By Kaci Yoder
Have you been following along with local food legend Jay Ducote as he fights for his own cooking show on this season of Food Network Star? Every week, DIG sits down with Ducote to break down each episode. Follow along, and get the behind-the-scenes scoop.
DIG: When they put your favorite ingredient in front of you, did you sense right away that it was too good to be true?
Jay Ducote: Not really. They definitely surprised me a little bit. When everybody had their favorite ingredient there, I was expecting some kind of twist but to get to cook with our favorite ingredient and get to present, but that there would be some sort of catch. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be, “Nope, you don’t get to cook your favorite ingredient at all.”
Once they started telling everybody that they were going to switch ingredients with someone else, I kind of figured it out and realized I was going to get Rue’s branzino. I feel like she and I swapping the venison and the fish was a pretty good trade, definitely better than some of the options that were out there.
DIG: If could do it again, would you do anything different with the branzino?
JD: Yes, I would. I would have either gotten a hotel pan and covered it up on the grill just to help it cook faster, or I would have taken them off the grill just a little bit sooner and finished them in the oven, just so they would cook all the way through. It wasn’t quite getting enough heat on the grill to cook them all through fast enough, and that ended up being the only problem with the dish. But it was good! It was just like, if you really dig into the center of it, there were parts of it that were undercooked. I’ll certainly take the blame for that.
DIG: Tensions were running high this week in the team challenge, especially between Dom and Michelle. Is that kind of drama distracting?
JD: In this case, there were no distractions for this episode and this challenge, because while we were in the kitchen, Emilia and I were really focused on our dish and what we had to do that we weren’t really paying attention to what anyone else was doing and any kind of drama that might have been happening. None of that happened fortunately until we were presenting and Dom and Michelle came back into the room. By then, everything was kind of done. But it was kind of interesting, and it was definitely some drama that you could feel the tension for sure.
DIG: You and Emilia worked together more smoothly. What’s the key?
JD: One of the things that worked really well in our favor is that Emilia and I were both willing to be team players and to do something that would make sense for both of us. I’ll give her credit because she was very much accommodating to do something that was sort of a Louisiana style dish but putting her own spin on it, and we were able to work that out pretty easily.
We wanted to work together. When they announced the teams we were both pretty excited about the opportunity to be on the same team. We hadn’t teamed up yet. The teams before were guys versus girls and then we weren’t on the same team for the Fourth of July challenge. So we were excited to be able to work with each other and then we just kind of hit it off right away with planning out our dish and deciding the direction we would go in and both of us were really happy with everything that we said and we were both very accommodating to each other to make sure that we were both representatives because that’s ultimately what they wanted. If one person outshone the other one, that’s not necessarily good for either person in a team challenge like this. We had to try to build something together, so that’s what we were doing.
But it was just easy to work with Emilia because we got along really well, our styles do match up pretty well, and we popped a bottle of wine and just started drinking wine at the very beginning. We were just having a glass of wine and cooking like we were at somebody’s house instead of in this crazy beautiful professional kitchen.
DIG: At the end, despite Dom and Michelle butting heads, Rue was the one to go home. How did you feel about that elimination?
JD: This was the first elimination that was really a shock to all of the cast as well. I did not see it coming. I really thought it was going to be either Dom or Michelle going home; they had both been on the bottom the week before, they really didn’t get along this week, their food suffered, their presentation suffered, I just really felt like one of their times was up. And it seems like Roux coming off that challenge, the victory on that first challenge of the week it just seemed like her momentum was going forward, it was going up.
And so when she came back in the room and said she was the one going home I truly was legitimately shocked. And I think it was kind of a wake-up call to the rest of us that we better be paying attention. We better be doing the things that they’re asking us to do, getting better at the things we need to improve on, and making sure our food is representative on every plate that we put forward, because it’s not going to take much at this point to be the one that goes home.