Guy Fieri is that guy in the parking lot who pulls up with battery cables when you’re stuck and you can’t start your car. He’s the one taking “rare or well done?” requests while single handedly flipping burgers on the grill at the annual block party. And while the grownups are sitting around drinking cocktails and gossiping, he’s the one playing last rounds of Duck Duck Goose with all of the kids in the pool. And then petting the dogs and feeding them scraps.
But here’s the irony.
This is the very same Guy (pun intended) who is now larger than life on your TV screen, with his telltale spiked Ziggy Stardustesque Signature hair (think a young David Bowie) and his tattoos and mega bling, and while he maintains the same non pretentious vibe, he pulls off true blue stardom without a glitch, hosting a couple of very popular Food Network television shows (Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives; Guy’s Big Bite) with yet another one on the way (the second season of Ultimate Recipe Showdown), has authored a bunch of cookbooks (including a new cookbook/memoir, Guy Fieri Food (William Morrow); he even has his own popular game show now. (NBC’s Minute to Win It)
This 43 year old husband, dad of two sons and owner of five (soon six) restaurants has literally popped overnight and right after winning the Next Food Network Star just two years ago.
How did he do it?
While Mr. Fieri wasn’t looking it seems, he became an iconic brand and an internationally acclaimed celebrity at that.
Like his on stage persona, Guy is friendly, funny and enthusiastic yet always humble with the perfect yin/yang of high energy/low keyness about him, making for easy discussion, as if you were sitting in your kitchen with him, taste testing ladles of soup in between catching up on things.
This round, he was interviewed at the Food Network Food and Wine Festival, through the Caesars Entertainment Resorts in Atlantic City, Caesars, Ballys, Showboat, and Harrahs.
Haute Living: Atlantic City is very down to earth in its way but also of course, very glitz and glamour. It seems that much the same, you are very real but at the same time…..
Guy: I know! Glitz and Glamour too! (He laughs)
Haute Living: Well, if you say so I guess yes, haute, glitzy and glamorous too. So, how do you keep that balance?
Guy: I think that I was fortunate to get into this after I got older. I was 37 when I got this shot so I had already done what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a dad. That’s actually my first title on my business card; “dad” and then I wanted to be a chef and a restaurant owner and I did that. So it just sort of happened.
The Press: Is your fun-loving, common-man persona—the shades, bleached hair, bowling shirts—a way to make good food accessible to people?
Guy: Never had a plan, my friend. It was not a design. This was not like, “Oh, I’m gonna be this really cool hip-looking dude! And I’ll go bleach my hair and get tattoos and everybody’ll like me! It’s just who I am and it works!
Haute Living: Life seems all about finding your own personal inspirations from the people in your path to precious defining moments. Who or what inspires you?
Guy: My little sister passed away a few months ago. Very heartbreaking situation. We’re a very close family, my mom and dad, my sister and myself. It was very—still is a very difficult time in our family. She had cancer when she was a child; she had survived the cancer for 34 years, no sign of it, and then all of a sudden melanoma… So it’s still a very difficult time, but the way I look at life is, you gotta face it, and the way I’m facing it is doing things that I promised my sister. My sister and I cooked a lot together; my sister was a very healthy vegetarian. She was always a real good teacher for me about organics, recycling, composting [Laughs]—whenever you hear me talk about it, it’s usually because of my sister’s influence.
Press: So what’s up next for you Guy?
Guy- Before all of this happened; I really felt that I had accomplished my goals in life. My first passion has always been to be a restaurateur, a good husband and father, and to provide for my family. I’m looking at this new stuff as a platform to help people around me. I’m proof that you can be anything that you want to be.
Only two years ago, Guy competed and won the second season of The Next Food Network Star. Today this “Bad Boy” of Food Network hosts four popular shows from his newest, Guy off the Hook, where he chats with a live studio audience, to Guy’s Big Bite, where he teaches viewers how to make creative dishes with bold flavors and Ultimate Recipe Showdown, where he showcases home cooks’ best recipes, to traveling across America to find the most unique Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
This likeable laid back California “guy” with his trademark bleached blond spiky hair began his love affair with food at the age of ten, selling soft pretzels from a three-wheeled bicycle cart he built with his father named “The Awesome Pretzel.” Through selling pretzels and washing dishes, Guy earned enough money in six years to study abroad as an exchange student in Chantilly, France. While there, he gained a true appreciation for international cuisine.
In 1996, Guy and his business partner, Steve Gruber embarked on a Sonoma County, CA- based Italian restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s and eventually expanded to a second outpost in Windsor in 1999 and a third just opened in Roseville, CA. Next they developed Tex Wasabi’s a Southern BBQ and California Sushi restaurant in Santa Rosa, CA, opening a second location in Sacramento in 2007.
In October 2008, Guy released his first book based on his widely popular show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip…with Recipes! Guy also takes his zest for all things food on his weekly syndicated radio show, Food Guy & Marcy, which he co-hosts with Marcy Smothers.
Guy lives in Northern California with his wife, Lori and two boys Hunter and Ryder. When he isn’t on the road or in-studio, he loves to spend time taking road trips with his family, cooking and restoring his classic race cars and dirt bikes.