By Paul Giorgio
Meet the rock-n-roll chef who, at age 41, has brought a new level of bleached-blonde cool to cooking. Guy Fieri was born in Columbus, Ohio, but moved to Whittier, California when he was 2. His mom taught school and his dad taught at Whittier College. He then lived in Ferndale, CA. His first cooking job came about from hanging around the local burger joint. His favorite part of the job? Working the milk shake machine. His next job was as a dishwasher at a Mexican restaurant called Roman’s.
OK, now we’ve got a little background on this traveling, entertaining, laughing whirlwind of culinary energy and adventure. But we all remember when Guy first caught our eye:
What made you try out for The Next Food Network Star?
My friends made me. They said, “Guido, you got to do this (my nickname is Guido). So on the last day, I sent in a 3 minute tape that was wild.”
When was that?
It was April 24th, 2006
Did you anticipate, and were you prepared for, the ‘star factor’ that came with your win on the show?
I was at Game 6 of the World Series and was surprised at my recognition factor. People coming up to me all during the game.
You recently returned from the Persian Gulf after entertaining the troops. What was that like?
It was awesome. I got to go on the USS Enterprise. I cooked for the troops and judged some cooking.
In World War II, they had the Andrews Sisters and Glenn Miller entertain the troops ~ now they have a chef! What’s up with that?
It was fun, and I guess times have changed ~ a lot!
Then you were the Grand Marshall of NASCAR in Sonoma, CA…
That was just crazy! I love cars.
So what’s your favorite diner that you’ve visited on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives?
That’s almost impossible to answer. If I say one, all others would be pissed!
How about a favorite dive?
Same answer, but I like Vito &Mike’s in Chicago for pizza. But there are so many other restaurants that I love. Especially the mom and pop ones that pour their heart and soul into good cooking.
Who came up with the concept of Diners, Drive Ins and Dives?
David Page, our producer, came up with the concept.
Tell us about the great car you drive on the show.
The car is shipped everywhere. We have a full time driving team. The only places the car hasn’t been is to Hawaii and Alaska ~ but it has gone everyplace else.
What would be your last meal?
Pasta and tomato sauce.
Who is your cooking idol?
I would have to say everyday people. I learned to cook from my mom and dad. But I am a huge Mario Batali fan.
How about a music idol? You’re known for playing some pretty hard music while you cook.
I would have to say AC/DC, Sammy Haggar…I love all the old 70 and 80s rock bands like Metallica. I have a jukebox in my kitchen and it has 50,000 songs on it.
Let’s get back to cooking. Do you get to do it much anymore with your insane schedule?
I cook on Guy’s Big Bite and I get to cook what I want, but I was on the road over 200 days last year, so…
I miss cooking. I made 4 gallons of chili, 5 gallons of tomato sauce and 180 meatballs this past weekend when I was home. That way my wife and kids (Hunter, 13, and Ryder, 4) get to eat my food when I’m not there.
Is there any food you hate?
Liver. I hate beef liver!
Tell us about The Guy Fieri Road Show that just blew away the audience in Lowell.
First of all, I love New England ~ my wife is from Providence so we get up there a lot. The show in Lowell was a blast. Lots of cooking and music. Michael Schlow from Radius in Boston and Via Alta 66 at Foxwoods was also there, and plus some great flair bartenders.
Sounds almost like a Broadway show!
Nah, it wasn’t that well scripted, it was just a great, wild time!