Tragedy can often bring out the best in people; take Guy Fieri, for instance. Yes, the celebrity chef proved that he has a heart bigger than his goatee when he visited those affected by the California wildfires of 2018. Here’s a look at how he left hundreds of locals smiling.
Although he entered the world in Columbus, Ohio, Fieri would later live in California. It would be in France that he first found his passion for food, however – while on a foreign exchange trip as a high school student. And after returning home, Fieri ultimately landed a job at a restaurant in Eureka, CA.
Eventually, though, Fieri headed out to Las Vegas to study hotel management at the University of Nevada. He subsequently took a job as manager of Long Beach eatery Stouffer’s before moving to Louise’s Trattoria. Then in 1996 the future celebrity would found his very own place, Johnny Garlic’s in Santa Rosa, with Steve Gruber.
Fieri and Gruber later opened several other branches of the restaurant before building a second chain, barbecue and sushi joint Tex Wasabi’s, from 2003. Then in 2012 Fieri launched his first venture in New York City: Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.
That particular restaurant remained a Big Apple fixture for nearly six years. And Fieri would open similar eateries in Las Vegas and Baltimore while also forging a partnership with a major cruise-liner company to sell his food. Of course, by this point the star had become arguably as renowned for his TV appearances as for his cuisine.
Fieri had first turned game-show host in 2009 on NBC’s Minute to Win It. He later joined Rachael Ray as one of two captains on Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off and continued the competitive theme by presenting Guy’s Grocery Games. Perhaps the show for which Fieri is best known, though, is Food Network road-trip series Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
But the celebrity chef hasn’t solely focused on food during his career. His other ventures include, for instance, an eponymous roadshow and promotional work for T.G.I. Friday’s and Aflac. Meanwhile, in 2012 Fieri presided over more than 100 same-sex weddings at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival; and three years later, he would take on the same role for the nuptials of fellow chef Art Smith.
Fieri has appeared on the big screen too, playing himself in both documentary I Am Evil Knievel and controversial comedy The Interview. And that’s not to mention the over 33 weeks he has spent at the top of the New York Times bestseller list with four different co-authored titles: a trio of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives tie-ins and Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It.
Regardless of his success, though, Fieri has had many detractors over the years, with one particular newspaper feature even going so far as to call him the “Nickelback of food.” And in 2011 a former Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives producer posted a scathing blog message about the chef. David Page – who had allegedly been fired by Fieri owing to bad blood between the pair – suggested that his former colleague was prejudiced against various minorities. Fieri’s team later dismissed the allegations, however.
But Fieri made headlines for all the right reasons in 2018 when he and his 21-year-old son Hunter made a special visit to Redding, California. The pair had decided to head out to the area in their caravan after hearing about the devastating wildfire that had spread through the state’s northern region. And, naturally, they made sure that they brought plenty of food with them.
In addition, Fieri and his son had roped in several organizations and individuals to help them feed those most affected. They included Operation Barbecue Relief, the Salvation Army and more than a dozen volunteers. And Fieri and his team decided to set up their improvised kitchen in the parking lot of Shasta College, which was acting as a temporary evacuee shelter.
In August 2018 Fieri would also explain to CNN why he had felt compelled to make the journey. He said, “We’re in tough times… with all of the things going on. And boy, you take a moment like this, and you really see [that] America is made of a lot of great people coming together.”
“All those basics that we have on a regular basis all of a sudden are gone,” Fieri continued. And that wasn’t all. “You can’t even see the sun,” he added about the city that he had regularly used to visit as a youngster. In fact, by the time Fieri had arrived, the Carr Fire had already been confirmed by CNN as being one of the ten most devastating in California history.
The wildfire also claimed the lives of six people, including a bulldozer operator and a firefighter. Almost 36,000 residents had to be evacuated to safety too, and at the time of Fieri’s visit emergency services had only managed to contain a fifth of the fire. Overall, the blaze had set almost 100,000 Shasta County acres alight.
Fieri’s intervention, then, was likely a welcome one. And the chef would later take to Twitter to thank a local man who had joined in with the efforts. “Chef James from Sheraton Redding Hotel stepped up HUGE with pasta salad and coleslaw for 1,000 people for lunch and in for another 1,000 tonight,” Fieri wrote. Meanwhile, in another tweet he added, “Big thanks to the Cattlewomen of Humboldt for a great beef donation for the Redding evacuees!”
In fact, Fieri and his team ultimately ended up making meals for around 750 affected residents. But he wasn’t alone in cooking up a storm, since fellow chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen organization also lent a hand. Andres is renowned for his charity work, having previously helped to feed victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
But Fieri was no stranger to playing the hero himself. Just nine months previously, the star had served up food to thousands of people affected by another wildfire. That time, it had been his native Santa Rosa that had faced nature at its worst.
And during that occasion Fieri assured any skeptics that his intentions were purely noble. He said to KQED, “This isn’t a PR stunt. You don’t see my banners up. I’m not promoting anything. I’m just here cooking. This is feeding people. People need help, and I’m here to help. That’s it.”
When it came to the Carr Fire, though, the blaze would only be fully contained in late August 2018. By that point, the flames had destroyed over 1,600 buildings – the majority of which had been people’s houses – while the total damage caused was reported to have cost more than $1.6 billion. And, tragically, a total of eight people lost their lives owing to the disaster.
Then, three months after his charitable efforts, it was back to business for Fieri, as he opened up another eatery in Kansas City. And in a press release, the chef described the taco-focused joint as a “one-of-a-kind bar and restaurant concept.” There, he added, “Let me put it this way. If you like to party and you like tacos, this is gonna be your kinda dive!”