You most likely know Guy Fieri as the host of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network, singing the praises of blue-collar, honest grub, and as the chef behind Johnny Garlic’s, Tex Wasabi’s, and Times Square’s infamous Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar.
But behind the spiky bleached-blond hair and backward sunglasses there’s an actual guy, and what we see on television is just one facet of him. Using some info from writer Allen Salkin’s new book From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, we found some cool bits of information that you probably didn’t know about the King of Flavortown.
Fieri was actually born Guy Ferry, but changed it back to his old family name when he married his wife Lori in 1995, in order to honor his grandfather who changed it to Ferry when he immigrated from Italy. If you hear Guy say his own last name, he pronounces it almost like "Fieddi," rolling the "R" in what’s called an alveolar trill. In Italian, fieri translates more or less to "proud."
He never attended culinary school, but got his bachelor’s degree from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Hospitality Management in 1990. While there, he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
After graduating, he took a job at a popular California restaurant chain (more on that later) before opening his first restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s, in Santa Rosa, Calif.
His star really took off after winning the second season of The Next Food Network Star, and today, Fieri hosts a handful of TV shows, including the newest addition to his roster, Guy’s Grocery Games, which premiered on Oct. 27 on Food Network. He also owns seven locations of Johnny Garlic’s, Tex Wasabi’s in Santa Rosa (a second location in Sacramento closed down recently), and the infamous Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in New York City's Times Square, which warranted one of the most scathing restaurant reviews ever written.
While other stars of Food Network come and go, Fieri’s star is burning as brightly as ever, as he maintains a reputation as one of those people that you either love or hate. Either way, you’ve got to admit that he’s a hard-working dude who’s carved out a major niche for himself in the American culinary scene.
And while you might think you know everything there is to know about Fieri, we bet that there’s plenty you don’t.
1. Fifth Grade
He’s always had a bit of an entrepreneurial bug: when Fieri was in fifth grade, he convinced the organizers of the Humboldt County Fair to allow him to sell balloons! Over the next six years he earned enough money to spend a year in France, by running a pretzel cart.
When Fieri was 16, he moved to Chantilly, France, for a year abroad, and was miserable for most of the time. He was given a tiny room to live in (the bathroom was two flights downstairs), and he couldn’t even use the phone without permission, because it was locked away.
3. French Cuisine
Fieri didn’t really fall in love with food until he went to France. Believe it or not, it was classic French fare — pâté, escargots, sheep’s tongue, and the like — that was his first culinary love, not the uber-American fare that he’s come to be known by.
4. The 'A Ha' Moment
For Fieri, his "a ha" moment, the one that cemented his love for food (comparable to Julia Child’s famous sole meuniere experience), came during a meal of steak frites at a tiny restaurant in the South of France.
5. Louise’s Trattoria
After graduating from UNLV, he got a job at a California Italian chain called Louise’s Trattoria. Never one to be hemmed in, he added tortilla soup to the menu in order to provide some variety to the business lunchers who wanted some variety. He was almost fired for it.
Seeing Emeril Lagasse on an episode of Good Morning America was another "a ha" moment. As he watched Lagasse strut his stuff and keep the audience in the palm of his hand, Fieri was blown away by how cool Lagasse was, and it served as a major inspiration for him.
7. His First Attempt
Auditioning for The Next Food Network Star wasn’t his first attempt to get on Food Network, and he actually needed to be convinced to give it a second shot. His first effort, an audition to be on a barbecue show in 2004, went nowhere.
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