The Conversation

In Defense of Guy Fieri

It seems to be very popular to make fun of Guy Fieri these days.  Granted he gives people a lot of material -- silly food names ("Donkey Sauce"), his hair (bleached blonde), his attire (Ed Hardy-esque), catchphrases ("On point!"), and his over top personality. 

A recent review of his new restaurant in Times Square caused a stir for its snarkiness and prompted Fieri to defend his food on the "Today Show."  Apparently people are still fascinated by it given this article on Slate yesterday.  The author writes:

I can’t be sure, but I’m inclined to believe that [food critic Pete] Wells didn’t enter Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar planning to be a meanie. What I do know is that when he ran up against the ridiculous edifice of all-American, good ol’ boy, down-home diner mythology Fieri has cynically constructed on West 44th St., he forwent the typical critical responses of praise or scorn in favor of a third option, the camp option: Wells simply paid attention to nuance, both in his surroundings and on his plate and wrote them down, providing his readers with an opportunity for vicarious camp pleasure.

Fieri is also a frequent target of Anthony Bourdain, whom I love.  Interestingly, there are three banner ads for Bourdain's new show premiering on CNN this Sunday.  Synergy!  Bourdain said of Fieri, "I look at Guy Fieri, and I just think, 'Jesus, I'm glad that's not me.' You work that hard and there's not a single show of yours that you'd want to sit down and say, 'Hey, I made that last week. Look at that camera work. It's really good, huh? I'm proud of what I do.'" [cough cough "The Taste" cough cough]

Maybe Fieri's critics are right.  As such, my main defense for Fieri is... So what?  America likes him.  Is that what makes his critics so angry?  They're like the nerds in high school who put down the popular jocks' accomplishments.  Fieri's biggest crime is his mainstream success.

All their issues aside, there's another reason I want to defend Fieri.  At least once or twice a week I catch a rerun of his Food Network show "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives."  In the show, Fieri visits 3 or 4 restaurants from around the country.  As the name suggests, these are not fancy or chain restaurants, but neighborhood favorites and not unlike any of the places Bourdain visited on his shows, "The Layover" and "No Reservations."  In each episode Fieri goes into the kitchen to watch local chefs (or cooks, if using the other term offends you) make their popular dishes.  They almost always use fresh, local ingredients.  

Fieri also highlights the restaurant owners and their stories.  Being featured on the show is a great way for a small business to get national attention and increase business.  For all the critics harping about Americans not being able to discern good food, why complain about a guy whose success is due to being a resource for good, local food?  Not all food writing and TV needs to be served with a side of snark.


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