Eddie Jackson Tells Us What It's Really Like Working With Bobby Flay - Exclusive

Since winning "Food Network Star," Eddie Jackson has more than lived up to that title. The ingredients to Jackson's success are simple: Start with plenty of cooking expertise (especially when it comes to barbecue), add ample charisma, and top it all off with a healthy portion of joyful enthusiasm. The former NFL cornerback is now one of the channel's most familiar faces hosting "Kids BBQ Championship" and "Christmas Cookie Challenge" and performing judging duties on shows such as "Chopped," "The Big Bake," and "Guy's Grocery Games" (via IMDb).

Of course, if you're spending a lot of time in the Food Network ecosystem, you're bound to run into one of the faces of the franchise, Bobby Flay. Not only is Jackson a frequent guest judge on "Beat Bobby Flay," he's currently working alongside the cooking icon as well as fellow celebrity chef Michael Symon on "BBQ Brawl."

But during an exclusive interview with Mashed, Jackson explained his relationship with Flay extends beyond co-worker status, describing him as a "mentor" and "great friend."

According to Jackson, Flay was an immediate supporter of his at the Food Network. When asked to reveal the best piece of advice he's gotten from Flay, Jackson repeated some words of wisdom shared during those early days that continue to resonate with him. "Stay true to myself," Jackson recalled Flay telling him. "I don't walk around and say, 'I'm a world-class chef,' because I'm not a world-class chef. I'm a great chef, but I haven't been cooking for 40 years like Bobby Flay. Eventually, I think I can get there, but I just stay true to myself, stay true to my flavors. I feel like that is what has really gotten me to where I'm at today."

Eddie Jackson compares Bobby Flay to an NBA legend

While Jackson made his mark as a master of barbecue, Flay has inspired him to expand his culinary horizons. "Bobby has great versatility in his cooking, and I pride myself on being able to do that,” said Jackson. "That's something that I've noticed with Bobby. No matter what he's cooking, he really has a very versed knowledge of ways to prepare things ... Those are kind of the tricks and things that I've learned being around Bobby Flay."

It's no surprise that Jackson had a blast hanging with his pal and mentor on "BBQ Brawl." With three massive personalities competing against each other, there was, of course, plenty of trash talk on the set, but Jackson admitted that he had to show restraint when it came to Flay. "I really don't have a lot of insults with Bobby," he said. "This dude is like the Michael Jordan of cooking, so you can't talk too much smack to Bobby Flay, because he can back it up."

And if you think comparing Flay to His Airness is a bridge too far, just remember that Jackson played alongside Tom Brady on the 2007 New England Patriots so he definitely knows a thing or two about working with legends (via NFL). "The thing I love most about Bobby is how humble he is," said Jackson. "He's a very humble guy and I pride myself on being a humble guy, no matter what opportunities I get or what success I get, and Bobby is exactly like that."

Check out Eddie Jackson and Bobby Flay in action on "BBQ Brawl" which airs Mondays on Food Network. And be sure to try Jackson's slow cooker beef ragu, which is his latest offering as Chief Recipe Officer for Beef Loving Texans.