Guy Fieri has been the face of Food Network for over a decade now. Since 2006, shows like Guy’s Big Bite and the iconic Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives have become fixtures in the world of food media. Despite all of the accolades he’s received from these programs, Fieri hasn’t slowed down one bit during his time in the spotlight.
The Mayor of Flavortown has been working on getting Chicken Guy!, his new fried chicken tenders concept, to its official launch inside of Disney World’s Disney Springs district. That requires a ton of focus and energy, yet Fieri still took some time to go help feed firefighters battling the Carr Fire with little to no publicity.
We spoke with the foodie troubadour over the phone to catch up on his latest stories and discuss just what Fieri’s work in the food space has done to impact others.
Dishing On Chicken Guy!
Foodbeast: You’re looking at making Chicken Guy! a fried chicken chain. What made you decide to open the first location in Disney Springs?
Guy Fieri: Disney plays at the top level in all shape and forms, they’ve got so many different aspects and restaurants that if you can make it through their approval process and all of the concepts that are doing so well, you’re in the line of fire and really get a great chance to test it out. And it’s Disney, you gotta love Disney and my kids love Disney. And [Chicken Guy! co-founder] Robert Earle has Planet Hollywood here.
We developed the menu and curated it a couple of years ago. And listen, we got the opportunity to open up in one of the biggest stages in the world, right here at Disney in Orlando.
FB: So I know that Chicken Guy! is going to focus mainly on the tenders world and you’re going the fast casual route. As you’re expanding, you’re gonna find yourself competing against places like Cane’s and Zaxby’s. Compared to these guys, how is Chicken Guy! gonna take us to Flavortown? What’s the secret sauce here?
GF: You’ve got the right attitude and track there, you understand that this is a member of Flavortown. Here’s what it is: everybody’s got their own style, their own method, their own jam that they do. That doesn’t mean that one band is better than the other, you’re just rolling with the music and the band that you like the best. And what we’re doing is outrageous, from non-frozen chicken raised without antibiotics, quality tenders with a really fantastic brine, the hand breading, the pressure frying, all of that is generating such a delicious tender that, on its own, tastes fantastic.
But we don’t stop there, we take it to the next level and offer 22 different scratch-made proprietary dipping sauces. But then you can take it even a step further with how you enjoy the tenders. You can have it as a sandwich, on loaded mac and cheese, loaded fries, salads… you name it, we got a way to enjoy it. But it’s knowing that if it’s from Flavortown, it’s the real deal.
Let me tell you something, I know how rough it is getting into the chicken game, I know everybody’s out there, they’ve been doing it for a while. So I told Robert Earle, my partner in crime, “I’m gonna make you a chicken tender that is going to blow your mind. If we’re gonna do this, if we’re gonna go nationwide or go global, I’ve gotta make you something that is going to turn heads.” You wait till you try it, give me a shoutout when you try it, let me know what you think.
Rescue Relief And Feeding The Carr Fire Victims And Firefighters
— Rachel Russ (@_rachelruss) July 31, 2018
FB: I think there’s a lot of people that are really grateful that you took some time to go up to Redding with little to no publicity and help feed those affected by the Carr Fire but also giving the firefighters something to eat to keep going and fight those fires.
GF: I got a ton of interview requests in relation to that when it was happening. And as much as I love the media for what they’ve done for me, I said to everybody, listen, this is not about me, this is not about a celebrity doing this, this is just a dude. I’ve got 15 of my buddies, my son — who’s in the last part of his summer vacation — two of his best friends, I’ve got a couple of my buddies that don’t even know how to cook, and a guy whose house had just burned down. We had a real hodgepodge of people coming together to feed people in need. Not just the firefighters, people in the rescue shelters that just had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. That was just about taking care of my brothers and sisters, and helping folks.
It’s sad to see a tragedy like that happen, but it’s beautiful to see what a great country we come from and how much our neighbors and community members step up. So we’re in the parking lot of the Shasta Community College in Redding. We’re cooking, we got there late in the evening, we already had the smokers up and running with pork butts, getting ready to serve 700 people the next day for lunch. And people started showing up, this guy came and asked “Can I help you?” I said “Yeah, we got enough people, but I can use more help.” And he says “Well I’m the head baseball coach here and I got the keys to the cafeteria, we can wash dishes over there.” Another guy comes up and says “Hey, I’m the head football coach, I got some volunteers, we can get a golf cart, we can drive stuff back and forth.”
It was just amazing! These guys, they’re the head coaches, they have their seasons going on, they’re dropping everything to help these people they don’t even know! That was the beauty. In such a tragedy, there were some silver linings. It was great to be able to help, and I think everyone would do the same given the opportunity.
OBR IN THE NEWS
We’re proud to cook side-by-side with Guy Fieri, José Andrés and their teams to help feed those affected by and the firefighters… https://t.co/C7U4nHWBKJ
— Operation BBQ Relief (@OpBBQRelief) August 2, 2018
FB: While your team was helping out with the Carr Fire, you had the chance to work with Jose Andres, who’s been working and aiding in disaster relief around the world. What was it like teaming up with him?
GF: Jose and I have been brothers for a long time, and to be honest, when I saw Jose’s efforts down in Puerto Rico, and I was in the middle of filming and couldn’t leave the studio and had all kinds of things hinging on me to finish production. So I said I was going to donate and to help pay for the food. And of course, he was alright with that.
It’s the energy that Jose and I and all the other chefs that are volunteering and getting involved, it’s all of that. Jose will be able to tell you that. It’s raising the awareness of the support that’s needed and recognizing that just because the fire is out doesn’t mean that the devastation is over. And we need to do this around the world. Puerto Rico is still going through such tragedy, and all of these other countries. So Jose and I talk on a regular basis about how we’re going to continue to act and continue to support and help those in need. What we do as chefs is that we have the skill of feeding people, and at a certain point, it’s the most important thing that there is.
I haven’t run into a chef that isn’t willing to jump into it. There was a chef who worked for the Sheraton Hotel in Redding. We didn’t know each other, but he pulled up and he said, “Whatever I can do to help, my full kitchen is at your disposal.” And I’m cooking on camp stoves in the middle of a parking lot at 110 degrees.
There’s just this brotherhood of chefs that comes together, and Jose Andres is a great example and really one of the leaders in that group.
Guy Fieri’s Legacy With Food Network And In Food Media
FB: You’ve been with Food Network and been one of the faces of both it and food media for over a decade now, which is incredible.
GF: A decade, a decade… (laughing). I still can’t believe that. There was one of our producers at a shoot recently in Arkansas, and he said to me it’s amazing to think this has been going for a decade. It’s funny to hear someone say that.
FB: How do you feel having been in that role and being that figurehead for so long, with all the shows you’ve had?
GF: I honestly can’t say thank you enough. I try to give back, and I try to say thank you any time I can. When you get the opportunities that I’ve been grateful to have, you try to give back in any way that you can. Whether it’s for the elderly, for the nonprofits, or for veteran’s groups, we’ll have them on shows and find ways to celebrate veterans. We try to find ways to celebrate families, celebrate kids. It’s just overwhelming in respect to all that’s happened, and with all of the fans, I want to give back to them. I want to be out there hanging out with the fans. They’ve been a huge reason for the success and have helped generate shows that changed lives.
You know, we’ve been to over 1100 locations with Triple D, and with all the places we’ve been to, it’s not been about me. It’s about these communities and these families and what they’re doing, and we shine a light on what they’re making. These are places that already exist, and I just appreciate the opportunity to see them. It’s been quite a ride.
FB: With all of these locations you’ve been to, have any of these become go-to spots when you’re back in town?
GF: Oh, without question. The funny thing is, we have this new show that shows the legacy of these locations, it’s called Triple D Nation. And with being all over the country, the only places we have missed are South Dakota, North Dakota, and Delaware. How we haven’t hit there, I don’t know, and we hadn’t hit Arkansas until just this past week. But otherwise, we’ve been to it if you name it. We’ve even been to Europe with Triple D. So we’re getting these last few states, making sure they’re getting their presence on Triple D.
What Triple D Nation is about is not going back and celebrating and saying what has Triple D done for you. It’s more asking what have you done since you appeared on the show. What have you experienced since you were all over TV and all over the news because of this experience, and it’s awesome. It’s awesome to see places that have opened multiple locations that have paid off their mortgage, put their kids through college, all these different things that have taken place.
But yeah, there’s quite a few. We go back to a town and we’ve got friends that have become lifelong friends, places that have helped develop and mentor other restaurants, there’s more than I can even mention.
Author’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and accuracy.