Why do so many people hate Guy Fieri? I mean, we kind of understand it. The spiky bleached blond hair, the rocker-meets-surfer-dude persona, the in-your-face delivery. Like too much garlic in your mom’s lasagna, it can be a little overwhelming sometimes. And let’s not forget his penchant for references like “one way ticket to Flavortown” and recipes with names such as “No Can Beato This Taquito.”
The dislike for the Food Network star and host of the wildly popular “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” has even spawned an “I Hate Guy Fieri” Facebook group (only 648 haters to date, which isn’t too bad). He won’t get any love from fellow rough-around-the-edges TV food star Anthony Bourdain either, who’s description of Fieri as “ridiculous and painful — even insulting” is now on the record.
But for all the reasons many foodies loathe the 44-year-old Californian, we actually kind of like him. He’s fun. He’s approachable. He’s the kind of guy you wouldn’t mind grabbing a burger and a beer with. And on a culinary planet populated by snobbish characters in starched white chef’s jackets and degrees from highfalutin cooking schools in France and Italy, don’t we need more food dudes like that?
Sure, critics will point to his lack of formal chef training. That’s valid, but we’d counter with the observation that his cooking skills (along with an all-you-can-eat side dish of personality) were enough to win him the title of “The Next Food Network Star” back in 2006. Before that, he opened not one but two successful California restaurants – Johnny Garlic’s (a pasta grill) and Tex Wasabi’s (barbeque and sushi) – which continue to thrive today. (And yes, we said barbeque and sushi.)
This past weekend, Fieri opened his first New York City restaurant. It’s in Times Square, which will only fuel critics’ cries that Fieri is an over-the-top egomaniac. Dishes with names like the “Baltimore Beef Bad Boy” and “Mac-Daddi-Roni Salad” won’t silence the boos either.
“It’s very much a reflection of me,” says Fieri of the new eatery. “When people come to the restaurant, I think they’ll get a really good understanding as to what I am as a chef and as a person.”
Real-world restaurant experience aside, the aforementioned “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” (or “Triple D” in Fieri-speak) and his cooking show “Guy’s Big Bite” are both among the network’s most popular shows. According to a 2010 New York Times article, his “prime-time shows attract more male viewers than any others on the network.” The article also reported that Fieri brings an “element of rowdy, mass-market culture to American food television.”
“Look, I’m not Mario Batali, I’m not Bobby Flay,” said Fieri. “I’m not trying to be something that I’m not.”
And what he’s not is boring. Guy Fieri brings energy and excitement to the dining experience – and Lord knows we could use more of that.
MARKETING LESSON: Like any brand, Guy Fieri can’t please everyone. He’s loud, brash, and unpredictable – and that’s not such a bad thing.