Not 24 hours later, a "Saturday Night Live" skit portrayed the "Next Food Network Star" winner being pecked to death by birds.
So why are the cool kids picking on Guy?
I want to go to a party at Food TV superstar Guy Fieri's house. I imagine pyramids of glistening pork ribs and snow shovels full of hush puppies. I dream of patiently standing in line by the pool waiting for margaritas to be blasted into my open mouth by a fire hose while AC/DC blares over the loudspeaker.
You know what you're going to get with this dude. He's fun, entertaining and totally lacking in subtlety -- a one-man tailgate upon which nary a Michelin star shines. His contribution to the tired fusion trend was to awkwardly pair barbecue with sushi. He is who he is; now buy a book.
Yet plenty of critics despise him, and I'll admit, he's easy to hate on. A little too easy. Fieri is a loud, garish frat man who shills a cuisine based on five simple tastes: salty, crunchy, meaty, spicy and chocolatey. As a television personality, he's a cross between Billy Mays and Emeril Lagasse, drenched in nacho cheese. Oh and the hair bleach. The hair bleach! How it burns.
A recent Daily Beast essay likened Fieri to Glenn Beck, the partisan political talk show host famous for his divisive ranting. The epicurean world seems, according to this article, to be split into two camps: armchair gourmets against Guy and for gastronomic purity, and boorish gluttons. Foodies just love to beat up the poor galoot. The only people who give Guy any respect are his accountants.
To many, food is escapist entertainment. Guy Fieri is not Jean-Luc Godard; he's Michael Bay. His dishes explode with brash flavors and fill the belly. On "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," he interviews hometown cooks who sling grub designed to immediately tickle the brain's pleasure centers. To his television viewers and visitors to his restaurant chain, Johnny Garlic's Pasta Grill, he sells a style of food that's the equivalent of the Fourth of July: nosh meant to draw a crowd, burst with colors and inspire applause.
For some self-proclaimed "foodies," though, dinner is a basis of self-definition -- and this sheds some light on their revulsion to Guy and all he represents. These gastro-groupies revere serious chefs who aren't satisfied with just stuffing faces, but who use haute techniques and obscure ingredients to transcend culinary expectations.
And like many lovers of high arts, these people are frequently humorless. At worst, they deride that which they fear. In Guy Fieri's case, the fear is that the vast majority of the population just doesn't think their sophisticated passion is really that important. Fieri is the living representation of the uber-American appetite, and sadly, it is not interested in molecular gastronomy or subversive deconstructions of classic dishes. Look on the bright side: more nitrogen ice cream, sous-vide quail and foams for fans.
I have never believed that high and low cuisine are mutually exclusive. Years ago, a close friend of mine, the very first foodie I ever met, introduced me to two things he loved dearly. The first was sushi, specifically, toro or tuna belly. I had never been particularly adventurous with food, and my Texas-born self resisted the whole notion of "raw fish." He patiently explained to me why I should love it and what I was supposed to expect. He counseled me to I focus on the buttery texture of the fish. I was hooked.
A few weeks later, he took me to have the sloppiest cheeseburger I had ever eaten. The disparity surprised me, as I had assumed that my friend was a connoisseur of fancy eats. It was possible to love dainty little slivers of expensive fish and a greasy beef puck? Here was a valuable lesson: never eat sushi when your heart's set on a cheeseburger. And vice versa.
I love Guy Fieri on his terms -- his deep-fried, calorie-laden, party-boy terms. I know what to expect from him, so I'm not disappointed. Nor am I angry that he has like, eleventy gazillion recipes for chicken wings. I mean, look at the guy.
John DeVore has written for Maxim Magazine, The New York Sun, Cracked.com, Comedycentral.com, Esquire.com, Playboy.com and for the award winning political parody Whitehouse.org. Follow him at twitter.com/johndevore and read his previous articles about The Top 10 Food Mascots of All Time and 10 Catchiest Food Jingles We Love to Hate.