Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chefography: Guy Fieri

Eat Me Daily has posted two video clips from The Food Network's Chefography: Guy Fieri episode.
Click Here to view.

Chefography: Guy Fieri show index page on

The Times Standard, based in Northern California, interviewed Guy, old friends friends and past employers just before the Food Network premiered Guy's Chefography this past week. I'll also intersperce some quotes from Guy Fieri from an interview with California Conversations.

Guy Fieri's parents came from Ohio. Guy recalled, "they took off in a VW square-back bus with a six-month-old kid and moved to Whittier, CA. They loved it. My mom taught school. My dad worked at the college. Then they got in the van and went farther north on California 101 to Santa Barbara and said this is where we’re going to live. They loved it. Then they drove to Big Sur and said this is where we’re going to live. They loved it there, too. They eventually drove to a town called Ferndale to open a leather store. They sold their purses and leather belts and the candles they made. They eventually opened a store called Dave’s Saddlery, which was a county-western clothing store. (laughs) It was all good."

In Ferndale, apparently Guy's business career all started with doughnuts. And here we were all thinking it started with Pretzels! But no.

When Guy Fieri was in grade school, he recognized the marketing potential of his little sister's cuteness. He would have his sister stand outside The Blacksmith Shop on Main Street and ask for quarters from people passing by.

Then he would take the quarters to the bakers to buy doughnuts, according to Joe Koches, owner of The Blacksmith Shop, where Fieri spent much of his childhood. "It was just one story after another with that kid," Koches said. "He was a good one."

Koches said another time the young Fieri took his toy gun and tried to stick up a bank teller for quarters, for more doughnuts. "He couldn't even see over the marble counter." Guy's mother, Penny Ferry, had to put a stop to the quarter-gathering by telling the baker not to sell Fieri any more doughnuts.

Guy said, "growing up in the town of Ferndale, you were raised by the whole community."

A school-mate of Guy Fieri's said in a blog, "You may remember him as Guy Ferry, Mimi's brother and son of Jim and Penny, one-time owners of Dave's Saddelry. I remember him as the pretzel guy at Redwood Acres and Humboldt County Fairs. I have three childhood memories of Guy.

First, I remember one year the mechanical bull was next to his pretzel stand at Eureka Fair and he would trade a pretzel for a ride on the bull. Those guys would kick his ass. Guy never lasted more than two seconds.

Also, Guy did his "Older Friends" report, Mrs. Dixon's 7th grade, on my grandpa Charlie.

Lastly, he gave my brother fried clams or shrimp one time at Ferndale Fair and Rob got totally sick and found out, the hard way, he was allergic to shell fish. My brother was so sick, I have never eaten any type of shell fish, just in case. He eventually sold the stand to Megan (Gotcher) Lenardo."

And what's the story behind the Awesome Pretzel? "In fifth grade I went to Squaw Valley to go skiing. It was a favorite family trip. We’d get there, and I’d eat the pretzels. I mean I would eat the pretzels. I would eat ten of them. My dad said to me, 'would you like to have a pretzel cart?' I said, 'Dad, I would love to have a pretzel cart...that would be the best thing in the world.'

My dad told me to ask the pretzel guy where he gets his pretzels. So I asked the guy where he got his pretzels. The pretzel guy said, 'I can’t tell you.' I said 'why not?' He said 'because you might open a pretzel cart.' (laughs) I said 'I’m eleven.' My dad told me to sit down and wait until the pretzel guy takes the box to the trash...(still laughing)...and then go get it. The guy went to the trash. I jumped in the dumpster and I got the box. I went back and my dad said 'fine, we’ve got the source.'

We went home and my dad helped me build a cart. I had to go every day after school to his wood shop and work on it. It was us working side-by-side to make this fantasy idea. It had become real. When we were done I had this pretzel cart. I’d sell these pretzels...called the business Awesome Pretzels."

Guy's parents hosted two exchange students in their home. "I was a freshman. I wanted to be an exchange student, but they said you have to be in a language class. I wasn’t in a language class. They said take Spanish. I didn’t want to take Spanish. I wanted to take Italian. They didn’t have Italian.

Of course my parents were always bringing in wayward sailors and we met a cork salesman from France. He was in the wine country during Thanksgiving. He met somebody, my mom’s aunt or something, and came to our house for dinner. I said do you live in France? He said yes. I said I want to go there. He said I will find you a place to live. It happened, just right there.

I wouldn’t lay off until my parents said fine. My mom said if you can take a class and learn French and get a B or better, you can be an exchange student. My mom drove me to the College of the Redwoods, fifteen miles from my high school, every day at lunch. I took the class. I got a B. (laughs) I told my parents I was ready to go.

At the plane, I was crying my eyes out. I wrote them a letter and slipped it in my mom’s book. My dad said my mom was catatonic for two days. She couldn’t even open the letter. She’d pull the letter out and she’d cry. I landed in Paris. I lived on the third floor of this house. It’s a store room with a bed and a sink. I’m like, oh what have I gotten myself into. Of course, I can’t go home. I just thought I have to figure this out...(laughs)

Okay, what’s the thing we did in school-conjugate the verbs. So, I carried a piece of paper and I would say how do you say that in English? I had this huge French verb book and I’d write them down in all the forms and I decorated my walls with them. By the time I left France there were like 300 up there. But, I taught myself how to speak French, and when I left you couldn’t tell I wasn’t from France...(laughs) they just couldn’t tell where the hell in France I was from. I mixed dialects...I would sound like a New York Southerner with a California twang."

Guy Fieri stayed in France for 11 months.

After coming home, Guy got his first restaurant job at the Red Lion Inn in Eureka. His dinning room manager at the time, Mark Milligan, was “one of the first guys that got me. Or, at least tolerated me,” he added with a laugh. “I think I was a bit of a handful.”

Johnny Wise, a Eureka native who now owns Johnny's Flooring and Window Coverings in Fortuna, CA, said "He was definitely always the go-getter. He's got a lot of character."

Fieri recalled some favorite spots in Humboldt County. "It's not just redwoods. There's Centerville Beach, the mouth (of the river), Samoa Cookhouse, Kinetic Sculpture race, Dungeness crabs. I love coming back -- going to Ferndale, going to the meat market, going to Curly's.”

"I've been trying to make it back for the Fortuna Rodeo for years now,” Guy said. "There are a lot of 'thank yous' deserved in Humboldt. ... I won't ever forget where I was raised.”

Guy Fieri and his partner Steve Gruber opened their first restaurant, Johnny Garlic's in Santa Rosa, CA. "My business partner and I had a choice to open restaurants anywhere in the country. I said I’d like to go to Sonoma County. Sonoma where? I said, you know, wine country. He said it is too expensive up there. We opened our first restaurant, two young guys, we were 26 years old, no money, we had to beg, borrow, and steal to make it happen. And we did it."

Guy then recalled how his friends encouraged him to apply for the Food Network's Next Food Network Star. "My buddy, Mustard, said you have to do the contest for the Food Network. I said, dude, I was approached about two years ago by young guys from LA who wanted to do a show on the Food Network called the Barbecue King. They asked me and my team if we wanted to be on the show. I thought wow, talk about food, do a show. Unfortunately, they didn’t know what they were doing. The show never came to fruition. End of story.

I didn’t want to do the Food Network thing because I didn’t want to put it all out there and then have the dream go away. I think that’s a weird parallel for people to say they don’t try things because they don’t want the dream to leave."

But he did do the Food Network thing, and the dream hasn't gone away. Risk taker.


Guy Fieri's Signature Dish:
Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Related Posts:
A DVR alert - Chefography: Guy Fieri


Mise En Place said...

I watched his Chefography the other night and it was very interesting.

The pretzel stand was cute.

Anonymous said...

Best Chefography program yet! Loved it!!!! Voted for Guy on Food Network Star. I knew he would be a great addition to Food Network. Good job, Guy!