oct. 9 at 10:30|9:30c). From his fitness philosophy and his early days of footballing to his kitchen hero (hint: It's one of his Star mentors), Eddie answered fans' questions.

Read on below to learn 11 key pieces of Eddie trivia, then go on the set of the finale with the Season 11 victor in an emotional exclusive interview.

1. Looking back on his Star journey, Eddie remembers two special moments most fondly: "First thing was when I met Bobby Flay, because I was such a huge fan. Secondly, everyone on the show became instant best friends. Those two things really stand out to me."

2. "I gave my dad a huge hug and a kiss," Eddie says of how he celebrated just moments after he learned of his win.

3. Though Eddie's passion for food is undeniable, he admits: "Football came first. I started playing before I could barely walk!"

4. "My favorite dish to prepare is escabeche fish," Eddie says.

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To Eddie, From Damaris: Here’s What to Expect from the World of Stardom

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, August 18, 2015

Food Network StarIt was just a few days ago that Eddie Jackson, a former pro footballer, was crowned Food Network's newest Star after he bested his fellow finale rivals, Dom Tesoriero and Jay Ducote, at the end of an 11-week journey. Yesterday Jeff Mauro, the Season 7 victor, offered his hearty congratulations to the new Star with a welcome letter, and today Damaris Phillips, the Season 9 Star, is sharing that sentiment and giving Eddie an exclusive preview of what to expect as his life turns from ordinary to full of superstardom.

"It will be overwhelming and crazy for the first six months," Damaris tells Eddie, "but — hopefully — your life doesn’t change that much. It just gets better." She adds that while "you don’t wake up and have this totally different life and, like, Bentleys and butlers everywhere," there's the very real opportunity to achieve everything you've always hoped for. "You just have the chance to have your dream come true and just to be really present with that and to be really grateful for it and to just have a good time. Because it is so much more fun than you can imagine," she explains.

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Exclusive: Chatting with the Runners-Up of Food Network Star

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Videos, August 17, 2015

The stage was set for a finale of life-changing proportions last night when the entire Selection Committee came together to welcome Food Network's newest Star to the family. As the top-three hopeful finalists and their peer competitors awaited the winner reveal, the group looked back on a groundbreaking season, from Matthew's #LoveOfHashtags to Michelle's decision to quit in Week 7. They screened never-before-seen bloopers of the cast and took in Dom's, Eddie's and Jay's pilots before welcoming Brooke Johnson, the president of Food Network, to the set to announce Food Network's newest Star.

Eddie Jackson, a former pro footballer, ultimately claimed the coveted crown to become the Season 11 Star, which meant Dom and Jay, both stellar rivals with impressive stories of growth and success behind them, were deemed runners-up.

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Exclusive: One-on-One with the Winner of Food Network Star

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Videos, August 16, 2015

After 11 weeks of Mentor and Star Challenges testing both culinary chops and on-camera comfort, as well as constructive feedback from mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, one hopeful finalist has risen to the top to become Food Network's newest Star. Eddie Jackson, a former pro footballer, scored the ultimate culinary touchdown tonight when he was crowned the Season 11 winner.

Star Talk was on the set of the finale and caught up with Eddie just moments after he took in his victory. He dropped to his knees in overwhelming emotion, then welcomed hearty congratulations from his fellow competitors, as well as the Selection Committee and the president of Food Network, Brooke Johnson. "I'm beyond speechless," Eddie said. "This is a feeling that I've yet to feel."

Read on below to hear more from Eddie in his first exclusive interview as a Star, then click the play button on the video above to go on set with Eddie and learn about his transition from football to food.

What did you learn about yourself during this competition?
Eddie Jackson: I had never done anything like this, so to speak, in front of a camera one-on-one. So I kind of learned that I can actually do this. I've been in front of the camera in front of, you know, 60,000 people, playing football and things like that, but never one-on-one talking directly to a camera by myself. And over the course of this show, I realized that I really can do this and this is something that I want to continue to do for the rest of my life.

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Caption It: A Star Among Them

by in Food Network Star, August 14, 2015

Food Network StarRemember all of the trying challenges, the unexpected ingredient swaps, the timed camera tapings and the all-too-honest feedback from the mentors? The lessons the Food Network Star finalists learned from those tests and the judges paid off in the most-monumental way for the top-three hopefuls — Dom Tesoriero, Eddie Jackson and Jay Ducote — as they landed on the brink of Stardom and went on to film pilots for their would-be shows on Food Network.

On Sunday night, those three rivals, along with their previously eliminated fellow finalists and the Selection Committee, will come together to look back on the season and ultimately welcome the winning Star to the Food Network family. Take a sneak peek at the finale photo above. Dom, Eddie and Jay have assembled with the other competitors, ready with anticipation to find out who among them is Food Network's newest Star.

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Exclusive: Giada Looks Back on a Groundbreaking Season and Dishes on Dom’s Return

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, Judges, August 12, 2015

Giada De Laurentiis on Food Network Star"My proudest moment would be Dom coming back from Star Salvation. I think that for the first time in all of these years, I actually feel like Bobby and I actually mentored somebody, like truly mentored them," said Giada De Laurentiis, one half of the powerhouse mentoring duo that she makes up with Bobby Flay. Star Talk caught up with Giada on the set of Food Network Star, just moments after Dom Tesoriero, previously ousted in Week 8, rejoined the competition. She told us about how, with solid mentoring, he was ultimately able to find his way into the top three and what his strengths were following that transformation.

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Chatting with Rachael Ray: What It Takes to Make a Pilot

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, August 11, 2015

Rachael Ray on Food Network StarDom, Eddie and Jay all completed multiple challenges during their runs on Food Network Star — some with great success and others with disappointing outcomes — but perhaps their most-important task didn't come in Food Star Kitchen. In New York City last week, the top three each worked with Rachael Ray as they filmed the pilots they would like to do for their would-be shows on Food Network. From Dom's authentic Italian point of view to Eddie's love of barbecue to Jay's penchant for deep-fried delights, each of the guys created a camera-ready concept, but their tapings wouldn't have been possible without Rachael’s mentoring. This Food Network legend knows the ins and outs of food television, and she's surely filmed multiple successful pilots for Food Network.

Star Talk caught up with Rachael on the set of the guys' pilots, and she told us all about what goes into shooting a video like this. Read on below for her advice to the top three, plus her reflections on how her show 30 Minute Meals came to be.

What’s been your greatest lesson learned after all of these years on Food Network?
Rachael Ray: I don’t really know anything, and I think that that’s what makes our shows popular, you know? It’s a conversation, and I like to learn. … And I think that most genuine television is about sharing, and, you know, I don’t know if I’m any better at it … 15, 20 years in than I was when I started, but I try and be curious and dedicated and authentic when I go to work.

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

by in Food Network Star, Interviews, August 9, 2015

Food Network StarIt'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.

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Caption It: The Director’s in the House

by in Food Network Star, August 7, 2015

Rachael Ray on Food Network StarIt was just 10 weeks ago when 12 hopeful finalists took their first steps into the culinary spotlight in Food Star Kitchen, full of dreams and anticipation — and anxiety over what the future held. Now, just one week before the finale, there are only three rivals remaining, and on Sunday, a fourth will join their ranks, as the champion of Star Salvation will return for a second chance to claim the coveted title. It will be up to these four finalists to pitch themselves to the Selection Committee before the panel must select the competitor most worthy of filming a pilot.

Take a peek at the first-look photo above from Sunday's brand-new episode. Rachael Ray will be on hand to guide the hopefuls through the pilot process, and surely no one could better serve as the lead director than her, a Food Network legend and the maker of numerous successful series. What kind of advice do you imagine Rachael is dishing out, and what key points do you think she's stressing to the finalists?

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Whom Do You Want to Win Star Salvation and Return to the Competition? Vote Now

by in Food Network Star, Videos, August 5, 2015

After making hot ramen for a summertime family reunion and failing to explain exactly why he went with that seemingly oddball dish, Alex was eliminated from the competition, though he indeed has a chance at redemption. He joined Dom and Rue in the sixth and final Star Salvation battle, and for the last challenge of their journey, Alex Guarnaschelli and Jeff Mauro tasked the top three with plating and presenting "one last bite," according to Alex.

In keeping with their POVs, Alex tackled a cheesy sandwich — inspired by one from his travels in London — while Dom kept it Italian with grilled lamb chops and Rue focused on seafood with a poached salmon plate. Now, after screening each hopeful's video and tasting their dishes, it's up to Alex and Jeff to choose who among them is most worthy of a second chance at Stardom. Before you tune in Sunday to find out who's returning to Food Network Star, Star Talk wants to hear whom you, the fans watching at home, want to see earn redemption. Cast your vote in the poll below.

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