Until last Sunday, I had never watched “The Next Food Network Star.” As big a fan as I am on the Food Network, I just never bothered to watch this show, which takes people who may or may not have culinary training, runs them through cooking contests, and gives the winner their own six episode show on the network. But, my husband brought home a copy of The Marine Times that prompted me to watch two episodes Sunday.
One of the contestants, Josh Garcia (who goes by JAG – his initials) is a former Marine who works as a chef at a French fusion restaurant in New Bern, NC – a town about 45 minutes north of us. Intrigued, I decided to watch the show. And he appeared to be one of the forerunners in the show.
There is just one problem…JAG isn’t quite who he seems. The Marine Times just ran an article in this week’s issue saying that JAG was not discharged as a Corporal, as he claims. He was released from the Marine Corps eight months early – as a private. He also mentioned serving with an infantry battalion in Afghanistan. That too, appears to be fabricated. The Marine Corps isn’t talking too much about his claims, but would say he was released as a private, that his service record only showed him in food service (not in the infantry), and that the battalion he claims to have gone to Afghanistan with didn’t even deploy to Afghanistan that year.
When JAG conducted a phone interview with a publicist for the Food Network, he stuck to his story. However, when he conducted a second interview – without a Food Network rep – he said that the real story of his military record didn’t come out due to a scandalous hazing incident. And that there was an administrative separation review and his rank was returned to Corporal, although the Marine Corps won’t even confirm that he did indeed ever reach the rank of Corporal. As for Afghanistan, he said he let the Food Network people “believe what they wanted to believe,” insinuating that they were looking for a combat veteran for the show and he played along.
The Food Network has issued a statement saying that they conducted a background check on all competitors, but they are investigating the situation with JAG. JAG has updated his Food Network profile to erase the discrepancies and has made his MySpace profile private.
In addition to all that, the news has surfaced that JAG did not graduate from the New York Restaurant School, as he had stated. School officials verify that he did attend, but did not graduate. They would not comment on how many hours he completed. Most of the episodes for the show have already been filmed, so I don’t know actions, if any, Food Network will take. But, if JAG makes it to the finals, the public still gets to vote on who wins and with this news being made public, it might hurt his chances.