Interview date: 02/03/2009
Run date: 02/20/2009
You can’t really rise to stardom any quicker than Food Network personality Guy Fieri. After winning Season Two of “The Next Food Network Star” a couple of years back, Fieri has hosted, or is hosting, several shows on the network, and has become arguably its most popular and marketable personality. Fieri also just released his first book, “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” the companion book to his most popular show. We had the chance to catch up with Fieri recently to talk about his incredible rise to fame, his book and his shows. This is a guy who loves his job, and he’s managed to stay remarkably humble through it all.
Guy Fieri: Hey Mike, what’s up, man?
Bullz-Eye: Hey Guy. How are you?
GF: I’ve got a little bit of a frog in my voice but I’m here.
BE: Are you under the weather or just…
GF: Ah no. I talked my ear off. I talk everybody’s ear off at the Super Bowl. I’m kind of reeling in that a bit.
BE: Right on.
GF: But I’m good to go, brother! I’m good to go. What’s up?
BE: Sounds good, man. So I love your shows. I love your book. And I’m really glad that we have the chance to talk to you.
GF: You have great taste.
BE: (laughs) Right on.
BE: So how do you balance it all with three top shows on Food Network, five restaurants and a family?
GF: It really starts with being surrounded by a bunch of great people. With my restaurants, fortunately I have a really good business partner, a guy named Steve Gruber. Steve and I were doing restaurants way before the Food Network opportunities came about. But it’s the people inside of my company that make it all so possible. Then on top of it to be blessed with a great wife, and a good mom and dad, and a lot of people around me. So really it all comes down to, honestly, just having good people supporting what I’m doing. It’s not by any means easy. The thing I have to be willing to do is work -- I think I’m the one that is going to actually copyright the term “25/8.” You ever hear of the term “25/8?” It’s the cousin of “24/7.” I have to go “25/8.”
BE: I can imagine.
GF: I would say that’s it. It’s the old term of “making hay while the sun’s shining.” I think the only way I could have ever trained to be in the television business would be to do what I was brought up doing, which was working in the restaurant business -- because that’s the only thing that I could ever say is as hard or as demanding as television.
BE: Right on.
GF: How was that for 90 answers?
BE: (laughs) I like it! So in your “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” book, did you pick the recipes or did the owners of each restaurant? And were any of them reluctant to give anything away?
GF: You know it was interesting, because when we first started the show, people were, I don’t want to say reluctant, but people were like, “Wait a second. Let me get this right. Who are you? What’s the name of your show?” You know, it was that kind of questioning that was going on. And then as we got bigger and people really started to understand the show and understand what it was about, then people came out of the woodwork. Well, the same thing happened when we got ready to do the book. People were like, “Well wait a second. They already gave you a bunch of stuff on the show. Why do you want more recipes? This guy’s a -- ” So maybe, I would say five percent of the people were kind of cross-eyed on us. But what it was really, we couldn’t put everybody in the book because the book wasn’t slated to be that big yet. This next book we have coming out will be a monster. So we had to ask who wanted to play ball, and who could get us the recipes the fastest. And on we went. So there was a lot of the Food Network involved in it, and a lot of the actual owners of the locations involved in making those decisions.
BE: When is the next book coming out? Is it an extension of this one?
GF: Well I think that we’ll probably look forward to seeing that this book will continue to go as long as the show does. I would anticipate, we usually do two seasons a year, and would anticipate to say that it would be volume two, three, four, five, six, 10 million by the time this continues to go the way it’s going. But I think you can anticipate the new book to be coming out right around September or October of this year.
BE: Very cool. Is it really as much fun as it seems to be on “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” as it seems to be on TV?
GF: Well brother, I can only tell it to you in one way? Where do you live?
GF: God I love Nashville. I was just down in Nashville. What’s that cool street you guys have down there in Nashville?
BE: Broadway? You mean where all the honky-tonks are?
BE: Yeah, that’s Broadway.
GF: Oh man. We were down there for the Jack Daniel’s Invitational, for the cook-off in Lynchburg. Do people ever say to you, “You live in Nashville. Is Nashville really that wild? Does Nashville really have all those country western stars?”
BE: All the time.
GF: Well I’ll tell you something. I’m a “what you see is what you get” kind of guy. I don’t have any time to be showing anybody any bag of tricks. It’s so wild that we have to pace ourselves otherwise we’d get into two, three, four days in a row of shooting, and by the time you come to your fifth day, you’re dragging. And we can’t have the show -- no one wants to see some tired guy wandering around. (faking a tired voice) “Uhh, this place right here. The chili’s fantastic.” So we really have to stay on top of what we’re doing. But oh, it’s a rolling circus everywhere we go.
BE: (laughs) That must be awesome. So family and friends often make appearances on “Guy’s Big Bite.” Was that always your vision of the show? And how have your friends and family taken to your fame?
GF: It was absolutely the biggest part of what I wanted to have happen. My friends and my family are such a massive part of my life. My kids are everything. To me, it is very similar to what goes on here at my house. We’re always cooking together. We’re always hanging out doing something surrounding food. So it was just something kind of said that way that’s how things would go. It was just convincing the network that I wanted it that way. Probably the main one would be my son, Hunter. Every time we go somewhere, we’ll be running around some new city or something. They’ll meet Hunter and say, “I saw you on “Off The Hook” and you were cooking.” And they just go nuts about it! And to me there is nothing more honoring. Somebody might walk up to you and say, “I saw your kid play baseball the other day.” But for somebody to walk up to you and say, “I saw your kid on your television show,” pretty much blows my mind. But, um, no, that was always the design. My friends have had a blast doing it. Food Network just did a magazine. “Food Network Magazine” has been out for a few months now and they just ran a piece on all my buddies and what we were doing for the Super Bowl. For them to get highlighted and seen and recognized and appreciated and that whole thing? Ah, for me, I mean, it just couldn’t get any better than that.
BE: That’s awesome.
GF: I know that was a long-winded answer. It is probably one of the neatest things to be able to go and share that with all your friends. To be able to take them all along with you on this journey that most folks don’t ever touch. And they’re so gracious about it, they’re so good about it, they’re so helpful with it. It’s a really neat thing.
BE: Awesome. So what kind of stuff do you make at home? Is it similar to what you really make on your shows?
GF: Brother, exactly what you’re seeing is what I’m making at home. I mean it’s all just what it is. It’s a funny thing, but I guess there are a lot of times in peoples’ lives where they get into something. I don’t know really how to explain it. My Dad said to me when I left to go do “Food Network Star,” he said, “Guy. Let me give you a little bit of advice. Just be who you are. Because if you do win this thing, you need to be able to continue for longevity of being who you are. And if you’re not who you are on TV, then it gets convoluted.” And I completely understood it. It was great wisdom. So what you’re seeing, dude, is just what goes on in my house. It’s funny because you like one dish. Like my kids, they love this one dish called “Hong Kong Noodles.” It’s one of our favorites. So my kid will always ask for Hong Kong Noodles, and I’m like, NO, we’ve got to make something different tonight. And he’s like, “Well I want Hong Kong Noodles!” (laughs) We never get to eat the same thing twice anymore. What happened? I gotta make new recipes, son.
BE: (laugh) That is hilarious. I’ve actually printed that recipe out after I saw that episode. I have yet to make it, but I can’t wait to try it.
GF: Oh! It will knock you out, man. It’s a dyno one.
BE: Very cool. Do you have time to watch TV? Do you have time to watch other Food Network shows?
GF: Not typically. And I’m a big Alton Brown fan. I love watching, I love getting all the science about food. That’s one of my favorite things. I totally dig “Iron Chef,” seeing what those guys are cooking. I mean, I was a fan of the network before I was on the show. So for me, no, I don’t get to watch it as often as I’d like and as a matter of fact, I have to TiVo my own shows and come home and watch four or five of them at a time. But it’s cool because I get to watch them without commercials. But no, I don’t get to watch nearly as much. And when I’m home, if we’re watching TV, typically we’re hitting up some kind of Disney movie with the kids.
BE: OK. And what is your ideal meal and who cooks your ideal meal?
GF: My ideal meal and who cooks it? I think my ideal meal involves all of my favorites. Some grilled meats, some vegetables to cold, crisp salads to big full-flavored pasta dishes with a muse of appetizers -- everything from seviche to raw fish and oysters. My palate is across the board. I don’t get set in one ethnicity. As a matter of fact, we ate at a tapas restaurant the other day in St. Petersburg, Fla. And we ordered 20 different things. That’s the way I like to eat. Two bites of this, two bites of that. You know, let me mix it up because I don’t like to get stuck on just one big, fat T-bone. Although I think of course we all love big, fat T-bones.
BE: (laughs) Sure.
GF: So it is a nice wide variety of foods and not too much. Believe it or not, I’m not a really big eater. I don’t eat really big amounts. And who would it be made by? Anybody who loves the food, or anybody that appreciates the food. Anybody who sees it and gets more out of it and more from it than just putting something on a plate. Anybody that is in love with the food is a fine cook for me. I know that sounds a little bit weird, so you use it in your own terminology.
BE: OK, that works.
GF: They add the passion. You can taste the difference in food when someone has passion about it and when somebody doesn’t.
BE: Absolutely. So the Camaro? Is that your all-the-time ride, or only for the show and special occasions?
GF: Nah, it’s only for the show. Now I do cruise around sometimes, like when we were in San Diego I took it cruising around. My Cobra has also been on the show. I’ve taken that out and cruised that around. Quite honestly, man, by the time we get up -- I get up at 6:30 in the morning and am usually down in the lobby by 7:15. We’re on location anywhere from 7:30 to 8, and shoot till 2 in the first location, then from 2 to 8 in the second location. By the time I’m done at 8 p.m. and I’ve talked to everybody under the sun, looked at four or five dishes at both locations, I mean I am just beat. They have to dump me off in a car service and take me back to the hotel. I’ll hit the gym for an hour and a half, do the Skype phone call with the kids, and I’m off to bed.
BE: That was one of the things I was going to say, with all food that you’re tasting and eating all the time, how are you not 400 pounds? But if you work out in the gym every day, I guess that explains that.
GF: Well I don’t make it every day, unfortunately. But I make it hopefully three, four times a week. But the other thing is moderation. I think that is the big thing we all need to recognize, that it’s all moderation. You can eat all the healthiest stuff in the world and then binge on dessert and you’re a mess. You can eat healthy all you want and then drink a ton and you’re a mess. So it just depends on how your metabolism is and what your lifestyle is like. I know for me personally that it helps if I eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can. I am religious about a banana a day. For some reason that is one of my favorite fruits -- that, and green apples. I always know I can get a banana in if I’m always busy with something. It’s just stuff like that. Everybody gets their own tempo, their own clock about how it works. And that’s just how mine is. But yeah, that’s the number one question people ask me or say to me, “I expected you to be fatter!” So what you’re saying to me is that I’m fat, you just thought I would be FAT-TER! And then they say they didn’t mean it that way.
BE: (laughs) Nice. Your favorite sports team and your favorite band of all time?
GF: (whistles) Favorite sports team? Oakland Raiders.
BE: Yeah, I think you did a tailgate episode, didn’t you, on “Big Bite?”
GF: Oh yeah. I hang out with the Raiders. We had a tough season this year. One of these days we’re going to come back. Favorite band? (sighs) Man, I don’t know. That’s like people asking me all the time about my favorite food or diner. I mean, on one hand one of my all-time favorites of anybody is Sammy Hagar. And now that I’ve become friends with him, you know, I sit there sometimes and I’ll be talking to him like, “Dude! You’re Sammy Hagar!” (laughs) He let me use his house down in Mexico. And I’m saying to myself, “You’re at Sammy Hagar’s house!”
BE: (laughs) Ah, that is awesome.
GF: You look at the band that you’re the biggest fan of and then you get to interview them or something. You know how mind-blowing that becomes. And then to have it go even further. I’m a huge Hagar fan. But I probably have to say for the individual solo-artist, it would be Sammy. Otherwise it would have to be AC/DC. And I got to meet the dudes from AC/DC. I’ve got to tell ya -- I called my buddy who’s a big shot at Sony and he said, “Listen bro. They’ve been doing this for so long, they don’t need to meet anybody. They don’t do any interviews. They don’t do any green room. They don’t do anything.” And it happened to be that the tour manager was a big fan of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and just got me a meet and greet, a hello and to shake hands. We ended up hitting it off with Angus and Brian, and I sat there for an hour and talked to them. And I’m not kidding you man, it was SUR-REAL!
BE: I was just going to say it had to be surreal. That had to be amazing.
GF: BROTHER! I am telling you! And they were the nicest dudes in the world.
BE: Yeah, I guess you never know what you’re going to get with rock stars. But that is really cool.
GF: We’ve met some really goofy cats. We like to say that sometimes when you meet somebody that they know they’re famous, and you meet other people that don’t. It is just so funny. And that’s probably the number one thing I hear from people all the time, and this is what they interview my friends about is, “What is Guy really like? Is Guy really as easy-going and is he really that way?” And I tell you, what you see is what you get. It’s the only way I want to play ball.
BE: Right on. Well I’ve got one more question and this is probably redundant. How much do you love your job?
GF: I love the opportunity that I have been given. I really think one of the reasons that it means so much to me is that people watched the show and voted me into this. People said, “We want to see more from this guy.” My rating, the Diners’ ratings are so high, it’s currently one of the top shows on Food Network. And that says to me that people like what they’re seeing. When you can get that kind of response, that kind of communication back about something you’re doing that involves something you love, which is food and people and that’s how that comes out, I couldn’t be anymore blown away. It’s a wonderful gift. It’s also a tough one because I don’t like spending time away from my family. But the opportunity it’s going to create for them and the future that it will help them have, you can’t turn away from it. It’s got its ups and its down, but I think on a majority of levels it is such a blessing and I’m so appreciative that people like what I do.
BE: Very cool. Well I really appreciate you taking the time, Guy.
GF: Brother man, I appreciate that you guys have interest and wanted to run it. You are more than welcome.