I had the opportunity recently to speak with Food Network Star Guy Fieri (Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives; Guy’s Big Bite) about his upcoming new show, the second season of Ultimate Recipe Showdown. With several shows on the Food Network, Guy has had huge success after winning the Next Food Network Star just years ago. Like his television persona, Guy was friendly, funny, and enthusiastic.
The Interview with Guy
The show premiere is coming up for Ultimate Recipe Showdown after the holidays, what can we expect?
Guy – “This second year is remarkable. One things you should look forward to is the real in-depth view of the contestants. That was something I was really so passionate about. You know, coming from the Next Food Network Star where they show a background story. It’s not just about the food on the plate and how it’s presented, how it got there, and how it’s done; all those components. Our fantastic producer Art Edwards really got more of a great back story on the show contestants giving the show much
more depth. I got to do a lot of one-on-one with them, giving a much more compelling story for that background piece. When the winner is awarded, people are going to have a chance to know who that winner is and kind of impact that $25,000 is going to have on them.”
Why does Ultimate Recipe Showdown resonate so well with viewers?
Guy – “We can all watch football, but if you haven’t played football you can’t really say I know what that feels like to get hit. We’ve all driven cars but few of us have raced them. The reason I think this show resonates with people watching is most everyone can cook something. Doesn’t matter if it’s pasta, a burger, pizza or what not but everyone can cook that one special item. They can watch the show and think, ‘Hey, that could be me.’ I think people could watch and connect because it’s All-American, it’s them. I’m just a dude that got a shot and people pick up on my enthusiasm and energy.”
How do you juggle all of your time with hosting duties?
Guy – “I’m really fortified with a great team. I have a fantastic family: great wife, a couple young boys. Everybody over at Food Network makes it a rock ‘n roll show. I mean, We are on tour, baby! Like I tell folks, if you’re given the opportunity, you really have to dig down deep inside and say am I ready to do this? It has been a run but I’m having the time of my life. The Food Network is very forward-thinking and changing people’s lives. Being part of that is a very cool job.”
There is really a diverse group of contestants on Ultimate Recipe Showdown. What kind of person does well in this type of competition?
Guy – “I’ve seen really great cooks do very poor on this show. And okay cooks rise to the occasion. So, there’s not a real science to what goes on. I think the cook that didn’t get overwhelmed by the process and just stuck to what they knew they were doing does well. The people that didn’t let what was going on…I mean you have a couple hundred people staring at you and cameras flying around and the other cooks next to you going for the title…it can get the best of somebody. The folks this year were a fantastic group. Everybody had a neat story. Remarkable people and I think you are going to be thrilled with what you see.”
What is it about this show that you like doing compared to the other shows you host?
Guy – “It hits home for me, a guy that won the Next Food Network Star. My life was changed. I feel like to be the ambassador for home cooks and chefs…I couldn’t be more proud. Even for the people that didn’t win, to give a hug and say ‘It was great meeting you. You did a great job and I hope you had a blast.’ To be the guy that gets to be the mayor of all of that couldn’t be more honoring.”
What’s the secret to creating an ultimate burger?
Guy – “Well, the first thing I would have to say is really good meat. I think it makes the difference of a lifetime. I think over seasoning it can also be an issue. I think cooking the burger and messing with the burger is the biggest flaw. I think it’s always quality over quantity.”
What’s your ultimate Christmas comfort food?
Guy – “I’m such a weird
one when it comes to Christmas. I made two gallons of gravy one year. I did a maple syrup brine turkey one year. It tasted just like ham. To me, it’s rolling it out and doing something different. I’m doing a 28-day aged prime rib this year. It’s drying out in my garage right now. I’ll cut it into two different roasts.”
The show is weekly but how long does it take to tape an entire season?
Guy – “We shot a show a day along with bumps (ins and outs) but each show took about 10 hours to shoot. Each episode was shot back-to-back. It was a 12 day schedule for this year’s season.”
If someone was preparing their first holiday dinner what would you recommend?
Guy – “The best advice I could give would be this. Cook a couple of your staples. Some people think they have to roll out an elaborate menu because it’s a holiday event. The next thing to do is practice. A lot of people think they are going to be able to pull out their best with no practice. It just doesn’t work that way. Also tell everyone whose
coming they have to bring something. That way you can concentrate on your item and you don’t have to do every item for the meal.”
In 2007 you cooked for the troops in the Persian Gulf. What kind of dishes did you cook for the troops and how was it perceived over there?
Guy – “I am not at all pro-war. I am pro-soldier. But I went over to the Persian Gulf and met a lot of these people, father of three, and mother of four. The Navy takes such appreciation for culinary on their ships. A lot of stuff is frozen so they have to be very judicious of what they put on their ships. The morale of their stomach is very important to their sailors. They were having taco day or Mexican food. I come from Southern California and there were five kitchens on this ship and one of the things they made was comfort food. So I made them a little bit of some scratch gourmet macaroni and cheese. I’m going over to Iraq soon. Everyone is a food fan so I had a very nice warm response from everyone.”
If someone was watching the Ultimate Recipe Showdown, what else would you think they would need in order to make it on the show?
Guy – “I don’t know if they need to be a culinary expert. Some folks have more culinary talent than others. I think being cool under pressure is the best trait for a contestant to have. Maybe you are a one-trick pony with that bomb pasta dish but if you bring it, you will win.”
You have a lot going on, what do you do to relax?
Guy – “My real true passion, and this is not a canned answer, is cooking. I’ve been home for ten days now and my wife is so ready to kill me. We’re filming Chefography in the house and I made a huge dinner last night. And the night before, I cooked for all my restaurant managers who are here for a holiday party. I did eight dishes. And while I’m cooking I’m thinking I have to get ready for my show and bup bup bup bup…all this stuff is going on. For me the relaxation is just cooking food. I don’t care…I’ll set there and cut an hundred onions. Just playing with the knives. The big payoff is making people happy. That big smile when people enjoy my food. Also, I’m big into cars, hot rods, dirt bikes. For Thanksgiving, I took the RV and a bunch of my buddies and went up into the middle of nowhere. No running water, no anything. And cooked Thanksgiving for 30 people on a Weber.”