Like Masterchef and Hell's Kitchen have before it, the Food Network has come to an important realization; Houstonians know their way around a kitchen. After 11 episodes, former NFL player Eddie Jackson won the 11th season of the network's popular show Food Network Star.
Jackson, who operates a gym and companion food truck in Houston, impressed judges — including superstars Giada De Laurentiis and Bobby Flay — with his outgoing personality and Southern culinary background. His winning show, which for its pilot on Sunday night's episode was titled "BBQ Blitz," should premiere this fall.
Prior to appearing on Food Network Star, Jackson finished eighth on the season of Fox's Masterchef that also featured fellow Houstonian James Nelson. Although he's busily preparing for his new show, Jackson found a few minutes to catch up with CultureMap about his victory by phone.
CultureMap: After Masterchef, what made you decide to give reality TV another shot?
Eddie Jackson: I told myself after I did Masterchef I wasn’t going to do anything like that again, but I was just sitting here at home. I was watching Food Network and the commercial came on. I thought, 'you know what? I think I can do that.' My girlfriend was like 'well, do it.' I went to Austin to audition, and the rest is history.
CM: What was that moment like when you saw your name on the screen as the winner?
EJ: I was overcome with emotion. You immediately think about sacrifice and all the things you’d been through to get to that point. I was at a loss for words . . . I’m a talker. It was one of the few moments in my life when I was speechless.
CM: What aspect of your pilot do you think helped you stand out from the other two finalists?
EJ: I wouldn’t want to be one of those judges, because I thought everybody’s pilot was really good . . . I thought I did a good job of interacting with the people: the chef and the guests at the restaurant . . . Just my personality, I think it really shined.
CM: Which of the shows challenges was the most difficult for you?
EJ: I think the most difficult challenge was the 4th of July and we had to grill something. We had the ingredient switch. I got Jay’s ingredients, but I had no vision for where he was going . . . I was a little down, because grilling is something I do every weekend. Not to shine on something I know I’m good at was difficult for me
CM: What about your time as a football player shaped your experience with the show?
EJ: I think it got me through the show. I’m a huge competitor. I hate to lose. I think that experience, that background I have . . . I’ve been doing sports my whole life. It gave me a little bit of a competitive edge over everyone else. I remember Rosa, she said, 'is everything a competition with you, Eddie?' Actually, it is. I want to win.
CM: Where do you eat barbecue in Houston?
EJ: I eat barbecue in Houston in my backyard. My favorite thing when it comes to barbecue — I’m a sucker when it comes to a slab of ribs.
CM: Do you think you'll open a restaurant in Houston?
EJ: Absolutely, my whole thought process is that this opportunity I’ve been given is such a blessing. I want to maximize it and keep building. I never want to do anything 50 percent. I want to do it 100.