The eleventh season of Food Network Star has been a jam-packed thrill ride, full of some of the best cooking and most vibrant personalities the show has ever given us. The hosts have been as laudatory as possible–Bobby Flay went so far as to call the twelve contestants the most talented Food Network Star group, period. Judging by the internet’s reaction, viewers agree with that assessment, and the high degree of difficulty of this season’s challenges has drawn a great deal of praise (and no mean amount of sympathetic awe).
Unfortunately, we’re at that terrible, wonderful moment when only one chef–and not all of the final three–can indeed become the next Food Network star. Jay and Eddie have been probably the two most consistent competitors this season; Jay’s faltered a bit here and there, but, for him, “falter” usually means “Something’s just a little bit off” and not “This man is in complete meltdown.” He’s a natural in front of the camera and knows exactly what he’s about in the kitchen; the combination of those two things is damn near irresistable.
The same is true of Eddie, who’s shown zero hesitation regardless of the challenge, overflows with charm, and has some serious cooking chops. His mixed message in the early weeks of the season was an overall misstep–”Cheat Week” was an interesting idea, but didn’t seem to be what he really wanted to do–but Eddie has never seemed out of place or uncertain, and, once he ditched the theme, he dominated. Which is why it was downright shocking to see him falter in his presentation last week–and not at all surprising when he bounced back with a jubilant pilot, one we’ll hopefully get to see in full tonight.
Dom has been perhaps the biggest surprise of all. His food has earned praise from Bobby, Giada, and every one of the guest judges–and it was particularly telling that almost every single exit interview from eliminated contestants mentioned Dom among the best chefs on the show. But he simply couldn’t compose himself in front of the cameras, which doomed him to an early exit…and an appearance on Star Salvation, which he promptly won, earning a second chance on Food Network Star in the process. Then, last week, he showed more composure than we’d seen all season to that point, and earned a spot in tonight’s finale. (Also, Dom runs a mac and cheese food truck, which means it is functionally impossible to dislike him.)
Dom, Eddie, and Jay are all active on social media, and have large (and growing) followings. Have any of the three finalists let any clues about the finale slip out? Depends on how hard you’re looking:
— Dom Tesoriero (@ChefDomTes) August 16, 2015
Hmmm–of the three, Dom is the only one to share something that might, potentially, look a little bit like a hint, potentially. (Maybe.) Though, on a related note, getting a congratulatory phone call from the lieutenant governor of your whole state is a pretty big deal. We’ve seen how seriously Jay takes his Louisiana background; getting recognition like that must’ve felt good.
OK–what do the hosts of the show have to say? Giada de Laurentiis is as tight-lipped as you’d expect her to be in the hours before the finale:
— Giada De Laurentiis (@GDeLaurentiis) August 16, 2015
As for Bobby Flay, he’s keeping so quiet that he hasn’t even posted on social media this weekend. Flay’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts are completely silent, Food Network Star-wise.
What does all this mean? We’ll have to watch the finale to find out who gets crowned the next Food Network star. Catch the last episode tonight at 9 PM EST on Food Network.
(Photo credits: Food Network Star via Food Network; Jay Ducote, Dom Tesoriero, Eddie Jackson via Twitter, Instagram)