Padding one’s resume is never a good strategy, and, in the public realm of reality television, the blinding glare of the spotlight can only make it worse. The Next Food Network Star was wracked by significant drama at the end of the show that overshadowed everything that came before. It was a memorable night of reality cooking.
With the set of contestants down to only 3, Bobby Flay appeared and announced he would be the guest judge for the final round of challenges which would all be related to public relations. Kicking off the PR gauntlet was an interview for each contestant on XM radio’s Ron & Fez show. Amy charmed her way through without incident and, as the gourmet next door, whipped up a bagel with bologna and American cheese for the hosts to nosh. Jag followed and seemed to bash the Food Network a bit knocking them for a lack of Latino food. He followed those comments with a stale donut Napoleon with apples and juice. Finally, Rory stepped in and seemed to step in every trap the radio guys set for her including a mild knocking of her fellow contestants Amy and Jag. The dish she prepared for Ron & Fez was something she called Asian nachos with apples.
After the radio challenge, the trio headed into magazine interviews. Rory was declared the easiest to interview. Jag seemed to be sidestepping questions including anything about his background (more on this later), and Amy seemed the most genuine. I was particularly intrigued by her comment that when she travels and eats food she thinks “this is what the local people’s life tastes like” and she can begin to understand what the rest of their life might be like.
The final challenge gave all 3 contestants 5 minutes of time on the air with the Food Network’s ultra star, Rachael Ray. Amy stepped forward to demonstrate a gourmet way with baked eggs tossing out terms like en cocotte (cooked in a small dish or ramekin) and piperade (a Basque dish based on tomatoes and green peppers sauteed in olive oil). Rory followed with a mouth-watering steak accompanied by sugar-grilled asparagus and potatoes. She energetically engaged the audience but seemed to ignore the fact that she was sharing the stage with Rachael Ray. Jag presented a sautee of lobster and onion playing to the audience in a big way, but once in a while his chef background brought out rather esoteric seasonings that may be inaccessible to the home cook.
At evaluation time Amy was portrayed as approachable much of the time but she suddenly turned into a food snob with Rachael Ray. Rory has a magnetic personality but is often beset by inconsistent food quality. Jag turns out great food 90% of the time, but he is unpredictable in personality and the rawest of the talents. Jag also dropped an ominous comment about being unable to communicate his past to the public. The judges proclaimed their decision the hardest they had ever made and Amy was asked to leave…
But wait! Something happened in the time between this elimination taking place and the actual airing of the show. Some blogs were abuzz about rumors that Jag had padded his resume for the show. He claimed military service in Afghanistan and graduation from culinary school neither of which turns out to be true. I’m suspecting the Food Network really started to feel the heat when military groups started to protest Jag’s lies as disrespect for the military. The show depicted judges inviting Jag back to discuss the situation. At that point in time he withdrew from the competition. Rory was summoned back at which point she met the previously eliminated Amy as her new final competitor. Voting is now open for the winner. Will the final result hinge on Amy’s habit of speaking out of the side of her mouth? The voting ends Tuesday, July 17, 2007. Head to the Food Network for details.