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The World According to Guy Fieri: Food Network’s $80 Million Star on His New Show, Meeting Al Pacino and TikTok Fandom

Guy Fieri Walk of Fame Honor
Courtesy of Food Network

Guy Fieri has recently become a thing on social media. If you haven’t perused through TikTok to see him vibing at a rock concert, you might have seen one of his mock movie posters on Instagram. In August, Fieri inserted an image of himself over Brad Pitt on a prank poster for “Burger Train” (i.e., “Bullet Train”); and in September, he photoshopped himself into a poster for “Don’t Worry Diner” (i.e., “Don’t Worry Darling”), with the tagline “Welcome to Flavortown” and a caption that’s a wink and a nod to star Harry Styles’ now-infamous quotable from the Venice press conference.

Despite his love for movies, Fieri is no entertainment expert. When asked to play a game of pop culture trivia at breakfast at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, Fieri is unaware of Elton John’s new single with Britney Spears, though he thinks it’s cool, and responds, “When do we get to talk about food?”

His new show at Food Network, “Guy’s Ultimate Game Night,” which launched earlier this month, pairs his admiration for pop culture with his culinary expertise. The wacky food competition sees celebrities compete for charity — and a gold-dipped frying pan.

At breakfast, Fieri has barely introduced himself before he says, “I don’t know whose idea this was, but this is a terrible idea. I hate breakfast.” He explains that his typical morning routine includes working out and then grabbing a coffee and running out the door. Disliking breakfast might be the most surprising thing about the famed chef, who proceeded to order avocado toast, grilled asparagus, turkey bacon and an Americano with half-and-half. (Fun fact: he hates scrambled eggs.) Sitting down with Fieri, who is wearing Triple D rings, the A-list chef is exactly what he seems to be on TV: a fun-loving, high-spirited dude, who certainly acts nothing like he’s one of the most recognizable figures in pop culture — thanks to his bleached-blond spiked hair, goatee and metal jewelry.

Ever since Fieri won the second season of “Food Network Star” in 2006, his star has catapulted to great heights. Today, he hosts six of his own shows at Food Network, and is the network’s highest-paid star, inking a multi-year deal in 2021 for a reported $80 million. (Food Network declined to comment on Fieri’s salary, though a source familiar with his deal tells Variety the figure is accurate.)

Three years ago, Fieri became the third celebrity chef to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (after Wolfgang Puck and Bobby Flay), and he wanted a party fit for his eccentric ways. While most artists have a celebratory luncheon following their star ceremony, Fieri had a full rock concert. “They said, ‘Where do you want to have your luncheon after your star?’ And I said, ‘What’s a luncheon? I don’t want a fucking luncheon. I want a rager. I want a kegger.’” Fieri offered to make burgers for 1,000 people. He suggested Mötley Crüe or another of his favorite bands perform. “I said, ‘Let’s do something big. I’m really serious.’”

Fieri got what he asked for — and that’s not all. “What do you do after the network throws you the greatest party and all your buddies are there and Foreigner plays and it starts to rain?” Fieri says. “Well, you load up 10 of your best friends and drive to the tattoo shop and you all get star tattoos. I think I’m probably the only person who got a star and went to get a tattoo for it.”

This is just one of the many stories Fieri tells at the breakfast table. He speaks often about spreading positivity and living life to the fullest, while sharing personal anecdotes at seemingly rapid fire.

When asked about the one celebrity he geeked out over, he casually recalls meeting one of his idols at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s home. “I said, ‘If I’m coming over, I’ve gotta cook,'” Fieri shares. “He said, ‘No, no, no, we’ll order sandwiches.’ I said, ‘I’m not not cooking.’ So, I’m there cooking and Sylvester Stallone comes in — and then, in walks Al Pacino.” In telling this story, Fieri’s jaw is on the ground. “It was like the meeting of the titans,” he raves. “I said, ‘Al, can I make you something to eat?'” The “Godfather” actor asked for pasta, but not too spicy. “I’m terrified to ask him. I said, ‘Sir, how is it?'” After Pacino took a bite, he told Fieri he liked the dish; the chef had to step outside to get some fresh air, he was so excited.

Fieri randomly recalls another time he was asked to cook for high-profile guests. He was at his friend and “Top Chef” alum Michael Voltaggio’s house for NBA All Star weekend where a few hundred people were over for a party that lasted into the wee hours of the morning. The guests were hungry, but Voltaggio’s kitchen was relatively empty. And so, Fieri did what he could with the ingredients available: garlic bread, ramen and kimchi. To this day, whenever Fieri bumps into athletes, they still compliment him on the ramen sandwiches.

Fieri certainly has a lot to celebrate in his life these days. Aside from signing that lucrative contract last year with Food Network, his home of more than 15 years, he has more than 85 restaurants worldwide; more than 175 Flavortown Kitchen locations; his own tequila company, Santo; and his own cigar company, Knuckle Sandwich Cigars by Espanosa.

Below, Fieri talks to Variety about his newest show on Food Network and much more.

Where did the idea for “Guy’s Ultimate Game Night” come from? 

Not everyone likes the same sports, not everybody likes the same music or politics, but we all love the world of food. The idea was to make a food-based competition and not take ourselves too seriously. This is a different way to see people you really have an appreciation for — Super Bowl champs, music stars, actors, actresses, you name it.

You have six shows. How do you balance your schedule? 

I have about 90 restaurants right now, the shows, two boys, 500 goats, a bunch of cars, a bunch of projects, a bunch of hobbies. I’m building a blacksmith shop and a leather shop right now. Every day is work, and every day is life. I’m also a little ADD — if I have 90 things going on, I feel a lot better.

At what point did you notice you were a thing

Who, me? [Laughs] I was walking through an airport one time, and a group of guys said, “It’s the mayor of Flavortown!” I looked at my film crew with me, and I was like, “What is going on?” Then, there was FieriCon in New York where they all dressed up as me. But the thing where I first went “no shit” was Make a Wish.

You are very involved with Make a Wish. For your work with the organization, you were honored with the Chris Greicius Award, named after a 7-year-old battling leukemia. 

When I was asked one time if I would do a Make a Wish visit, and I said absolutely, I went to this hospital with a 13-year-old boy and I stopped on the way to all the fast food places because he wanted me to make a dish called the Garbage Plate. I got there and he was on a ventilator, and it was very emotional. But I built the plate and he goes, “Now, eat it!” [Laughing] I take a few bites and we’re all laughing. He died five days later. Out of all the people Make a Wish could have asked for, that kid is going to waste his visit on me? I thought, “Wow, maybe this is a little bit bigger than I think it is.” Not every kid’s a music fan, not everybody is a sports fan, but everybody is a food fan. Not everybody can play football, not everybody plays music, but we all eat food. We have since done hundreds of visits.

Do you realize that you are the face of the network? 

I hope they’ve got a better face than mine.

But truly, do you recognize your significance to the company as a whole? 

I believe in paying tribute to people — Emeril [Lagasse], Bobby, Rachael [Ray] and beyond that. I’m one of the players on the team. I’m not just saying that. I really feel that way. I want everybody to succeed. I make shows for other chefs. I have six shows, but I produce five other shows that I don’t star in. But really, the network has been incredible to me. The people that brought me in that mentored me, still to this day, I keep in touch with all of them. I’m happy to carry the torch. I do get a little bit protective of our brand — we’re the Food Network, and I don’t like other people playing in our field. I always say to our team, “Don’t let someone else take this idea.” 

How much pull do you have at the network?

It took me three network presidents to get “Tournament of Champions.” They finally said, “We’re going to do this show, but we’re not going to do the live audience,” and I said, “Bullshit! You can’t do a live show without a live audience.” I asked why. They came back to me and said the real reason is they were over-budget. It was around $75K for the live audience. So, I said, “Okay, I’ll pay for the live audience out of my pocket.” They said, “What? Okay. Alright.” So, we do the first day and the first challenge, and we’re walking out of there, and the big boss says to me, “This is unbelievable. You know what I really like the most? I really love the live audience.” I go, “Huh! You don’t say!”

What other ideas have you generated at the network?

One of the first things I said was we’ve got to do kids cooking shows. I was told flat out by some executives who don’t have kids, “If you don’t have kids, you’re not going to watch kids baking.” And I said, “Bullshit.” Rachael and I did it first with “Rachael vs. Guy: Kids Cook-Off,” and we had such a blast. 

How many concerts have you been to this year?

This year? Well, the two best concerts I’ve ever seen in my life just happened, and those were Rage Against the Machine. I’m a huge Rage fan, and never had seen them in concert. But I don’t know — I’ve probably been to 10 or 15 concerts this year. I went to Stagecoach. I’m a huge country fan. I saw Shaq perform; DJ Diesel in Vegas. He’s awesome. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to one of his shows, but Shaq throws it down.

Have you seen the TikTok fascination of you vibing at concerts?

I have seen that…. yeah, no. [Laughing] There were some TikToks that my kids sent to me when I was at Rage… but are there some?

There are many. People just love watching you vibe.

I’ve been waiting for 20 years to see Rage play live… I said [to my son], “I’m going off.” I was going to go in the pit, but then I got shut down. But that would have made social media.

Which band have you seen most in concert?

I don’t know. It’s a good run between the Chili Peppers, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, a lot of AC/DC.

What are you binge-watching right now?

Don’t ask me about any television shows. I don’t watch TV. I mean, I watch sports. I’m a big football fan.

Which Food Network chef has made the best thing you’ve ever eaten?

Antonia Lofaso.

What was it?

It was something pasta, something truffle.

Who would win in “Beat Bobby Flay” — you or Bobby?

I think Bobby. Let’s just call it what it is. You’ve got to give respect. Bobby is a badass. Bobby is an Iron Chef. Would I take the challenge? Of course. Would I like to be beat by Bobby? No. But the great thing about Bobby and his show is he gives everyone a chance to play, and he doesn’t get flipped out if he doesn’t win.

If you were on “Chopped,” which ingredients would you want in your basket?

Anchovies, strawberry milkshake, beef jerky and smoked sea salt. Those are just the four things that came to my mind. [Laughs]

What food do you hate?

Next question.

Have you ever been to Ina Garten’s Hamptons home?

I have not. And I’ve never even met Ina! But she is amazing. When I talk about that list of people that deserve the recognition and the respect, she has been so unbelievable, just what she’s done for the network.

How often do you dye your hair?

I don’t dye my hair. I bleach it. Big difference. Why, does it need to be done?