At the moment, Guy Fieri is in his backyard in northern California, building a 22-foot barbecue trailer. Which must be for the Guy Fieri Food Tour, the live show stopping at the Venue at Horseshoe Casino on May 28. Right? No, Fieri says, it’s just for him. So the high-energy, low-pretense celebrity chef comes off via phone just as he does onscreen. (“Out of bounds!” he exclaims at one point.) The 43-year-old dad of two boys, owner of five (soon six) restaurants and host of three TV shows has come out with a cookbook/memoir, Guy Fieri Food (William Morrow, $29.99).
Is there a misconception about Guy Fieri that this book might correct?
Some people just take it as: Oh, yeah, that guy with the spiky blond hair, and he’s the host of that Diners, Drive-ins and Dives show. The reality of it is I was a chef way before I was a TV host. I’ve been cooking since I was a kid.
On Diners, one can tell when you really like a place and when you think it’s just okay. Are you aware your preferences are that clear?
I’m not gonna bullshit anybody. [Laughs] The last thing I’m gonna do is: “This is dynamite!” That’s not my gig, man. I love the mom-and-pop joints, I love giving them recognition, but I’m not gonna blow smoke. We walked out of locations, we’ve changed locations.
So you’ve gone to spots and decided they don’t make the cut?
Oh, yes! And it’s painful for everybody, me included. It’s legit, man.
Is your fun-loving, common-man persona—the shades, bleached hair, bowling shirts—a way to make good food accessible to people?
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!”
But if not by design, people respond to you because of your personality.
I don’t sit there and reflect on it often. I do agree that there is some connection that’s going on with folks where they are seeing something in themselves that they see in me or vice versa.
That persona hasn’t been as popular with a couple of your fellow chefs. Anthony Bourdain has taken shots at you. David Chang said food’s not about sunglasses and an armband.
Well, you’re talking about two people. Emeril [Lagasse]’s not saying it, Bobby [Flay]’s not saying it, Paula Deen’s not saying it. Does it bother me? [Laughs] Not really. That’s their own trip, man. Anthony’s very talented. I don’t know anything about the other guy.
You’ve done T.G.I. Friday’s commercials, Tom Colicchio did Diet Coke ads, Rachael Ray did Dunkin’ Donuts. Do you think a chef has a responsibility to represent only healthy food?
I think everything in moderation. I did a big thing with Ritz Crackers—great cracker. Am I now the Ritz chef? No! Do I think the cracker has a lot of diversity and appeal? Yeah! Does it mean that’s my foundation of cooking? No!
It’s not the healthiest food, either.
If we’re gonna start pointing that finger at what’s healthy and what people are doing to themselves, there’s gonna be a lot of things I’ll call the ball on before it’ll be a Ritz Cracker.
Any leads on the stolen Lamborghini?
[Laughs] Somebody’s enjoying that on the open road. What a crazy life: chef, owns restaurants, gets three TV shows, gets a Lamborghini, gets the Lamborghini stolen—movie style.
You don’t take it all too seriously.
I take everything very seriously, but I also take it lighthearted to recognize that you can’t control it. Who would think your Lamborghini would get stolen out of the dealership? Out of the dealership, brother! This whole world that I’m in—that’s why I’m trying to do more with it. Dedicating the book to my sister—very important thing to happen.
Why the dedication to your sister?
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…
What kind of cancer did she have?
Did she have family of her own?
A little boy, a little ten-year-old boy named Jules. Great kid. Great kid. 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.
The Guy Fieri Food Tour plays the Venue at Horseshoe Casino May 28 at 7:30pm.