News Column

Guy Fieri's on the Front Lines of US Food Revolution

Jan 2, 2013

Debbie Arrington, The Sacramento Bee

Guy Fieri

America's flirtation with farm-fresh food is about to become a full-blown love affair, celebrity chef Guy Fieri believes. And expect the popular TV host-restaurateur to be playing match-maker.

"We're in the midst of a food revolution," he said. "We're seeing it everywhere, in so many facets of our lives."

Known for his love of diners, dives and all things breaded, battered and fried, Fieri nevertheless has long championed scratch-made dishes and all-natural ingredients. In 2013, he's campaigning for healthier eating and more home-grown vegetables.

"We're trying to get people aware: You really are what you eat," Fieri said by phone from his Johnny Garlic's Santa Rosa restaurant and home base.

Fieri, who owns two local restaurants (Tex Wasabi in Sacramento and Johnny Garlic's in Roseville), just completed another season of competition versus good friend Rachael Ray on "Rachael Vs. Guy's Celebrity Cook-Off," debuting Sunday on the Food Network.

He said his focus reflects a national trend.

"This movement is picking up speed," he said. "We see it in farmers markets. People want organics -- and not just on the high end. ... We've got to look at what we're feeding our kids."

To help combat child obesity, Fieri is working with his Cooking With Kids foundation to create a hands-on program.

"It's a life skill," he said. "Teach them how to make food. ... Parents don't know how to cook, so kids don't know how. ... (But) people are coming back to the basics: Canning and preserving the bounty of the harvest. It's very exciting."

Fieri continues on the network that helped launch his career, now with the second season of "Rachael Vs. Guy's Celebrity Cook-Off."

"It was outrageous," he said of shooting the show. "Working with Rachael, she's like my sister. We have a very competitive relationship."

Cooking with the stars also means extra challenges -- such as serving something special for an elite Hollywood dinner party or performing skits at a dinner theater in between courses of a prix fixe tasting menu that they're also making.

The celebrities -- such as skater Johnny Weir, former NFL star Hines Ward, actor Dean McDermott and singer Carnie Wilson -- show some unexpected abilities in the kitchen, Fieri said.

"We did the first season in New York; this second season, it's all California," Fieri said. "We have quite a cast of characters and we throw even more obstacles at them. They're good sports and great people."

As for the much-tweeted blowup over his Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in New York City, that has "blown over," he said. New York Times critic Pete Wells savaged the restaurant, Fieri's first outside California.

"Reviews can be difficult," Fieri said. "But that's long past us. The restaurant has done incredible. ...We're packed every night."

In December, he launched Guy Fieri on Campus at Monclair State University in New Jersey. It's expected to be the first of several.

"The name is a play on 'Big Man on Campus,' " Fieri said. "We have a great following among students."

This year he hopes to open another major restaurant in "a major food city" outside California as he builds his national presence. But Sacramento remains high on his list of foodie towns.

"I want to give a shout- out to Sacramento," he said. "There's so much going on there. And there's so much opportunity, too."


"Rachael Vs. Guy's Celebrity Cook-Off" starring chefs Rachael Ray and Guy Fieri. Season 2 debuts at 9 p.m. Sunday on the Food Network.

Source: (c)2013 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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