Food Network Star Power Rankings: The Grand Finale

This week’s Food Network Star was the series finale, in which a winner was chosen, which makes doing power ranking this week a little like ranking NFL teams the week after the Super Bowl. Not a lot of guesswork, sure, but don’t think that means I’m going to pass up one last chance to write about this dopey show.

This week, the final three contestants – Dom Tesoriero, Eddie Jackson, and Jay Ducote (it’s an unwritten rule of reality competitions that the contestants get last names on the final show) – presented their pilots. And the panel – Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay, Bob Tuschman, and Susie Fogelson – chose the winner. I’ll get to those in a second, but first!


All season, Giada has been wearing her best dresses to judges table, so it follows that the week that was all judges table would feature her finest dresses. Praise God.

I’m going to miss you, Weekly Giada Cleavage. If I really wanted those clicks, I’d do a retrospective of all this season’s best Giada dresses. Sadly for you, I have integrity. (By which I mean no click quota).


I was traveling this week, so I had to watch this week’s episode online, meaning I didn’t have to sit through any Cutthroat Kitchen promos, starring Alton Brown hamming it up like some cut rate Double Dare host who simultaneously wants to be respected as an authority. That was nice.

No, my critique this week is that Food Network Star manages to make their season finale the most boring of the season. They inexplicably combine the season finale with the cast reunion show, meaning there’s no climactic final challenge, no drama, and everyone just sits there watching clips from the season of the show we just watched. You have to keep checking your show guide to make sure you’re actually watching the season finale and not the filler-week clip show. There’s no reason not to just fast forward to the 10 minutes of actual new content at the very end. Bravo may employ Andy Cohen, but at least they’ve got the climactic finale formula figured out. (Damned straight I’m not afraid to diss Andy Cohen, that empty-headed sweater mannequin. As every Bravo star says, I’M NOT HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS.)


  1. Eddie Jackson

I guess it’s no spoiler at this point to say that your Food Network Star season 11 winner was Eddie Jackson, who’ll now join a pantheon that includes Guy Fieri, Jeff Mauro… uh… Steve the Sandwich Man? That one blonde lady I think?

On that note, let’s play two truths and a lie, Food Network Star, winner edition.

1) Rodney “Pie Style” Henry, an ex rock’n roll-singing pie man
2) Lenny “The Gourmet Cowboy” McNab, an impeccably-dressed chuck wagon chef
3) The Hearty Boys, two best buds who met as actor/waiters in New York.

Which one is the lie? Trick question, they’re all real, and only Pie Style isn’t a Food Network Star winner (a travesty, by the way). So congrats, Eddie Jackson, you’re an honorary Hearty Boy now. Welcome to the House the Hearty Boys built. (Does anyone remember The Hearty Boys? They don’t even have a Wikipedia page).

Eddie was introduced this week as “A former football player who loves America’s favorite food: BBQ,” and his pilot is called “BBQ Blitz.” (Get it? Blitz, because football?)

Golly, a show about rubs and smoked meats. Has this ever been done before? Am I finally going to get to hear someone on a food show say the words “low and slow?” Will said meat “fall off the bone?” Only time will tell, folks. Either way, it’s a dream come true. Because if there’s one easy tip every American can employ for better eating, it’s to smoke our slabs of beef for at least 24 hours in a specially-built wood-fired shed. Thanks, Food Network!

The tentative concept of this one is that Eddie Jackson goes to places you wouldn’t normally think of as BBQ destinations to find some tasty BBQ. Hey, at least it’s not “Cheat Day.” It ends with Eddie saying “Wherever you are, if you find you some good southern food, you know you at home.”

Reactions from the panel include:

“He radiates star power.” -Fogel Da Chau

“The whole room was electrified.” -Bobby the Tusch Man

Eddie seems likable enough, and to his credit, he was the only contestant who actually let other people talk when he interviewed them. But his show looks like snooze city and something about the way Bob and Suzie react to him makes me wonder if they’ve seen a black person before. I imagine the fact that they can sexualize him was a big plus (all those weird references to his muscles paid off!), and they probably figured the fact that he’s played in the NFL might broaden their fan base. It’s the same sort of decision that makes movie execs greenlight a Man From UNCLE movie. The name recognition will have absolutely zero effect on any human fan, but you can sound all scientific when you defend it in a board room (which might keep you from getting fired). “The NFL has 36 million fans. If just one twelfth of them tune in to a former cornerback’s food show, that’s three million new viewers!”

Eddie wouldn’t have been my pick, but if he does a show about Caribbean cooking (what happened to that POV, anyway?) I might watch. What can I say, I love jerking chicken.

2. Dom Tesoriero

Incredibly (or inevitably, since they were clearly trying to make him into the fan favorite), the Staten Island Softie made it all the way to the final three. Not only that, he actually had my favorite pilot of the three.

He’s introduced as “The food truck owner who has a passion for traditional Italian flavors and cooking,” and his pilot is called “Big Flavor, Little Italy.” He visits an old red sauce joint (actually calling it an “old red sauce joint”), and while I definitely don’t need anymore tips on how to cook a meat ragu, there is something undeniably cool about a restaurant that’s been around for 100 years plus. Which recipes last that long and why? It’s my kind of show, probably for the same reason I love going to House of Prime Rib here in San Francisco – they still serve creamed spinach and “spin” your overdressed Caesar salad tableside. It makes me feel like I’m in 1955, and I love that.

Reactions to Dom’s pilot include:

“Genuine. Authenticity.” -B. Flay

“He’s happy and shining.” -Giada D-Cups

The Harissabot actually cries.

In the end, Dom lost, but who knows, maybe it’s not too late to greenlight that travel show starring Dom and Arnold. And at the very least, being an almost-TV star should drum up some extra food truck business. All that exposure’s gotta be worth a boatload of mortadella scungillis or whatever.

3. Jay Ducote

It’s time to eat crow, because I definitely thought Jay was winning this thing going away. Introduced as “The Louisiana native who has a love for Louisiana cooking and deep fried delights,” for his pilot called “Deep Fried America,” if Jay had one flaw (never mentioned by the judges or contestants), it’s that he never let his interview subject talk.

The owner of Sweet Chick mostly just stood there going “Uh huh.” “Yep.” “Definitely.” while Jay talked. And the death knell was Jay introducing chicken and waffles as “a little chickie chickie wah wah.”

It should’ve been on Rachael Ray, as the pilot director, to make sure that line never saw the light of day. But hey, what do you expect from the woman who gave us “evoo?” She probably loved it.

Reactions to Jay’s pilot included:

“Jay might be the most camera-ready contestant we’ve ever had.” -ZZ Tusch

“He just seems like such a solid dude.” -Tzu Zee Fogleburglar

“Being around Jay is just like a bear hug every day.” -Derek Giader

“Hash tag ‘super watchable.'” -Matthew the Obnoxious Twink

But in the end it was close but not cigar for Jay. I hope they serve hush puppies in reality show heaven.

I kid, Jay was too close to winning to disappear from the Food Network forever. I’m sure we’ll see him again on Cutthroat Kitchen, getting chased by a stuffed moose or trying to make hard boiled eggs with a fire hydrant. Or on Chopped, getting dressed down by Scott Conant for having the audacity to call his Pop Rock/Mountain Dew Code Red sauce “a gastrique.” You son of a bitch. Scott Conant has eaten a gastrique, and this is not a gastrique. I don’t care if you only had six minutes to cook it and could only use the ingredients found in Guantanamo inmate’s foot locker.

I can’t wait. Until next season, food fans.

Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.