Season Three of The Next Food Network Star concluded filming in late February, 2007 with Jag and Rory as the finalists. On June 1, Jag gave an interview to the magazine Army Times, where he discussed his background, including his culinary training and military service. Inconsistencies in his story lead the magazine to investigate his military service. Following their investigation, it was determined Jag had not served in the infantry nor had he deployed to Afghanistan with the Marines, as claimed, but rather was asked to leave the Corps eight months early due to his involvement in a hazing scandal. Upon further investigaion, the AT also learned Jag attended, but did not graduate from culinary school as claimed. Given an opportunity to address these revelations in a June 11 follow-up interview, Jag failed to provide any explanation, and offered to reveal the second finalist, in violation of his confidentiality agreement, if the magazine withheld what it knew.
Upon publication of the story later in June, Jag was recalled to New York, where he explained his remarks and was allowed to withdraw from the competition. That same day, Rory, who had also been brought to New York as well, learned she would be competing against Amy in the US vote. Although Jag appeared to withdraw that day, Amy and Rory's presence in New York the same day indicates Jag's fate was determined in advance.
The three remaining finalists' five-minute cooking demonstrations were broadcast on the Rachael Ray Show on Friday, July 13, 2007. They appeared in a different order than this episode presented the edited versions of their demos: first Rory, then Jag, and finally Amy.
Among the crucial moments edited from the show was an incident where a kettle Amy expected to be full of water was empty, forcing her to quickly pretend it had water in it. Also edited were two incidents where Rory was thrown off her presentation by Ray's interruptions, which she handled smoothly, and Jag's repeatedly calling Ray "honey" or "baby."
Most telling was Susie's signaling Jag with a big smile, then as he started, two thumbs up. None of the judges provided any such signals or encouragement to Amy or Rory.
Challenge #14: XM Radio Interview
The day's first challenges allow the finalists to demonstrate their media savvy in some tough situations. First up, they each are interviewed by XM Radio's Ron and Fez, who don't make it easy for them. They can't escape the cooking here, either, when they must fix something using what was on hand: bagels, cheese, fruit, etc.
Feedback: Lisa and Carrie felt Amy handled the XM radio interview best, as did Ron and Fez.
Challenge #15: Print Interview and Photo Shoot
Next up for the finalists was an interview for Star Magazine and a photoshoot. No cooking or tricks to catch them this time; this was an effort to see how each would present to the media.
Feedback: Matt felt Amy was the most poised, but Rory was easiest to interview.
Food Network Public Relations Manager Lisa Del Colle and Public Relations Director Carrie Welch served as escorts for the finalists during the interview challenges.
Star Magazine Entertainment Director Matt Coppa conducted the print interviews, and photographer Tim Sotter did the photoshoots, which were to appear in an upcoming issue of Star Magazine.
All four served as guest judges, offering input on the finalists' handling of the media challenges.
Challenge #16: Cooking Demo on the Rachael Ray Show
Each of the finalists was given five minutes to cook a signature dish on Rachael Ray's daytime talk show, while interacting with Rachael and a live audience.
Also present were judged Bob Tuchman, Susie Fogelson and Bobby Flay. An edited version of each presentation was shown during NFNS.
* Although Amy was eliminated at the end of this round, she was later recalled to the competition when Jag withdrew.