For more than a decade, the loud, spiky, permanently-sunglassed and generally ludicrous Guy Fieri has made a living peering into the seedy underbelly of America’s secret eats. Ever since Diners, Drive-ins and Dives made its debut on American screens, the world has been hooked on his unique brand of frosty-haired enthusiasm and willingness to eat anything and everything that the restaurant scene has to offer. Twenty-six seasons and 260 episodes in, it’s obvious to anyone that the formula works.
It’s easy to look at Fieri’s success and feel various shades of jealousy, irritation and admiration. But, behind the scenes at Triple D HQ, the machinations of your average episode are far more complicated than you’d ever imagine. It might look easy to follow around a Camaro-driving, food-obsessed megalomaniac, but there’s a whole lot more to the show than meets the eye. Whether you’re a Fieri fan or foe, pulling back the veil is always fascinating. Here are 10 secrets that you never knew about Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
1. Rocky Beginnings
It might look like a well-oiled machine but in it infancy, Triple D had several teething problems. For starters, the entire show was allegedly invented on the fly, during a phone call between Food Network chief exec Christina Reinhart and producer David Page, during which Page scribbled down the plan on a single side of A4. To top it off, Fieri had little knowledge of American food beyond his native California, so had to learn his trade on the job. All this meant the show’s hour-long pilot took around 21 days to film across Texas, Kansas and California.
2. Finding a Target
Unsurprisingly, finding a suitable candidate for a Fieri visit isn’t a matter of blindly stumbling into every restaurant in town. The Triple D team actually have two main ways to gather intel on suitable locations. First, the crew contact local food writers and experts and ask their advice. Second, the show also operates its own recommendations site where locals can submit their favourite pig-out spots for inspection by Fieri’s lackeys. Only after they’ve been deemed worthy do they make it to the show.
3. A Big Deal
Getting your restaurant on the show isn’t just a chance to appear on TV. The implications for a business lucky enough to be featured can be huge, from a financial point of view. Businesses regularly report sales increases of as much as 200 per cent after a visit from the crew, with some joints continuing to attract attention for years after the original episode aired. For a small food business, these sorts of numbers are nothing to be sniffed at.
4. Two Guys
Fieri, with his aggressive shirts, barbed hair and backwards sunglasses, is clearly a character. But, according to multiple reports from restaurants who have featured on the show, there’s more to Guy than bombast. Griffin Bufkin, owner of Southern Soul Barbecue, told Thrillist that - prior to filming - Fieri arrived at the restaurant in a plain white T-shirt, flattened hair and sans sunglasses. It was only when the cameras started rolling that he became “all Fieri-ed up” in his signature look, “like an amplified version of himself”.
He might occasionally act like an over-excited, hungry puppy, but Guy Fieri also has a serious side. He has long been a supporter of the Make-A-Wish foundation and takes his commitments very seriously. According to Delish, Fieri makes a point of inviting a family from the foundation on every show that he records, including spin-offs such as Guy’s Big Bite and Guy’s Grocery Games.
6. It Isn’t all Great
One of Triple D’s hallmarks is the apparently boundless enthusiasm for the food that Guy tries. As it turns out, some of it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In an interview on The Moment, Fieri admitted that when the cameras stop rolling, his feedback to chefs can become a little more constructive. Speaking to host Brian Koppelman, Fieri revealed that, "We’ll go to commercial, and they’ll go, 'Well, did you like that?' And I’m like, 'Yeah it was good.' And they’ll go, 'Well you didn’t go, like, ‘This is off the hook.’' And I’m like, ‘Well, it was good.' And I’m like, 'Don’t be offended, I don’t like every single song that’s on the Rolling Stones album.'"
7. Hating on Guy
When someone is as effervescent and in-your-face as Guy Fieri, it’s understandable that he might rub some people up the wrong way. Over the years, Fieri has garnered criticism from all corners of the food world, but perhaps most notably from the eternally opinionated, late, great Anthony Bourdain. Over the years, Bourdain referred to Fieri as “low-hanging fruit” when it came to levelling insults, and also said that he was as “worthy of a solid and relentless mocking as anyone.”
8. The Car
Almost as much as Fieri himself, the bright red Chevrolet Camaro that kicks off every episode is a part of Triple D folklore. While you could be forgiven for thinking that the car has always been on the scene, the reality is actually a good deal more contentious. Though Fieri owns the current 1968 model, there have actually been two Camaros - the first of which was owned by a producer who left the show in very acrimonious circumstances.
9. The Producer and his Lawsuit
For many years, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives was as much producer David Page’s show as it was Fieri’s. That all came to an abrupt end in May 2011. During filming, Fieri began to ignore Page’s calls and skip out on voice recordings for previously-filmed episodes. Soon after, Page found himself forcibly removed from his position. Blaming Fieri for the situation, Page promptly sued the Food Network for $1.5m in a case which was later settled out of court.
10. The Cult of Guy
A popular, long-running show, Triple D has accumulated some seriously dedicated fans over the years. Every year, hundreds of different “Fieri road trips” take place across the country, with fans following some of the Camaro’s most famous routes. There are also dozens of different websites dedicated to helping fans identify where their nearest Triple D location might be.
As Anthony Bourdain said, making fun of Guy Fieri sometimes seems too easy to be worthwhile. But whatever you think of him or his show, there’s no denying that he has made an impression on popular food like few other people working in television. Here’s hoping there are many more years of loud, shouty munching to come.