In Praise of Guy Fieri

 

Guy Fieri is the tacky self-promoter famous for touring “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” nationwide in his red ’68 Camaro. If you’ve ever clicked by the Food Network, Fieri has probably been stuffing greasy food into his goateed maw between bro jokes with the restaurant staff.

Everyone loves to hate Fieri — except the public. “Triple D” and his other shows have been a ratings juggernaut for a decade. The media’s latest attack on the affable boor involves the signature sauce he uses at all his restaurants. From Eater:

Along with wearing backward sunglasses and driving a red muscle car across America, Guy Fieri is famous for creating a mysterious substance known as Donkey Sauce. This tangy ooze flows freely throughout his Times Square culinary funhouse, and it can also be found smothering hamburger patties at his casino establishments and cruise ship restaurants around the world.

…Fieri finally addresses the make-up of his famous Donkey Sauce:

“If we called it aioli, does that make it sexier? It’s aioli. This goes back to that exact comment that I said in the beginning: it’s about moderation. I called it Donkey Sauce because you have to make fun of it. It’s a quintessential ingredient in so many aspects of food, yet probably not the most beneficial except for flavor, probably the least beneficial, but it does have its place. All food has its place.”

I hate to break it to Eater, but secret sauce is just ketchup and mustard, fortune cookies aren’t Chinese, and Outback Steakhouse was created in a Tampa boardroom. It’s called marketing, people.

Now, when I say the media hates Guy Fieri, I mean they hate Guy Fieri. To the coastal gourmand, the chef/host might be more loathed than Donald Trump. They’re probably poring through his tax returns looking for borscht-stained checks from Putin. The most infamous takedown was by Pete Wells of the New York Times who was appalled at the very concept of Donkey Sauce:

Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?

…What accounts for the vast difference between the Donkey Sauce recipe you’ve published and the Donkey Sauce in your restaurant? Why has the hearty, rustic appeal of roasted-garlic mayonnaise been replaced by something that tastes like Miracle Whip with minced raw garlic?

And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?

I can pretentious-foodie with the best of them (you should hear me go on about single-origin pour-over coffee), but I can’t help but admire Fieri.

Starting out as Guy Ferry, he got a job slinging hash at the Red Lion Inn in Eureka, CA. After knocking out a hospitality degree from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he promptly changed his name to Fieri. (He says it was to honor his immigrant forbear, Giuseppe Fieri, but it didn’t hurt that it sounded cooler.)

In 1996, he took his new name and opened Johnny Garlic’s, a crowd-pleasing restaurant just off the 101 in Santa Rosa, CA. After a decade, he took his chances and ended up winning “The Next Food Network Star.” The rest is basic-cable history.

“Guy’s Big Bite,” “Guy Off the Hook,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and of course “Triple D” made Fieri the network’s most ubiquitous personality. He even hosted a short-lived prime-time game show on NBC.

He’s released six books, his own line of foods, and now presides over an international restaurant empire. But how on earth did this unsophisticated, gravy-swilling UNLV hospitality grad run laps around the most acclaimed chefs of our generation? By taking risks and busting his ass.

Yes, Donkey Sauce is just a silly name for aioli. Yes, he wears pinky rings and his goatee looks ridiculous. Yes, the staff at his El Burro Borracho in Laughlin, NV, isn’t waiting for that third Michelin star. But through hard work, Guy Fieri transformed himself from a short-order cook in the sticks into a one-man industry that has boosted the fortunes of countless mom-and-pop diners, hired countless people, and entertained millions.

Now let me flip on the TV and see if he’s still talking about those Hillbilly Hot Dogs in West Virginia.

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  1. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    I know Fieri mainly from his hosting that game show a few years ago.  I’ve never seen his food shows, and I’ve never been to one of his restaurants, one of which I saw on the main drag when vacationing recently in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

    I didn’t really care for him as a host, and I don’t care for high-concept or celebrity restaurants, so I’ll never be a viewer of his shows or a patron of his establishments.

    But what’s the use of being outraged and offended by someone’s personality, style, or presentation, when one can simply choose not to be a consumer of whatever it is that person is offering?  I do think it’s a virtue-signaling class thing.

    While the Guy Fieri persona may make me roll my eyes, I admire the heck out of anyone who works hard to create an “empire” that puts a lot of people to work and makes some segment of society happy.  His charitable works are just the icing on the cake.

    Reading Jon’s post, I was reminded of another American who changed her name, gave silly names to her products, and built an empire based on knowing her market.  She produced such offerings as “Wonderful Hair Grower”, “Temple Grower,” “Glossine,” and “Tetter Salve.”  Her name was Madam C.J. Walker.  May there always be Americans who make themselves rich while making their employees comfortable and their customers satisfied.

    • #31
  2. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    He also has the most amazing outdoor kitchen at his house that I have ever seen.  I’m jealous!

    • #32
  3. J.D. Snapp Coolidge
    J.D. Snapp
    @JulieSnapp

    I am hardly what you would call a foodie and the vast majority of my home-cooking centers around down-home, hearty, meat and potatoes style dishes. I appreciate good food and not in the vast empty plates with 2 oz of meat in the center with a drizzle of sauce kind of way.

    Guy Fieri’s tv personality gets on my last nerve.

    I have no idea if he’s actually like that in person or not. I’m sure he’s probably an amazing guy who has put a lot of time and effort into helping people get ahead. But to say that people who are annoyed by the douchey 90’s bro throwback-style complete with classic late 90’s catchphrases are snobs is just ridiculous. He’s annoying in the same way that some millenial hipster wearing man-buns and a romp-him is annoying. Maybe not to everyone, but definitely to me.

    • #33
  4. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment): I am completely a tacky self-promoter and very open about that fact. I worked in marketing for many years and understand that this promotion is key. Like Fieri, I own it. It’s American as apple pie, baby!

    I recall the story from Garry Trudeau (yeah, the Doonesbury guy) who was asked once asked to provide a self-promoting blurb for a publication, and he declined. He then received criticism for being arrogant, being “above” such things.

    To which he replied, America is the only country where not promoting yourself is considered arrogant.

    • #34
  5. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I don’t seek out triple D but when it just comes up, you get hooked.

    • #35
  6. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    GuruforhireI don’t seek out triple D but when it just comes up, you get hooked.

    Neither do I. But when she has a nice personality and a pleasant face… oh, wait. You’re still talking about food, aren’t you?

    • #36
  7. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    His personality has grown on me. My first impression was, “This guy bleaches his hair and puts gunk in it to make it spiky.” That all seems weird to me when a man does it. But he just works so damn hard to be enthusiastic and positive and happy that I got over the hair stuff.

     

    • #37
  8. John Davey Member
    John Davey
    @JohnDavey

    The second of his restaurants in Sacramento just closed, but the local media and culinary buzz in the Sacramento area is all about Farm To Fork™* now – so it makes sense that his places wouldn’t do as well here as they did previously.

    He made his own success, and he is relatable on a basic level to a comfort/gourmet food fusion. I’ve no doubt that he’d be much more enjoyable to have a beer with as opposed to Bourdain, or Flay.

    *BTW – I loathe the Farm to Fork movement. And my hometown is the most egregious offender. We went from “The City of Trees!” to

     

     

     

     
    On the other hand, I wholeheartedly endorse the Fork To Mouth™ sensation that’s sweeping the nation.

    • #38
  9. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    I haven’t watched any of the other shows, but I enjoy Triple D.  Yeah OK, he dresses like he’s 18 years old, but I find him entertaining and the food compelling.  Even if you never go to any of the features dives, watching what they make can give you some good ideas for your own kitchen.

    • #39
  10. Pilli Inactive
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    During the late 60’s / early 70’s, when I was attending the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, we would often go to a tiny hole-in-the-wall Bar-B-Q place called Uncle Jack’s.  The place was the size of a walk-in closet. We would get an Uncle Jack’s Pig Burger.  It was a smoked pork sausage patty between two pieces of plain white bread smothered (soaked) in his signature (read very, very hot) sauce.  You had better have a liquid refreshment handy (we preferred beer) as you ate the Pig Burger.  Did I mention it was HOT?

    Fast forward to a couple of years ago.  I’m channel surfing and come across Triple D.  Guy is at Uncle Jack’s place in Knoxville.  Now, it is run by his son and is an actual restaurant.  It still featured Bar-B-Q.  I didn’t catch what dish Guy was sampling.  I hope it was a Pig Burger.  It was nice to see that the place was still in operation.  It brought memories of good times.  (And some very hot pork.)

    • #40
  11. Terry Mott Member
    Terry Mott
    @TerryMott

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    The purple prose frequently employed by menu writers is hilarious. A pile of lettuce becomes “layers of crisp artisan greens.” I secretly wish I had that job.

    My favorite of all time, I saw at an ultra-luxe restaurant just outside of Phoenix: “Spanish Sea Bass in Marine Phytoplankton Juices w/ Sacred Harvested Olives from Arizona Monks”

    To take this in the other direction, my favorite anecdote re: menus was from a “Mexican”* food restaurant somewhere in the northeast part of the country, as reported by a co-worker of mine.

    “Chili con queso with cheese”

    Someone failed high school Spanish, I bet.

    * According to my co-worker, the food was an insult to Mexicans everywhere.

    • #41
  12. I. M. Fine Coolidge
    I. M. Fine
    @IMFine

    “The Next Food Network Star” has never been about fine dining, but camera connection and a unique voice. (The other big winner – besides Fieri – is Jeff Mauro, who won for making a good sandwich.) Guy can cook, make no mistake, but why the food critics even bother is a mystery. The two worlds are, well, worlds apart. There is a reason Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert don’t have television shows; being a world class chef doesn’t mean they can talk to a popular audience. Guy delivers.

    Of course, my admittedly-elitist fantasy is pretending I live (and cook) in Ina Garten’s Hamptons house and pick my rosemary and dill in her garden and roast the perfect chicken every Friday night for Jeffrey. (I realize that sentence doesn’t make any sense to most of you, but there must be a few Barefoot Contessa devotees out there…aren’t there?)

     

    • #42
  13. Mike Rapkoch Moderator
    Mike Rapkoch
    @MikeRapkoch

    My only problem with Fieri is that he doesn’t actually feature “Dives.” I’ve never seen him walk into a real dump in the backwaters. I can name many that are right in my area. C’mon Guy, I’ve got a dive or two for ya.

    • #43
  14. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    You can only have fun if there is an expressly political (i.e. left-wing political) purpose being advanced.  It’s the only way to know that you are doing fun correctly.  I mean, if he called it “Equality Sauce”…that just screams fun.  I mean, Donkey Sauce?  The commentary about how amazing Democrats are is too subtle for the average Joe Proletariat.  Not too subtle for smart people like us.

    • #44
  15. LC Member
    LC
    @LidensCheng

    I don’t know about his food, but I like his style on TV. I guess my taste is just that lousy.

    • #45
  16. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    I know a guy (ahem) who actually saw an episode of “Diners etc” being filmed.  Observations: 1) the show is very much a product of staff (this may be universally true, I don’t know).  Guy shows up after the spadework is done and does his thing pretty quickly.  2) They have a selection of shirts ready and he picks one;  3)  he did not come across as a jerk at all and was rather cordial to onlookers; 4) the staff indicated that he has “good days and bad days;” 5) the car is transported to where needed.

    • #46
  17. Liz Harrison Contributor
    Liz Harrison
    @LizHarrison

    PHenry (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):
    Guy Fieri: The Donald Trump of Cuisine.

    I heard Trump puts Ketchup (or is it Catsup?) on his steak!

    How much do you want to bet it’s “Heinz Ketchup”, too?

    • #47
  18. Fred Houstan Member
    Fred Houstan
    @FredHoustan

    The Donald Trump of Food Network, you say?

    • #48
  19. Bob W Member
    Bob W
    @BobW

    He featured a restaurant in our complex. It certainly didn’t do them any harm.  The owner is a good friend so I’ll have to ask him what he thinks about Guy.

    • #49
  20. JcTPatriot Inactive
    JcTPatriot
    @JcTPatriot

    I’ve been a Triple D fan for years. Yes, I’ve been told many times, “I can’t stand that guy for more than two minutes” and I understand. He’s like Geddy Lee’s voice: he’s not for everyone.

    I’ve never been in a Fieri restaurant, but I have been to six (so far) Texas restaurants featured on Triple D.

    My favorite? Easy. Chop House Burgers in Arlington Texas. I go every time I go up to Arlington to see my son. He doesn’t mind, because I always pay.

    I did cheat some – I’ve been to the Monument Café before and after Fieri was there.

    At the Noble Pig, it was good, but it was a mess. Really sloppy sandwiches.

    I have only been for breakfast, but if lunch and dinner are even half as good, then Magnolia Café is incredible.

    Finally for BBQ, Bun ‘N’ Barrel Restaurant and Louie Mueller BBQ Restaurant are really excellent places.

    There’s my six, how about you, Jon? And who has been to more?

    • #50
  21. Chris Campion Coolidge
    Chris Campion
    @ChrisCampion

    Can we just rename him “Guy Fiero” and be done with it?

    Image result for fiero

    • #51
  22. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    He also closely resembles one of my various brothers-in-law. So I feel like I know him. And I need to talk to him about that tiling job he did for us last year.

    • #52
  23. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.
    @jon

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):
    I’ve been a Triple D fan for years. Yes, I’ve been told many times, “I can’t stand that guy for more than two minutes” and I understand. He’s like Geddy Lee’s voice: he’s not for everyone.

    I’ve never been in a Fieri restaurant, but I have been to six (so far) Texas restaurants featured on Triple D.

    My favorite? Easy. Chop House Burgers in Arlington Texas. I go every time I go up to Arlington to see my son. He doesn’t mind, because I always pay.

    I did cheat some – I’ve been to the Monument Café before and after Fieri was there.

    At the Noble Pig, it was good, but it was a mess. Really sloppy sandwiches.

    I have only been for breakfast, but if lunch and dinner are even half as good, then Magnolia Café is incredible.

    Finally for BBQ, Bun ‘N’ Barrel Restaurant and Louie Mueller BBQ Restaurant are really excellent places.

    There’s my six, how about you, Jon? And who has been to more?

    Wow, I’ve been to a lot:

    • Los Taquitos, Phoenix AZ
    • Chino Bandito, Phoenix AZ
    • Big Jim’s in the Run, Pittsburgh PA
    • Salsa Verde, Flagstaff AZ
    • Brandy’s, Flagstaff AZ
    • Sal’s Gilbert Pizza, Gilbert AZ
    • Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert AZ
    • Over Easy, Phoenix AZ
    • Wild Thaiger, Phoenix AZ
    • Matt’s Big Breakfast, Phoenix AZ
    • The Duce, Phoenix AZ
    • Mert’s Heart and Soul, Charlotte NC
    • LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle, Monterey, CA
    • From Scratch, Monterey, CA
    • Down the Hatch, Lahaina, HI
    • Dean’s Drive Inn, Kailua, HI

     

    • #53
  24. profdlp Inactive
    profdlp
    @profdlp

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):
    Wow, I’ve been to a lot:

    • Los Taquitos, Phoenix AZ
    • Chino Bandito, Phoenix AZ
    • Big Jim’s in the Run, Pittsburgh PA
    • Salsa Verde, Flagstaff AZ
    • Brandy’s, Flagstaff AZ
    • Sal’s Gilbert Pizza, Gilbert AZ
    • Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert AZ
    • Over Easy, Phoenix AZ
    • Wild Thaiger, Phoenix AZ
    • Matt’s Big Breakfast, Phoenix AZ
    • The Duce, Phoenix AZ
    • Mert’s Heart and Soul, Charlotte NC
    • LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle, Monterey, CA
    • From Scratch, Monterey, CA
    • Down the Hatch, Lahaina, HI
    • Dean’s Drive Inn, Kailua, HI

    How much do you weigh by now?  Or do you sweat it off in the hot Arizona sun?

    • #54
  25. barbara lydick Inactive
    barbara lydick
    @barbaralydick

    Terry Mott (View Comment):
    “Chili con queso with cheese”

    Someone failed high school Spanish, I bet.

    “Mushrooms  champignons”

    Someone failed high school French, as well.

    I do enjoy watching him, and as others have said, the show is addictive. But boy, there are several DDDs  I’d like to visit…  And that his visits create a buzz in their neighborhoods is all the better.

    • #55
  26. Cat III Member
    Cat III
    @CatIII

    A family member works for one of the dives featured on the show. Story goes Fieri was a pompous tool on set. Surprising thing to hear about a guy whose fashion is a more efficient alternative to roaming the streets, screeching “I’m a douche!” into a megaphone. That doesn’t stop me from being impressed by the fact coastal elites don’t like him. What a rare achievement.

    • #56
  27. PHenry Member
    PHenry
    @PHenry

    Terry Mott (View Comment):
    “Chili con queso with cheese”

    We have a place nearby named ‘chicken pollo’.

    • #57
  28. Duane Oyen Member
    Duane Oyen
    @DuaneOyen

    The thing is, Triple D is how and where America, except for the pompous foodies of NY and the rest of the non-flyover frou frou who are into “presentation” rather than taste, eats.  The tasty beef, pork, deep-fried, and sweet stuff are exactly what the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the rest of the Bloomberg gang, has wanted to outlaw for years.

    Now, of course, cattle contribute to global warming, so hamburgers will be outlawed.

    • #58
  29. J.D. Snapp Coolidge
    J.D. Snapp
    @JulieSnapp

    Jon Gabriel, Ed. (View Comment):

    JcTPatriot (View Comment):
    I’ve been a Triple D fan for years. Yes, I’ve been told many times, “I can’t stand that guy for more than two minutes” and I understand. He’s like Geddy Lee’s voice: he’s not for everyone.

    I’ve never been in a Fieri restaurant, but I have been to six (so far) Texas restaurants featured on Triple D.

    My favorite? Easy. Chop House Burgers in Arlington Texas. I go every time I go up to Arlington to see my son. He doesn’t mind, because I always pay.

    I did cheat some – I’ve been to the Monument Café before and after Fieri was there.

    At the Noble Pig, it was good, but it was a mess. Really sloppy sandwiches.

    I have only been for breakfast, but if lunch and dinner are even half as good, then Magnolia Café is incredible.

    Finally for BBQ, Bun ‘N’ Barrel Restaurant and Louie Mueller BBQ Restaurant are really excellent places.

    There’s my six, how about you, Jon? And who has been to more?

    Wow, I’ve been to a lot:

    • Los Taquitos, Phoenix AZ
    • Chino Bandito, Phoenix AZ
    • Big Jim’s in the Run, Pittsburgh PA
    • Salsa Verde, Flagstaff AZ
    • Brandy’s, Flagstaff AZ
    • Sal’s Gilbert Pizza, Gilbert AZ
    • Joe’s Farm Grill, Gilbert AZ
    • Over Easy, Phoenix AZ
    • Wild Thaiger, Phoenix AZ
    • Matt’s Big Breakfast, Phoenix AZ
    • The Duce, Phoenix AZ
    • Mert’s Heart and Soul, Charlotte NC
    • LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle, Monterey, CA
    • From Scratch, Monterey, CA
    • Down the Hatch, Lahaina, HI
    • Dean’s Drive Inn, Kailua, HI

    Oh hey! I’ve been to Salsa Verde in Flagstaff!

    • #59
  30. JcTPatriot Inactive
    JcTPatriot
    @JcTPatriot

    Cat III (View Comment):
    A family member works for one of the dives featured on the show. Story goes Fieri was a pompous tool on set. Surprising thing to hear about a guy whose fashion is a more efficient alternative to roaming the streets, screeching “I’m a douche!” into a megaphone. That doesn’t stop me from being impressed by the fact coastal elites don’t like him. What a rare achievement.

    I talked to the staff at Monument Café about a month after Guy was there and they said when the camera was on, he was a pompous tool, but the rest of the time he was a bit loud, but extremely friendly and overflowing with compliments. They seemed to enjoy every minute of the event.

    • #60
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