The third season of The Next Food Network Star concluded Sunday, and Amy Finley beat Rory Schepisi for the title. Incredibly, Amy was actually eliminated earlier, making Jag and Rory the final two, but returned once Jag quit.
That controversy probably helped to bring the Food Network its “highest ratings ever”: 3.6 million people watched the finale, the Washington Post reports. Near the end of the penultimate episode, on-screen text explained what all of the drama was about:
“Several months after this episode was taped, Food Network learned that Jag had misrepresented facts about his military service and his culinary training. He said he had served in Afghanistan and that he had graduated from cooking school, neither of which is true. When given the opportunity during a press interview, Jag did not set the record straight. Food Network asked Jag to come to New York to discuss the situation.”
In New York, Jag sat down with Bob and Susie, and confessed to lying about his past, and resigned from the show–as if they weren’t going to drop him. His delivery made his confession and resignation seem rehearsed, and he didn’t explain why he lied. He said:
“It’s very hard for me to do this because this is something that I’ve dreamed of my whole life. I’ve taken credit for something I haven’t done. I told you folks that I graduated from culinary school, but the truth is, I never graduated. And, this is hard to talk about, you know, it really it is, and, I told you guys that I’d deployed to Afghanistan, and I didn’t. I was a United States Marine, I served my country honorably, and I’ve been a whole of places, but Afghanistan wasn’t one of them. I’m not here to take any glory from my brothers that are out there now doing their thing. I love the Core, I love my Marines, I just want to do things the right way. I’m taking myself out of this competition. I can’t in good conscience continue knowing, you know, what you guys demand of a Food Network Star. I can’t continue knowing that I’m not mature enough yet to meet those requirements. And I’m sorry.”
Jag showed up for the reunion, but hardly said anything. Earlier, the Army Times reported about the evolution of Jag’s story, noting that he served but “Garcia was discharged eight months early as a private for reasons the Marine Corps declined to discuss, citing privacy laws. In a follow-up interview June 11, Garcia was asked to explain why he called himself a former corporal. He admitted to nonjudicial punishments that got him busted down to private, blaming his military troubles on a ‘hazing scandal’ at his former unit.”
The paper says that “Garcia claimed that he could call himself a corporal because he fought his administrative separation and was ultimately exonerated,” but “The Marine Corps has no record of Garcia’s rank being upgraded from private by any review board.” Jag said, “The worst thing I did was let the Food Network believe something that wasn’t true. … That’s my fault. I let them believe it — that’s my fault.”
Food Network contestant cooked up details about Marine service [Army Times]