What started as a pool of countless applicants is now just a crop of 12: those lucky dozen hopefuls who are set to compete on Food Network Star, Season 12. But before the finalists became just that — the competitors who are officially part of the cast — they had to prove themselves, their culinary histories and their on-camera charisma in introductory casting videos. We got our hands on those first-person accounts, and now it's your turn, fans, to watch these exclusive clips and see what you think of the rivals as they present themselves. Read on below to view them all.
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Penny had but one goal this week: "I want to see Matthew crash and burn today," she said simply. And thanks to the Star Challenge advantage she earned after winning the Mentor Challenge, she was well on her way to realizing that goal. She had the privilege of assigning each of her competitors their allotted cooking times, and it came as no surprise to Matthew that she saddled him with the least amount of time to make his diner dish, just 30 quick minutes, while she enjoyed a full 45 minutes.
As Matthew was watching from the sidelines waiting for his time to start, he was quick to notice that the very person who sabotaged him was well on her way to making severe missteps in her own dish of liver and onions. "I look over at Penny's liver, and it is already a train wreck," he explained of Penny's prep work with a sly grin. "Liver has a very metallic flavor to it, and to get that iron flavor out, the first thing you have to do is soak it," he said, explaining a crucial process that she did not follow. "It's going to be so gross." And it turned out, Penny's finished liver did include that dreaded metallic taste, just as Matthew predicted — and the judges were indeed able to discern it.
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.
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.