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The Guy is No Fonz...Or is he?

by Dave Cathey Modified: July 9, 2013 at 5:55 pm •  Published: July 9, 2013

Until Paula Deen started nasal-drawling about race relations in a court room a few weeks ago, Guy Fieri was having the worst year among America’s celebrity chefs.

The restaurateur turned game-show host’s new Times Square restaurant was the target of a famously vitriolic, if not pointless, review from Pete Wells of The New York Times. The review probably didn’t do near as much damage to Fieri as it did pump the reviewer’s career, which is ironic. While Fieri might be peddling TGIFriday’s food at Le Bernardin prices, the review was higher in fat than a chicharones-eating contest at a casting call for “The Biggest Loser.” Fine word-wielding, but let’s face it, this was the foodie elite reminding the world there is no room at the inn for anyone who doesn’t know quinoa salad from cumquat reduction.  When a reviewer compares foods, they should be foods the reviewer has actually tried. And if Mr. Wells has actually drunk radiator fluid andor formaldehyde either alone or in some combination than I’d much rather read about that experience than the one he had in what amounts to a made-for-Disneyworld concept. Bottom line: No one who goes to a Guy Fieri restaurant is likely reading a lot of New York Times reviews and folks that read New York Times reviews don’t likely fit the demographic of a Guy Fieri concept. But I digress.

Guy Fieri from the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at Ingrid's Kitchen in Oklahoma City Tuesday, May 19, 2009. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD
Guy Fieri from the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives at Ingrid's Kitchen in Oklahoma City Tuesday, May 19, 2009. Photo by Paul B. Southerland, The Oklahoman ORG XMIT: KOD

Whether you enjoyed the review, found it a cry for Facebook schadenfreudian affirmation or chuckled a sec and forgot about it, the potshots represented the first real shots at the affable Fieri’s persona, which was born on  “The Next Food Network Star” and raised on “Diner’s Drive-Ins & Dives.” From appearances, it looked like The Guy took this blow below the belt, which he clearly wears above the waist, in stride. No standing-8, but perhaps a 10-8 round in the end. And a round that doesn’t end in a knockout doesn’t a fight win.  So, as The Guy shook the sweat out of his fjordic bleach-burned locks, thumbed his nose and prepared to take on the world of celebrity, along comes comes Paula Deen.

Paula, like the maternal archetype she’s portrayed with varying degrees of success on Food Network, descended from her fake kitchen on high to absorb all the bad publicity anyone not named Aaron Hernandez or Amanda Bynes had incurred in the last 12 months like some kind of biscuit-busking Joan of Arc. Instead of thanking Paula, Guy miscast his ambition. Rather than quietly returning to his roots, no I don’t mean becoming the fifth non blonde, he and his producers at “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” decided to dip their toes in shark-tank infested waters by inviting the cast of “Grown-Ups 2″ to take part in “a very special episode” of triple-”D.”

Listen, I’ve met Guy Fieri and came away impressed by his authenticity and intelligence. The hair and the bowling shirts were who he was long before the cameras started rolling, so I get it. “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives” was the perfect vehicle for his personality and a great platform for independent restaurant operators across the country, including Oklahoma. The Guy has meant life-changing publicity for extremely hard-working folks, and for that I commend him.

This is why the show’s recent decision to shill for the moronic “Grown-Ups 2″ on Monday is such a head-shaker. But hey, at least he made up a recipe for chili “inspired” by the film. Part of the reason The Guy was probably going to outlive a barrage well-slung adjectives was the continued popularity of “D,D&D.” By turning the show into an awkward incarnation of late-night chaff, it sends a clear signal to Ron Howard that it’s time to gas up the speedboat, cue the stock shark footage and tow another show toward the vortex of irrelevance and eventual cancellation located above a fictional captive shark. If a cool guy like The Fonz couldn’t survive the jump, how can someone  who is merely rad like The Guy be expected to?

Visions of the boys from “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” spending an ill-fated episode hanging with the Boston Red Sox and Bravo’s turn to car-wreck and bad plastic-surgery television comes to mind.

I understand the advertising industry is on the verge of irrelevance itself thanks to the very medium upon which this post exists. I understand it’s time to get creative with how to bring in money. But how is burning down the house for some running-around money, a handsome pair of skis and a custom leather jacket progress?

Good luck Guy. Straighten up and fly right.

by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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