Prime Time Pulse Exclusive Interview: Eddie Gilbert of The Next Food Network Star

Interviews, Top Story


The fifth season of the Next Food Network Star started three weeks ago. Ten people who love to cook were all trying to be the next “star” on the Food Network and get their own show. The most well-known contestant of the competition is Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Guy’s Big Bite, Guy Off The Hook), who won the second season competition.

The third person eliminated from this season’s competition was Eddie Gilbert. Eddie is 30 and lives in Los Angeles, California. He expanded his culinary knowledge by working as an apprentice in a Los Angeles restaurant. After graduating from Vanderbilt University with two degrees, Eddie worked at a prestigious talent agency before turning his love for cooking into a career. The travel, sports and music enthusiast enjoys modernizing traditional dishes and making them more accessible for the home cook. Here is what he had to say…

Did you try out for any of the past seasons of the Next Food Network Star?

Eddie Gilbert: No, this was the first season that I auditioned for the show.

Why did you try out for the show?

EG: Because winning the show is my dream job!  I mean, I love being a chef, but getting paid to talk about food and share it with the masses is a dream come true.

Explain your try-out process in detail. How many rounds/interviews did you have to go through? What did you have to do to try out?

EG: The try out process was quite simple.  I went to an open call in Santa Monica, where I had to bring my signature dish and explain it (Seared Lamb Chops w/ a Guinness Reduction and Truffled Parsnip puree) and also had to perform a 3-5 minute demo about a technique that I felt was valuable.  My technique consisted of teaching the audience how to remove the membrane from pork ribs with vice grips.  The semifinals auditions were in New York, and combined a series of on-camera interviews, as well as an on-camera demo where I was given 4 mystery ingredients (as well as use of any ingredients in the pantry) and was given 30 minutes to cook while being asked questions by producers.  My mystery ingredients were Pork Tenderloin, Prosciutto, Baby Spinach, and Dried Figs.  I made a Prosciutto wrapped Pork Tenderloin, on a bed of sauteed Baby Spinach and Shallots, topped with a Dried Fig and Green Apple Chutney.  It was quite funny… they handed me a basket, said here are your ingredients, take two minutes to look around and get situated and begin!  What an absolute rush of adrenaline!  Another cool note on the audition process was that I actually met Jeffrey Saad while sitting in the reception area at the open call in Santa Monica.  I finished with my audition as he was about to go in.  We chatted in up for a few minutes, and when I was leaving, he said, “I’ll see you in New York.”  I said the same thing to him and left. Who knew we would both be right!

Did you think you would make the finals to begin with?

EG: I never really thought about it. I was confident in myself, thought I had a good story, and just rolled the dice.  I believe everything happens for a reason.

So we saw Bobby Flay call you out on rolling your eyes at Melissa while you were cooking with her. He didn’t like that at all. Do you think that is why you got eliminated?

EG: I don’t know why I was eliminated.  I think there were a lot of factors that probably contributed to me being sent home.  But I will say that since my culinary skills were questioned, and I did in fact win the Esquire challenge in episode 2, I was definitely a bit shocked.  I thought I at least deserved one more week to prove myself.  It’s funny — my mom rolls her eyes a lot, so I guess it’s genetic.  Just another thing I have to work.

Why do you think you were ultimately eliminated then?

EG: Truthfully, as I mentioned above, I’m not sure.  I obviously just didn’t show the judges the type of consistency they were looking for.  I would have loved one more week to prove I belonged. I felt like I was just getting comfortable and hitting my stride. Oh well.

What do you really think of Melissa as a cook?

EG: To be honest, I never ate her food.  We never got a chance to eat each other’s food during the challenges, and she never cooked at the house while I was still on the show, so to this day, the jury is still out on that one. 

For the past two weeks we have seen that three different people have had issues with Melissa. Why do you think that it is?

EG: That’s a good question.  I think the first two episodes had to do with what Brett and Teddy felt were a lack of honesty on her part.  They were instrumental in helping her plate her dishes during the Good Housekeeping challenge, and she never really thanked them or gave them credit for doing so.  In terms of me and Melissa, I don’t think I had issues with her exactly.  We got along quite well during our presentation, and although we had some rough spots while cooking together, I think we finished strong as a team in front of the guests at Ina’s house.  I think I was more frustrated to have to put my fate in the hands of anyone other than myself.  I had two strikes against me, and I think I would have preferred that challenge being an individual challenge, and a not a team challenge. 

Why haven’t the judges noticed that and called her out on it?

EG: I don’t know. You would have to ask them!

Should the other contestants not say or do anything that might make it seem like they didn’t like any of the other contestants and become a target?

EG: That’s a tough one. I think there is a balance that has to be met.  We were told to act with integrity by the selection committee from day one, and honesty is an integral part of having integrity.  I think each contestant has to do what they feel is right, and no matter what the consequence, should be completely accountable for their actions. 

Did you think you were gone when it was down to you and Teddy?

EG: I wasn’t sure. I knew the selection committee and some of the finalists weren’t happy with Teddy, but that was my third time at the bottom, and truthfully, I was using up lives quickly.  I don’t think I deserved to be in the bottom three in episode 2, as I thought winning Esquire would have counted for something.  That being said, Teddy had never been in the bottom before, so I had a feeling it would be me.  When we were in the green room with the other Finalists waiting to be called back in to hear our fate, a sense of calm came over me, and I knew that I would be okay with whatever decision was made.  As I said before, everything happens for a reason!

What were you thinking during the whole Teddy/Debbie argument right before elimination?

EG: I think people fight for themselves when their back is against the wall.  I’m sure Teddy wishes he had handled things differently.  He is a real good guy. No one can understand the kind of pressure we were all under. 

How much Food Network did you watch before the competition?

EG: I watched a good amount of Food Network: Iron Chef America, Ace of Cakes, The Cooking Loft, Tyler’s Ultimate & Good Eats are all shows that I enjoy.  Food Network was one of the few cable channels we got at Vanderbilt while I was in school, and so Food Network had an instrumental role in creating my passion for food.

Favorite Food Network shows? Favorite Food Network stars?

EG: Favorite show is definitely Iron Chef America — especially when the challengers come in and beat the Iron Chefs.  My favorite episode is still Chef Flay vs. Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune restaurant in NYC.  The secret ingredient was zucchini and she rocked the house, and beat Chef Flay.  Prune is my absolute favorite restaurant!  She is a very gifted and creative chef and is someone I would love to work for one day.  I am also a huge fan of Duff and the Ace of Cakes team.  They just seem to have so much fun with what they do, and never take themselves too seriously!

Who have you been most excited to meet so far?

EG: Duff and Alex Guarnaschelli for sure.  It was such an amazing experience to cook in the Butter kitchen, where Alex is the head chef.  That kitchen is beautiful!

Anyone from The Food Network you would like to meet that you haven’t yet?

EG: I was hoping to meet Michael Symon and Paula Deen.  Michael Symon and I have a similar affinity for pork, and the first cookbook I ever bought was a Paula Deen cookbook in college. She is my long lost southern grandmother.

Favorite meal to cook? Favorite meal to eat if different?

EG: I don’t know if I have a favorite meal to cook.  I think it’s more important who I am cooking for. Whether its friends, family, or my girlfriend.  There are a few favorite meals I love to eat: bone marrow, fried chicken, sushi, New York pizza, foie gras, sweetbreads, and more bone marrow.

Did you make any friends on the show that you will keep in contact with?

EG: I am happy to say many of the other finalists and I are friends.  I watched the first episode at Jeffrey’s house with him and his family.  I have also worked with Debbie on a catering event since we have been back from production.  Debbie, Jamika, and I worked a food festival together last week which was awesome! I stayed with Michael when I was in New York a few months ago, and talk to Brett on the phone at least once a week.  Jen and I email back and forth, and I get occasional emails from Katie and Melissa.  Teddy and I have become great friends.  In fact, I will be in Washington D.C. from July 14th to the 24th cooking with him at his restaurants.  It’s gonna be a blast!

Any finalist you didn’t like?

EG: I don’t think so. Everyone was awesome!  It’s funny — there’s so much that goes on behind the scenes that no one sees.  It’s a television show, and characters have to be created.  Everyone truly got along with everyone.  All of the finalists are great people and I am happy to say they all have a special place in my heart.

Hardest part of the competition for you?

EG: Definitely the cameras!  It’s one thing cooking. It’s a completely different thing having cameras watch your every move.  It definitely adds to the drama of each moment. 

We have seen a few Next Food Network Star contestants get their own shows (Adam from last season, etc.). What do you think your chances of getting your own show are?

EG: I don’t know. I would love my own show!  I think I have a different vibe and personality than anyone on the Food Network, and I think I can resonate with an audience, grab them, and pull them into my world through the television.  And I think Food Network needs somebody to grab to 21-35 year old demographic, and I would love to be the person spearheading that movement.

What kind of show would it be? What would be the theme or “hook” of your show?

EG: Something incorporating food, travel, and chefs across the world.  I am a HUGE Anthony Bourdain fan, and his show, No Reservations, is a great model for something I would like to do.  I love to travel and have learned so much about food through my journeys across the world.  Food is the common demonimator that crosses all boundaries, and the opportunity to share with people the joys and pleasures of other cultures and the food that is fundamental to their existence would be a real treat.  I have a few ideas, but I’m gonna keep them in my back pocket for now.  But definitely look for me in the fall lineup.

If no Food Network future, what is next for you?

EG: I have only been a chef for a little over a year, so I have a lot of learning to do.  The future is wide open, and I am looking forward to the opportunities ahead.  I am spending the summer cooking with a few different chefs around the country, and plan on getting back into a Los Angeles kitchen come fall.  There are so many people I want to learn from, and there is so much knowledge out there… Fortunately, I have nothing but time.  I do plan on opening my own restaurant, but I have some stuff to do accomplish before that happens.  I have also started a website called – complete with recipes and daily blogs, it’s a one-stop-shop for anyone who is passionate about food.  As I mentioned, there are a lot of young foodies out there, and someone needs to reach out to them and help them gain the confidence to just get in the kitchen and cook.  There is something truly magical about creating something with your own hands, and there is no greater pleasure than savoring that creation with good friends.  

The Next Food Network Star airs on the Food Network on Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

I'm not embarrassed to say that my favorite television show of all-time is The O.C. I live by the motto "you can't fight fate!" More importantly, I watch WAY too much television, but I do so for the benefit of everyone reading this now. So to my mom and my wife, I say thanks for reading! To everyone else that might stumble across this, remember TiVo should be your best friend!