You heard it here first: Food Network Star is returning this summer, and just when you thought you knew what to expect from a summer of Stardom, this season is here to change the game. Before this year's hopeful finalists meet mentors Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis to kick off their quest for Stardom, a whole other competition — Comeback Kitchen — will take place in Food Star Kitchen that will transform Star as you know it.
Mere 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.
It 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.
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.
First off, congratulations on your victory. It was a long journey with tough competition, and I truly believe you deserved the W. Enjoy the moment.
When asked that my final post be an advice letter to the winner and not a standard rundown, I was excited after my 10 weeks of recaps. But now as I’m sitting here writing this letter, dearest Eddie, I, for the first time, do not know what to say, so I will try my best. Granted I’ve been at this for only four years, but I do feel I’ve had a decent trajectory, and with that comes a decent amount of experience. Take my advice or not; I won’t be offended either way. Here goes.
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.
Remember 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.
By Leah Brickley
Surprise, Dom’s back! Our unsuspecting final three contestants, Eddie, Jay and Arnold, were all shocked to see the scrappy Star Salvation winner return for one last battle. Dom impressed the judges with his homemade agnolotti pasta and best on-camera appearance yet, and he edged Arnold out and joined Eddie and Jay for a final spot to make a pilot.
We were excited to see that New York City’s amazing restaurant and food diversity was inspiration for all of three of the guys' pilots. We share the same enthusiasm and are super-lucky that Food Network Kitchen lives inside Chelsea Market, an indoor food hall with more than 35 food vendors! Needless to say, it’s food paradise. So, inspired by Dom’s delicate little agnolotti, we wandered down to Giovanni Rana — makers of beautiful, high-quality fresh pasta — to find some other stuffed versions. We also visited Russo's Mozzarella and Pasta in the East Village to pick up some of their agnolotti and tortellini.
Here’s what we learned about each (clockwise from top left):
"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.
Dom, 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.