In just a few short weeks, eager Comeback Kitchen finalists will enter the hallowed arena that is Food Star Kitchen — again. These seven hopefuls have competed on Food Network Star before but were eliminated before they reached full Star power. Now, though, with one season behind them and plenty of been-there-done-that learnings in their back pockets, these returning rivals are ready to demonstrate their growth and show off their readiness for a second chance at Stardom.
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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.
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.
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.Read more
In true Star Salvation fashion, the name of the game this week was expect the unexpected, as Jeff Mauro told the finalists to get set for "a culinary curve ball." He and fellow judge Alex Guarnaschelli doled out three mystery bags, each stuffed with a mandatory product that the hopefuls had to demonstrate their mastery over by featuring it in their dishes.
For Dom it was all about his Italian point of view; he worked rosemary lavender into a creamy carbonara sauce. Emilia used her childhood nickname of "squash blossom" to talk about her ingredient — squash blossoms. And Rue, brand new to sorghum, approached her product with gusto and tried it in a chili.
If you had to cook with one of these three mystery ingredients (rosemary lavender, squash blossoms or sorghum), which would you choose? Cast your vote in the poll below, then click the play button on the video above to see how the hopefuls fared in this challenge.
Just when the Star Salvation hopefuls thought there couldn't be any more surprises in store for them, they learned on Sunday night of one rival's unexpected decision to quit the contest — Michelle wanted to leave early to return to her family — which meant there'd be no fourth rival joining them this week. "Your numbers will thin from three to two," host Jeff Mauro warned the remaining contestants, Rue, Matthew and Emilia, as the three took their places for the ingredient innovation challenge.
The name of the game was all about embracing the flavors of a local ingredient: avocados. It was up to them to shine a light on this beloved produce and use it in new, transformational ways. In the end, one rival's over-the-top risk meant safety from elimination, while another's failure to meet the standards of the challenge caused a teary exit.
Just as this week marked the halfway point of the Food Network Star competition, so too did it on Star Salvation. This is Week 3 of the six-week journey to redemption, and for the four hopefuls remaining, time is running out until Alex Guarnaschelli and Jeff Mauro must select a winner to return to the on-air contest. The latest round of Star Salvation focused on the finalists' abilities to embrace the unexpected, as Alex told them, "A Food Network Star must have an educated palate and the ability to adapt in unpredictable situations." In their first-ever two-part challenge, the competitors not only had to sample a mystery sauce to discern its ingredients, but they also had to use those ingredients to concoct a dish all their own.
This past Sunday's episode of Food Network Star was all about love — from finalists' most-beloved ingredients to a paired challenge that tasked twosomes with creating harmonious fusion on the plate — and when it came time for Star Salvation after the show, hosts Alex and Jeff took that theme one step further. In Round 2 with only 30 minutes to cook, the remaining four redemption rivals had to create a dish that spoke to the moment they first fell in love with cooking, testing their cooking chops under pressure and also their story-telling abilities.
All four finalists wasted no time in prepping their plates, but ultimately Alex and Jeff said goodbye to one competitor after an unimpressive dessert left them craving more. Think you know who met his or her fate once and for all? Click the play button on the video above to see which rival was eliminated.
Perhaps one of Food Network Star's most-divisive finalists in the history of the competition, Matthew Grunwald shocked the Selection Committee and fans alike when he strutted into Food Star Kitchen on Day One with not only a difficult-to-grasp POV of social media and hashtags, but also with his tough critiques of his rivals' performances. After only two weeks in the contest, he ultimately met his fate when his sly smirk at evaluation caused his last-minute elimination.
But now, Matthew and the other ousted competitors — Christina, Sita and Rosa — have returned for a second chance at Stardom. They've set their sights on redemption with the help of Star Salvation, a six-week Web-exclusive series hosted by Alex Guarnaschelli and Jeff Mauro, which challenges previously eliminated finalists with culinary and camera tests designed to show who among them is worthy of salvation and the opportunity to return to the Food Network Star competition.
Round 1 of Salvation kicked off on Sunday night following Rosa's departure, with the four hopefuls facing off against each other — and tacos. Click the play button on the video below to see how they fared, and find out who among them was ultimately sent home.
The first days in a new setting are all about making (hopefully positive) first impressions, and the Food Network Star competition is no exception. This week the 12 hopeful finalists arrived in Los Angeles for the job opportunity of a lifetime; not only did they have to get to know each other — their rivals vying for the same title — but they were also introduced to mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network executives Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogelson, as well as the entertainment industry as a whole, represented by People Magazine's JD Heyman.
Star Talk was on set at Triunfo Creek Vineyards as the competitors showed off their 30-second pitch videos to the Selection Committee and presented the panel with first-ever bites of their food. We caught up with Bob and Susie after these initial on-camera and on-the-plate introductions to get their first reactions to this year's crop of talent. Click the play button on the video above to hear what they had to say.