Twisted: Unserious food tastes seriously good.

Inside Guy Fieri’s incredible rise to fame: From Selling Car Mufflers To Becoming TV’s Highest-Paid Chef

01/03/2023

Twisted: Unserious food tastes seriously good.

Article by Joanna Sarah-Freedman

05m read

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Guy Fieri might be one of America’s most famous restaurateurs, authors and food personalities today, but how did he reach his heights of fame? 

The Food Network chef and renowned mayor of Flavortown now owns restaurants around the globe, but he had a humble start selling pretzels before getting his big break. 

Want the DL? Here’s everything we know about Guy Fieri today…

guy fieri

Guy Fieri is the king of American fast food (Credit: Alamy)

What is Guy Fieri most famous for?

Fieri, 55, has many strings to his bow, but he is probably most famous for his Emmy Award-winning career on Food Network, where he has fronted several shows over the years.

The California-raised chef’s first show, Guy’s Big Bite, was an instant hit back in 2006, and took on a simple format, showing him knocking up some of his favourite meals in a kitchen.

READ MORE: Great British Menu star Andi Oliver was once an 80s pop star

Then, he went on to host several other cooking programmes on the channel, including Guy’s Big Project (2017), Guy’s Ranch Kitchen (2017) and Guy’s Grocery Games (a supermarket sweep style game show). 

Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives launched in 2007 and is still running today, and is perhaps Fieri’s most popular show, seeing him travel around the States visiting as many as 900 American old school restaurants in a Chevy Camaro convertible.

guy fieri diners drive ins and dives

Guy Fieri’s Diners Drive ins and Dives still runs today (Credit: Food Network)

His TV roster meant he was named the top paid chef on cable TV back in 2021 after signing a new $80 million contract with Food Network. 

Whilst there are now 32 TV credits to Fieri’s name (scroll down for more info on that), it’s worth noting his career spans beyond the small screen too. 

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He’s also made a name for himself by opening restaurants globally and releasing a total of seven cookbooks, too – several of which are based on his Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives show, and the restaurants and recipes he uncovered along the way. 

What food is Guy Fieri best known for?

Fieri is best known for championing all-American flavours in his restaurants. 

Think burgers, barbecue food and Tex-Mex, inspired by his travels around the US filming and the incredible dishes he has come into contact with. 

Fieri is also famed for liking his food spicy, and he makes no bones about it. 

Food Network announced last year that his most popular recipes were Dragon’s Breath Chili, made with Anaheim, poblano, and jalapeno chiles, ground beef, ground Italian sausage, hot paprika and beans. 

His Cajun Chicken Alfredo is the second most iconic of his dishes, made with white wine, marinated sundried tomatoes and cajun for heat.

Meanwhile, his third biggest Food Network hit is Blazy’s Pepperoni Studded Lasagna, with sliced pepperoni, Italian sausage, ricotta and mozzarella cheese taking this classic pasta dish to a whole new level. 

Fieri makes no secret that his family has influenced his cooking style, today.  

“My mom is from North Carolina, so we grew up eating grits and ham, and red-eye gravy,” he previously told Insider. “Cooking is so much about comfort, and so much about emotion, and so much about family.”

“My dad was the one who probably had the most influence on me cooking because he would always challenge me to try different things,” he added to the Tampa Bay Times. 

He added to First We Feast that he has fond memories of cooking tacos with his parents.

My parents were kind of hippies back in the day—they moved from Ohio to California and they were eating a lot of vegetables, a lot of fish, brown rice, that kind of stuff,” he said. 

“So things were a little bit different on taco night: We got to have ground beef! And I just remember how many tacos we would eat; it was a race almost. 

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“We had a Lazy Susan in the middle of the table, and there was cilantro, olives, avocado, and tomatoes, so you could make your taco however you wanted it. I really liked that experience of making it my way.”

He also reflects on his infamous chicken alfredo recipe: “I was going to school in Las Vegas and my final course required you to make a restaurant where everybody in your class had to work for you. 

“I decided mine was going to be this Cajun restaurant…so I combined what I love about Cajun food and what I love about Italian food. 

“I took blackened chicken breast and mixed it with a parmesan alfredo sauce and served it up. The dish became so popular that I almost got in trouble for not selling enough of the other items on my menu.”

He might have invented it as a kid, but never did Fieri imagine his Cajun flavours would go on to be loved around the world. 

Is Guy Fieri a real chef?

Guy Gieri is not a classically trained chef, but he’s grafted hard to get where he is, and has more than proved his cooking credentials over the years. 

After developing an interest in food when he was young (thanks, in part, to some of the dishes mentioned above), a 10-year-old Fieri and his father built a pretzel cart and sold them to neighbours. 

READ MORE: How to get a free chicken bucket from KFC

This venture allowed him to save enough money to travel to France aged 16, where he continued learning about cookery. 

“That’s where I really got the simplicity of food and the appreciation for quality ingredients,” he told Thrillist. “We would eat simple things that were just phenomenal, and it was because of the ingredients, and the method of preparation, and not overdoing it.”

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Guy Fieri is now a household name (Credit: Alamy)

Later, whilst at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, his passion for cooking remained. He worked in multiple different restaurant jobs, working for a short while as a flambé captain before earning a degree in hospitality management. 

Speaking of his time as a flambé captain, he said to First We Feast: “I would prepare dishes tableside at a fine-dining restaurant in a tuxedo; I had the ruffles and the whole deal. I would cook Steak Diane, crepe Suzette, spinach salad—you name it.

“I was 18 at the time. Steak Diane was just something I knew how to make so well, and it was a great experience because I learned how to interact with people and make great food at the same time.”

READ MORE: Celebrity Best Home cook judge Angela Hartnett reveals shock history with Gordon Ramsay

Fieri then went on to be employed at several other eateries including Stouffer’s restaurant and taking up the role of district manager for Louise’s Trattoria in LA. 

All of this happened before his big break into TV, and his roster of almost 20 restaurant brands that followed. 

Now, fronting one of the biggest restaurant empires in the world, we think it’s safe to say that Fieri is very much a chef – and one of the greats, at that. 

What restaurants does Guy Fieri own?

Fieri currently has “17 brands and hundreds of restaurants” in total, according to Wide Open Country.

Some, like the popular Chicken Guy! fried chicken brand, have been franchised at different locations around the country. 

In addition to the Chicken Guy! chain, his other successful ventures include Guy Fieri’s American Kitchen and Bar, Guy Fieri’s Pizza Parlor, and Guy’s! Bar-B-Que Joint.

Fieri also owns the following brands:

As well as Fieri’s current ventures, he has also opened some hugely successful chains that have since shut their doors. 

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Chicken Guy is one of Fieri’s restaurants (Credit: Alamy)

His first restaurant came in 1996, where he opened Johnny Garlic’s – a ‘California Pasta Grill’ in California, with his business partner, Steve Gruber, which was a huge success, and opened five locations before shutting up shop in 2015. 

Then came, Tex Wasabi’s (a barbecue and sushi chain) in 2003, with locations in Santa Rosa, and Sacramento that also thrived for over a decade before shutting in 2019. 

His first outpost in New York was Guy’s American Kitchen Bar, in 2012 – and despite a brutal New York Times review which Forbes dubbed  “the most scathing review in the history of the New York Times“, the eatery went on to be named one of the Restaurant Business’s top 100 independent restaurants four years in a row thanks to its impressive sales numbers. 

The American Kitchen Bar thrived until 2017, when Fieri closed it to focus on other ventures.

The latest string to the celebrity chef’s bow is Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Sports Kitchen, which is set to open in Las Vegas this summer. 

The destination is set to be a sports bar, with his signature American flavours in abundance. 

What did Guy Fieri used to do?

Before becoming famous, Fieri used to work for a company called Flowmaster, selling mufflers and other car parts. 

The celebrity chef worked at the company for five years, making ends meet before diving into his real passion headfirst. 

He even featured in a couple of TV ads for the brand, despite not having debuted as a telly star, yet. 

Wanna see one of them? 

You’re welcome. 

READ MORE: What happens to the cakes on Bake Off: The Professionals?

How did Guy Fieri get famous?

Fieri’s big break came when he appeared on the second season of Food Network Star in 2001. 

The chef went on to win the game show, and that’s where it all began. 

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After that, the prize was a a six-episode cooking show – Guy’s Big Bite – and the rest, as they say, is history. 

The series  was hugely successful and ran from 2006 until 2016, for 19 whole seasons and 200 episodes. 

As we’ve already mentioned, his TV successes don’t stop there… far from it. 

How many shows does Guy Fieri have?

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Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is one of Fieri’s most popular shows (Credit: Food Network)

Fieri is listed as host on a total of 32 TV shows since rising to fame, and they’ve all been absolute bangers. 

Some of his more recent claims to fame include: 

  1. Tournament Of Champions – currently airing its fourth season, this sees 16 chefs “going head-to-head in a series of challenges using ingredients and special cooking tools and equipment while racing against the clock.”
  2. Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives – currently airing its 45th season, this sees Fieri “take a cross-country road trip to visit some of America’s classic ‘greasy spoon’ restaurants”.
  3. Guy’s Ultimate Game Night – debuting its first season in 2022, this sees celebs join Fieri in his  Flavortown Lounge for food themed games and a good natter.
  4. Guy’s Grocery Games – kinda like supermarket sweep, Guy’s Grocery Games most recently aired last year and has run for 29 seasons. It sees Fieri task four chefs to compete in a ‘grocery cooking competition’. 
  5. Guy’s Ranch Kitchen – having just aired season six, this show sees Fiari “invite his heavy-hitter chef friends over for a spontaneous Sunday cook-off”.
  6. Guy: Hawaiian Style – airing in 2021, this show saw Fiari embark on a trip around Hawaii with his family.
  7. Restaurant Hustle – 2020 hit restaurant hustle saw Fieri host and direct documentary which looking into restaurants being impacted by the pandemic and their race to survive
  8. Guy’s Big Project – this 2017 one season wonder saw Fieri looking for the next big TV cooking road show .
  9. Guy’s Big Bite – having aired its last ep in 2016, this show was the first to launch after he won the Food Network comp and saw Fieri cooking in his kitchen and ran for nineteen seasons.
  10. Guy and Hunter’s European Vacation – in 2016, Fierri and his son Hunter visited 13 different European cities and tried the food.

Fieri’s other TV credits include:

  • Restaurant Impossible
  • Guy’s Ranch Feast
  • Guy’s Grocery Games: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Tournament
  • Triple D Nation
  • Guy and Hunter’s European Vacation
  • Rachel vs Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off
  • Rachel vs Guy: Kids Cook-Off
  • Tailgate Warriors with Guy Fieri
  • Minute to Win It
  • Ultimate Recipe Showdown
  • Regis and Kelly
  • Guy Off The Hook
  • Guy’s Family Cruise
  • Guy’s Cuban Adventure
  • Guy Fieri’s Road Show
  • Guy Fieri’s Top of the Class
  • Guy’s Big Night
  • Guy’s Family Feast
  • Guy Fieri’s Feeding Frenzy
  • Guy’s Family Reunion

READ MORE: What happened to the restaurants on Kitchen Nightmares?

What celebrities are fans of Guy Fieri?

Fieri has lots of celebrity fans given his TV credentials, and the fact has had to work with showbiz talent on his shows. 

For one, the TV chef has previously cooked for the likes of Al Pacino – and it’s safe to say he was a fan of his food. 

“[Al] takes a few bites and I am just — I don’t know what to do,” Fieri told US Weekly. “I said, ‘Uh, Al, how is it?’ And he looks up and he goes, ‘Woo!’”

You can see Fieri recall the interaction here: 

Drew Barrymore is also a supporter, having invited him on The Drew Barrymore Show in the past. 

Plus, A-list rapper Drake is a fan of Fieri and also a friend, as are Sting, Shaggy and Snoop Dogg. 

On the culinary front, many celebrity chefs are fans, including cookbook author and TV fave, Richard Blais and Pagoda restaurant’s Benny Lin – both of whom have collaborated with him in the past. 

Is Guy Fieri a vegetarian?

Fieri isn’t vegetarian – in fact, today his food is known for being meaty. 

However, he revealed to Insider: “We ate a lot of vegetarian [growing up] and I hated it.”

It appears Fieri’s tastebuds have evolved over time, though, as today many of his restaurants cater to veggies, and he says fans would raise an eyebrow how plant-based his diet can be. 

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“I’m not saying that I’m a vegetarian, but people would be surprised at the amount of plant-based foods that I eat. Don’t get me wrong — I get down with a good burger, but in moderation” he added to TODAY magazine.

Discussing his own family’s eating habits, he added: “We indulge from time to time but for the most part, we eat well-balanced, often very plant-based meals.” 

It just shows, when you know how to cook there’s no reason a veggie meal can’t be just as cracking as a meaty one. 

Guy Fieri says he eats a lot of veggie food (Credit: Alamy)

Is Guy Fieri married and does he have kids?

You might have gathered from his TV shows (which include his family), but ICYMI, Fieri is indeed married and has two kids. 

The Guy’s Big Bite presenter has been with his wife Lori Brisson since 1995, after meeting through rather bizarre circumstances. 

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They came face to face in one of Fieri’s California restaurants, after she turned up with a pal who had recently been fired. 

“Her friend had been let go from the restaurant, and they weren’t supposed to be there,” he told Delish

“I was talking to her friend and saying ‘Hey, listen, wait a few weeks before you come in,’ and standing behind her is this blue-eyed, blonde girl giving me this mean mug.”

Eventually he got talking to Lori and convinced her to come round for dinner. 

“I don’t remember what I made, but I do remember it was quite an epic time,” he added. “We both love food, so being able to cook, that was one of the things that impressed her.”

The pair’s eldest son Hunter was born in 1996 and is now thought to be 27, whilst 18-year-old Ryder was born in 2005. 

What happened to Guy Fieri’s sister?

Fieri tragically lost his sister, Morgan, to metastatic melanoma in 2011.

Metastatic melanoma is a type of skin cancer, and whilst Morgan was diagnosed as a child and originally survived it, she sadly passed away from it aged 39. 

The Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives presenter has spoken about the loss and the impact it has had on him, telling People magazine: “I lost my little sister to cancer. 

“I think you got to live every single day. That’s the biggest thing – you never know what tomorrow’s going to bring. 

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Giy Fieri’s sister passed away at 39 (Credit: Instagram/ Guy Fieri)

“And that’s one of the reasons I live the way I live. I’m not going to waste today.”

He also often pays tribute to his sister on the anniversary of her death, this year marking the day she would have turned 50. 

 “Love you. Miss you. Celebrate you,” he wrote on Instagram. “NAMASTE -Big Bro.”

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