Guy Fieri may best known for his platinum locks, loud personality, fiery recipes, and penchant for visiting mom-and-pop eateries, but the 44-year-old found himself in the spotlight in November for something no restaurateur wants publicity for: a scathing New York Times review.
In the 1000-plus-word piece, which some called the worst in the paper's history, writer Pete Wells bashed Fieri's new 500-seat eatery Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Manhattan’s Times Square with a series of questions-belying-insults.
The review quickly went viral, but Fieri now tells omg! that not only doesn’t he believe that the writer was being fair, but he also doesn’t believe the average reader took the review seriously.
“There’s always going to be reviews and that one, of course, I think everybody read it the same way that I did, or at least the majority of people, that there was something else going on,” he says. “But the beauty of it is that the proof is in the pudding and the restaurant continues to do incredible numbers and we continue to bring it. We’re happy with how the restaurant has been going and the holiday season in particular has been outstanding.”
Fieri, who says the restaurant is doing between 1,000 to 3,000 covers a day, also takes issue with the fact that the review ran when the restaurant had only been open a little over two months, “which is not even in the realm of when places are reviewed,” he explains. “You give them a little more time to get their feet underneath them before you start rocking and rolling.”
As for whether the coverage prompted Fieri, who co-owns five other restaurants in his native California, to make any changes, Fieri says a new eatery always requires constant tweaking, no matter what kind of reviews it gets.
“We are doing nothing outside of the normal standard operating procedures of what you do when you open a new restaurant. You make it. You make it the best you can. You review it. Is it working with service? Is it selling? Does it need to have more? Less? Hotter? Spicier? All these things,” Fieri implores. “Regardless of a review or anybody’s opinion, as a chef and a restaurant owner, I have to review myself on a regular basis to make sure I’m doing what I’m always known to do and that is make the best product I can make."
Starting this weekend, it’s Fieri and Food Network cohort Rachael Ray’s turn to do some reviewing when the pair kicks off the second season of the cooking competition show “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off.”
Now the roster may not include the likes of Angelina Jolie or George Clooney, (but c’mon, they wouldn’t be any fun!), but does feature a colorful cast of characters including comic Gilbert Gottfried, Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir, R&B singer and former TLC member Chilli, and Tori Spelling’s reality star husband Dean McDermott, all competing for $50,000 in charity money. And the competition, reveals Fieri, got pretty fierce this season.
“There’s a lot on the line and there are some really compelling challenges. It got gnarly,” he reveals. “It was hard. It was hard on us. It was hard on them. The hours were long. The competitions were pretty amped up compared to the first year. It was pretty crazy.”
And what about the talent? “The majority of them were good home cooks, but they didn’t know it,” according to Fieri. “But once we started talking about things we could do and how they could do it, you’d be amazed at what they came up with. And that’s what I tell people all the time: Give yourself more credit. You gotta take chances and push yourself and try different things.”
Most Fieri fans are probably more familiar with another series he has on the Food Network, his venerable “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” which follows the celebrity chef around the country as he tries everything from meatloaf to fish tacos at no-frills local eateries. But at the end of each segment, when Fieri takes a big bite whatever dish the chef (and usually owner) just prepared, he nearly always praises it, leaving some to doubt whether he could really love everything. So what’s the deal?
Fieri compares the restaurants he visits to a typical band’s album. A few of the songs may be standouts, but not all of them are. “There are two or three great singles that they’ve got that that you just go ‘Yes!’ And then there are other things that are just OK. Not everything that they do is a rock solid hit,” he explains. “And so what I do is I look at all the menus. I pick what food you’re going to see on the show. I ask all the questions. How do they make it? What do they put in it? We’ve been doing this for six years and we have a really in-depth research team. ”
Most of the time Fieri and his crew picks winners, the dishes you see on the show, but other times … well, not so much. “There have been times where I’ve tasted something and I go, “Eh, I don’t know. This wasn’t what I was expecting.’ And If it’s not good you won’t see it and if the place isn’t good we won’t show it. If I wouldn’t eat that entire dish and finish it right there, then you won’t see it. ”
And while Fieri knows there are those (“Saturday Night Live,” for example) who give him a hard time over his amped-up enthusiasm and over-the-top accolades, Fieri insists he’s nothing but honest.
“If you think I’m saying, ‘Hey, I travel around America and try all the food and everything is awesome!’ well that’s bullshit. I could never be that way.”
The new season of “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off” premieres Sunday, January 6 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the Food Network.
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