Jag Crashes and Burns on the Next Food Network Star

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One of the little known things about me is that I’m a foodie. Consequently, watching the Food Network’s Next Food Network Star is a TIVO slam dunk. And, yes, just wait to see how this applies to Cubicle Warriors.

It’s been an interesting series — one where I didn’t really think the people that were selected were that interesting. I was with Alton Brown when he said something along the lines of “can’t we just eliminate them all and start over?”

But, over time, I’ve seen the contestants mature and change. Rory, Amy, and Jag have done their thing and Rory and Amy have always gotten better.

But Jag has always had issues — where Giada even said to rid himself of “whatever demons you have.” Jag counters with much of his past needs to be in the past and he needs to show what he has become. The judges have commented on how he needs to open up and work his past — whatever it is — into something that can come across as helping his cause.

Yet, in spite of not being emotionally mature, in spite of blaming others throughout the episodes, and in spite of being labeled with having an “anger management” problem, the judges have continued to send him on to the next round.

I can only attribute this to the fact that buried somewhere in there, Jag has a personality that could — could — rock the house. If he was my employee, he would have been on some performance warning track a long time ago.

This is the week that the three contestants become two and America gets to vote the winner. The judges, again in spite of blowing the press meetings and not doing as well on Rachel Ray’s daytime talk show, leave Jag in the finalists and send Amy packing.

Amy, in the end, is my favorite because she has shown the most growth, maturity, and recovery from her own self doubts. In the last two shows she has just simply nailed it. She owned the Iron Chef competition and all I kept saying to myself was “who would have thunk?!”

I’m left with Jag, who I think should be on a performance plan, and Rory, who has been consistently inconsistent with her food and consistent in her pandering to the camera.

I’m just not thrilled.

But, at the end of the show, after Amy is thrown out, comes the dreaded black screen with words that have to make anyone chill: Jag never served in Afghanistan as part of his Marine background and has never graduated from culinary school.

They then show Jag’s meeting with the judges where he withdraws from the competition.

And then bring Amy back in the mix for America to vote on as the Next Food Network Star.

I had a manager once that commented on a person by quoting Shakespeare: “He doth protest too much.”

It’s a lesson I missed here. Jag consistently did not want to speak to his background. He consistency side stepped his past. He protested too much that his past did not matter, when, in fact, it did. He wasn’t being authentic.

We’ve all read how rampant the distortion of facts has become on resumes. While I could critique the Food Network on not doing background checks on all of the contestants, I can laud them for making an incredibly tough decision to put the black screen of death up there for Jag on nationwide TV. And give credit to Jag for the apology and withdrawing — but with me having doubts now about everything he does.

I had a CEO once who asked himself this question: “would I be proud of doing this when it is reported on the front page of the paper?”

Or, in this age, on the Internet.

I’ve done a lot of stuff in my past that I’m not proud of, but would do it again. Perhaps executed in a different way, but I don’t regret the decisions I have made — just that some of them have been tough on others.

I’m at the point in my life where I’ve done what I’ve done and acknowledge those decisions, good or bad. Living with those decisions on the front page of a paper would be tough, but they were my decisions and I went with them.

I am what I am, good or bad. Jag was trying to be someone he wasn’t. Instead of embracing his past and learning from it, he lied about his past and tried to build something from it. That’s not sustainable, especially with fame from your work being in the homes of millions of people every week. It’s not authentic and, as Giada noted, the demons will show up on camera.

There are no secrets about a person’s life anymore. Any small amount of notoriety will bring forth detractors or truth Sayers. We are all living in the public all the time. Like it or not.

If we shoot for our dreams and come close to making it, it does no good to have built all of it on a foundation of quicksand. It will not last.

And that’s the lesson for Cubicle Warriors: we must be authentic. We must be true to ourselves. We cannot build our careers on lies because the lies in this networked world will come out at the worst possible time in the worst possible way — ruining our personal brand as nothing else can.

My old CEO was right: evaluate what you do and how you do it on how it would read on the front page of a paper. It’s a good way to look at what you do.

Jag paid big-time for his mistake. Let’s put what is right on our resume and let the chips fall where they may.

And, in the meantime, go vote for Amy. You only have until tonight.

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