Tuned In

Guy Fieri Gets Served

Fieri has symbolized food TV's move from cooking shows to eating shows. But the New York Times restaurant reviewer suggests America's Eater-in-Chief may have bitten off more than he can chew.

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If you are like me, you are a deeply unhappy person with a twisted soul who takes inordinate pleasure from the joys of reading a devastatingly, ostentatiously negative review. If you are like me, then, I suggest you pull up a chair, tuck a napkin under your chin and dig in to Pete Wells’ four-throwing-star ninja takedown of Guy Fieri‘s new Times Square restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, written in the form of an open letter to the Food Network personality:

[W]hen we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?

Is the entire restaurant a very expensive piece of conceptual art? Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane?

Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?

One could call the review excessive, even cruel. And one could argue that it’s simply a case of foodie snobbery, a highfalutin critic wrinkling his delicate nose at the down-home cookery that Fieri celebrates on his shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. But if Wells’ impressions of the food are right—I haven’t eaten at the restaurant—it’s not that Fieri is serving an unworthy, declassé kind of food. It’s that he’s taken the kind of authentic, lusty American foods that he’s showcased in his Food Network eating tours, used it to build a personal brand and used that brand to pass off a lousy imitation. Again, I have not eaten at Guy’s myself, but as an argument, Wells’ review isn’t an insult to diner-and-dive food but a defense of it.

As a big food-TV consumer, I have a mixed relationship with Fieri’s food shows, which could basically all be titled MMM GUY FIERI HONGRY GIVE GUY FIERI SOMETHING TO EAT! I can easily get sucked into a DD&D marathon on any given weekend afternoon or vacation day, but it’s despite the host, not because of him. I love the out-of-the way sandwich joints and blue-plate-slingers Fieri and his producers find, but Fieri himself doesn’t add much except a lot of mmmmms and aaaaahhhs. He’s just there as a kind of endlessly gobbling surrogate for the viewer–dipping his finger into bowls, leaning over pots and cramming his mouth with burger while moaning like a porno actor. His contribution to your understanding of the food basically amounts to listing all the ingredients while talking with his mouth full: “Burger’s really juicy, the bacon is money, cheese melts nice…” Cheese. Melts. Nice. You could draw spiky bleached hair on a Yelp review printout and learn more from it.

And yet his shows are hugely popular: the food is the star, and I guess watching Fieri tie on the feedbag is more satisfying than merely eating it with your eyes. He, more than anyone else, represents the evolution of Food Network (and food TV in general) away from cooking shows and toward eating shows. At least in the eyes of the Times’ food critic, though, he may have for once bit off more than he can chew.

5 comments
Lucelucy
Lucelucy

It's possible that some of us can't quite get enough of the schadenfreude yet - we tire of the same-o, same-o glee at the recent losing side but (if we are like me) eke out a little more joy in yet another take-down, and such a delicious one at that.  I haven't watched Food-TV since the Barefoot Contessa stopped making new shows (has she made new shows?  I haven't actually kept up).  And given my now-confessed penchant for Ina Garten, you can see why I'm one of those snobby types that wouldn't really go for a Guy Fieri.  And I don't, but that doesn't mean I haven't spent quality time in diners, drive-ins and dives myself.  As a young'un, I used to go with my dad on trips to deliver concrete steps and septic tanks around central Illinois and we lived out of truck stops.  Hot roast beef sandwiches (with mashed potatoes and gravy on the side) and banana cream pie anybody?  And here in Seattle, I am a proud devotee of the Blue Moon Tavern, which is older than I am and has served the likes of Alan Ginsberg, Theodore Roethke, and Tom Robbins (not to mention Coffee John, Burgundy Bob and Ulrich My Favorite Nazi.)

As it happens, another good friend of mine, a woman I met when she was a Blue Moon bartender, is now cooking for a dive of sorts (I haven't actually been there yet) somewhere near Olympia and she will be featured in an episode of DD&D sometime in the spring.  She is a consistent winner of top honors at Oysterfest (this year she was overall grand champion with a Hot and Sour Seafood Soup).  Here is what she says about her DD&D experience: 

It was an awesome experience. Guy was sowonderful. I wasn't the least bit nervous. I gave it back to him as wellas he gave it to me.Did you know that I was in the witness protectionprogram? Me neither. He loved my Crab Cannelloni in Roasted Red PepperSauce. He was over heard telling a friend that "She f# rocked thecannelloni" This was the biggest mostexciting event other than my wedding I have ever experienced! ThanksPat! BTW Guy is super cute!! (She's just being nice about thewedding--P)* *(Pat is her husband)

Bottom line:  Some of the folks on DD&D can actually cook!

msteel271
msteel271

I don't get why this review is getting so much press.  It's a funny, over-the-top review of a bad restaurant; that's it.  It certainly won't affect business; I'm pretty sure tourists in Times Square choosing between this place and Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. don't bother checking the NYTimes review first.  So it's purely for entertainment value.

faithlovechell
faithlovechell

Guy is a joke. His food has only one taste, garlic and salt. Whenever I eat at his places, I get horrible stomach pains and headaches, think it is MSG. I just want his fame to go away because he isn't all that!

JohnnyBirchcrof
JohnnyBirchcrof

Definitely bold flavors and top-shelf margs, though, you guys.

kekirkpatz
kekirkpatz

I decided my dislike of Fieri was warranted after my friend drove an hour outside of Chicago (with his entire family) to go to one of Guy's Triple D recommended dives. He then found out that the burger that Guy ate on the show isn't actually available at the restaurant; they only made it for Guy and the show. There are so many other good chefs and restaurants I just can't get on board.