The final show of season 11 of Food Network Star that aired this past Sunday revealed that the winner is Houstonian Eddie Jackson. As in prior years, the final test on the food-based reality competition was to create a show pilot. Jackson was one of three finalists who had the opportunity to film a pilot, along with New York food truck owner Dominick Tesoriero and Bite & Booze radio host/food blogger Jay Ducote. (Ducote, by the way, is from Baton Rouge but was raised in Sugar Land.) After the three pilots aired, the Food Network judges decided that Jackson’s BBQ Blitz landed him first place.
The 34-year-old native Texan was born in Richardson and his first career wasn’t in cooking: it was in football. After high school, the natural athlete played at the University of Arkansas. He went pro after graduation, playing for both the Carolina Panthers and Washington Redskins.
Later, he went on to open a personal training business in Cypress and also owns a food truck called Carribean Grill. We spoke with Jackson by phone and talked about what happens for him next, as well as how he's going to balance three jobs.
This wasn’t the first time he has competed in a cooking show. He appeared on season four of MasterChef as well, coming in at eighth place in a field of 19 competitors. Because the shows are so different, Jackson isn’t sure that the prior experience helped him win as much as it helped him prepare for the rigors of filming. Among other things, competitors have to spend weeks away from home. “I kind of knew what to expect when it comes to being away from your family and friends a considerable amount of time. It prepared me to where I was able to focus a little bit more. It can wear on you to be away from the people you are around every single day of your life,” Jackson explained.
The topic of barbecue for his pilot was a natural choice, as it was the first thing Jackson learned to cook from his dad. He's confident in what he learned. When asked for any barbecue recommendations in Houston, he said with a laugh, “The best barbecue I’ve had in Houston is in my backyard.”
Over the next few weeks, his filming schedule will be finalized for BBQ Blitz, which premiers on Friday, Oct. 9 at 9:30 p.m. Central Time. The newly-crowned show host is looking forward to it. “I’m ready to get started and looking forward to this show that I’ve been working on! I want to do a show that is energetic, upbeat and fun—just really kind of highlight my personality like the pilot did.”
With that said, the show isn’t going to be his only job. He still has his food truck catering and personal training businesses to consider. He’s optimistic that, with a little help, he’ll still be able to keep up with everything. “They’re still going to go on,” he says. “With my food truck, we specialize in doing events, so people hire me to do Caribbean-themed types of parties. It’s not like a regular food truck where we go out every single day, because I’m a personal trainer as well. I’ll be spreading myself a little too thin. (laughs) The gym is still there. I have a couple of trainers who teach classes for me and train. Everything will still be running.”
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Obviously, Jackson loves food, but he’s also a gifted athlete and personal trainer. We asked him about his own workout. He says, “I love food so I have to make sure I stay pretty active if I want to keep this figure! (laughs) I teach HIIT workouts, which is High Intensity Interval Training, and that’s the type of workout I like to do because it keeps my heart rate up. It allows me to burn the maximum amount of calories and if I’m going to be eating a lot, I’ve got to make sure and get a few HIIT workouts in throughout the week.”
Of course, not all of us food lovers are gifted athletes or in great shape like Jackson is. We asked him for some tips. “I’m a big fan of moderation. I’m not the type of trainer where I’m like, ‘You’ve got to eat a quinoa burger. You’ve got to have seven ounces of spinach.’ I think if you just get a nice balance, always think about moderation and try to be as active as you can, even if it’s just walking three times a week.”
There are no solid plans yet for a viewing party in Houston when his show debuts on October 9, but Jackson loves the idea. “Oh, wow!” he exclaimed. That’s an amazing idea! I haven’t even gotten that far yet, but thank you! You just put a bug in my ear.” Keep an eye on Jackson’s Twitter feed, because obviously when there’s something this guy wants to do, he finds a way to make it happen.
He’s eager to be a good representative for his hometown. “I want to represent Texas and Houston to the fullest. There’s some barbecue people here and I want to make sure I do it justice and represent it the right way.”