Writer, chef, entertainer and radio host Jay Ducote is a proud University alumnus and culinary ambassador to Louisiana.
Ducote creates content for his culinary media company, Bite and Booze, owns a product line and is no stranger to the world of culinary entertainment. He finished runner-up on season 11 of reality cooking show “Food Network Star,” starred in a pilot for his own show on the Travel Channel and hosts the award-winning “Bite and Booze Radio Show” in Baton Rouge. His first restaurant, Gov’t Taco, is set to open early this year in Mid City’s White Star Market food hall.
LEGACY Magazine talked with Ducote about his time as an LSU student, passion for cooking and his impact on the Baton Rouge food scene.
LEGACY Magazine: How would you describe your time as an LSU student? What did you study? What were some of your favorite experiences?
Jay Ducote: My first declared major was broadcast journalism, but I took economics and political science classes during my freshman year and was drawn to the critical thinking skills involved in those classes. Five years later, I graduated with bachelor’s degrees in economics and political science and a minor in businesses. The main thing that I did while I was a student at LSU was throw tailgate parties. I was basically a professional tailgater, and that’s where I learned how to cook and where most of my passion for Louisiana food and beverage comes from. The first football game of my first year of college, my cousin handed me our grandfather’s old barbecue utensils at a tailgate and said, “Here freshman, you’re in charge of the grill.” I learned how to cook right there. We threw huge tailgate parties, and I have so many good memories and stories from those. In addition to throwing tailgate parties, I was very active and involved on campus. I was a member of student government and an LSU Ambassador and I participated in Leadership LSU my senior year.
LM: When and how did you begin your career in food?
JD: After I got my master’s degree in political science from LSU, I taught math for two years at a high school in Baton Rouge and was the head baseball coach. Then, I got a job working for the state of Louisiana doing grant-writing and policy research. I went from being a career student and tailgater to being on my feet as teacher and coach to sitting at a computer all day, and I was bored. I would go to lunch somewhere downtown and take pictures of my food, then go back to my office and write about what I had for lunch. I wanted to keep track of where I was eating so I could try new restaurants and new dishes. It started as an online food journal, but then people started reading it. Without realizing it, I had started a blog, which I called “Bite and Booze.” The more that I wrote about food, the more I wanted to learn. I started watching documentaries, researching ingredients, and cooking more. I started to get press for the blog, and I was cast on season two of Fox’s "MasterChef." That was a big moment for me because it was a big early failure. I realized if I was serious about doing things in the food world, I had a lot more to learn and to practice. I also learned that I really enjoyed TV and being on camera. In 2011, I started the “Bite and Booze Radio Show,” which turned Bite and Booze into a business. I quit my day job and started doing Bite and Booze full time.
LM: Considering all of your successes, what makes you want to stay in Louisiana and invest in the Baton Rouge food scene?
JD: I’ve had a lot of opportunities to go elsewhere. I could have moved to Los Angeles, New York, or even just New Orleans, but I love Baton Rouge. It’s always felt like home to me. I like it here, and I like being able to go to New Orleans or Lafayette anytime I want. Living in Baton Rouge allows you to get the best of all of Louisiana because you can really explore the whole state. Baton Rouge has been really good to me; living here has allowed me to travel around the country and always call Baton Rouge home.
LM: What's the inspiration behind your new restaurant, Gov’t Taco?
JD: My team and I got together and landed on tacos as a way to use a tortilla as a vessel to serve whatever flavors we want. We won’t serve authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex tacos at the restaurant. We’re going to be serving flavors of the world and using the tortilla as a way to make composed dishes handheld, portable and easy to eat. The restaurant got its name because it’s on Government Street, in the Capital City and allows me to put my background in political science to use.
LM: When you’re not doing the cooking, where and what do you like to eat?
JD: I’m a very adventurous eater. I have some favorites, but I like to always eat something different. I’m not a regular at any one restaurant in Baton Rouge because I want to explore different places. I love to eat good barbecue when I can find it and I enjoy Asian food these days, especially Vietnamese and Thai.
LM: What advice would you give to LSU students who are passionate about something, but not sure how to make a career out of it?
JD: Immerse yourself in whatever it is you are passionate about and find ways to express yourself within that medium. If you’re that passionate about it, someone else is too. Learn more about the subject, watch documentaries and then find some way to be creative in that space yourself.
LM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
JD: It has been fun to be an LSU alumnus lately because I’ve been able to do cool things like speak at TEDxLSU and give the summer commencement address. Being invited back by LSU to give a commencement speech was one of the biggest honors I’ve ever received. It’s been awesome having the “powers that be” at LSU recognizing me as a successful alumnus. It definitely makes me proud to be a Tiger.