No one knows how to take a bigger bite out of life than Guy Fieri. The second-season winner of The Next Food Network Star(the new season wraps up Sunday at 9 pm/ET), Fieri has spiced things up with his spiky hair and unique recipes on new shows like Guy's Big Bite and Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. He shared details of his wild ride and newfound fame with TVGuide.com, as well as his biggest advice for the next winner.
TVGuide.com: OK, this might be a stupid question, but from where you're standing now, if you could do Next Food Network Star again, would you?
Fieri: [Pauses] Yes. My [season] was like baseball was in the 1950s — it was dramatic and incredible, and the heroes, stories and legends were made. This [season's] competition is the next generation of baseball. More drama, more expectations, everyone's playing their hearts out, but the rules weren't written yet when I played. These guys just got a new set of rules and a broader awareness of what's going on. I would play again but just with a different mentality.
TVGuide.com: What is the hardest part of that show?
Fieri: That's kind of like saying, "What's the best part of your dinner?" I would say it's the unexpected emotional turmoil. Being away from the kids, not being able to use a cell phone, living with people you don't know.... Those circumstances, I don't know that anybody can walk into prepared for that. If you're not balanced with what your culinary style is or if you can't skin a fish, you have a lot more trippin' you out.
TVGuide.com: Give me two pieces of advice for the next winner.
Fieri: Only two? Do not take anything for granted. Do not think you know what is coming, because it is like starting a whole new life. [Distracted for a moment] There are some construction workers pointing at me from across the street. See, that's an example: It's like one, big, gigantic restaurant. You're always on, you always have to have your head in the game. The second thing would be, get ready to work hard. This is not a part-time gig. Really be prepared for the reality, it's not a cakewalk. This isn't homecoming. You just won a national television show!
TVGuide.com: Do you think Food Network has done a good job of representing who you are? I think they've allowed you to really showcase your personality.
Fieri: If I had my ultimate choice, it would be a live show. When they let me have my buddies on, that's the greatest day ever. I don't take long walks by myself, I'm just not that kind of dude. I roll up with an entourage of my bros; I like to have energy around me. I was already in the business of making dreams happen — I had a guy ride into my restaurant on a horse in shining armor to propose to his wife. [And now] I couldn't ask for more.
TVGuide.com: Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives suits you. You're already using those diner ketchup bottles as liquid containers on Guy's Big Bite.
Fieri: It's like I'm touring with the Stones! We're all Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives at heart. We all like to go to these environments where it's haute cuisine, but tell me where you eat more: a diner, a drive-in, a dive or a five-star restaurant?
Fieri: I think people can relate to it more. Sandwich shop to taco truck to funky dive joint to late-night place, that's what it is. Like those [construction] dudes I just saw that were waving. That's because they go to these places, they get it. This is everybody.
TVGuide.com: I'm from Jersey, there are diners everywhere!
Fieri: You've got your spot, for sure. If they were going to come up with a show that would embody my energy, I don't think they could have come up with anything better. It's funny, my friend said to me, "When did you ever think you were going to be rollin' into your forties like you are?" I'm a rock star of food and I can't play an instrument or sing to save my life, but it's just amazing.
TVGuide.com: When did you really know cooking was your thing?
Fieri: When I was 10, I made a complaint about something my mom was cooking — eggplant parmesan. I said, "Why can't we just have chicken parmesan like everybody else?" She said, "If you don't like it, Guy, you can cook." I made dinner and I just remember that feeling....
TVGuide.com: You created something....
Fieri: Oh, and the look on my dad's face! When I was 13, I opened my own business called The Awesome Pretzel Company and my dad helped me build a pretzel cart. I wake up in the morning thinking about food. "What am I going to have for dinner?" is usually the first thing that comes to mind. I never knew I would go this far, but I was told by people it wouldn't happen, and now I own four restaurants and I have one of the best shows on the Food Network. I'm living in the Super Bowl of food.
TVGuide.com: Do you cook with your son?
Fieri: Hunter makes French toast and he can roll sushi. He's got a fantastic palate. He went and crawled up to the sushi bar at one of my restaurants and asked for a piece of nori — seaweed. As long as his mind is open to food, his mind will be open to learning and growing. When you open your palate, you open your mind. I tell people, once a year, try the things you hate. The Next Food Network Star is when my attitude changed about brussels sprouts.
TVGuide.com: Interesting. See, I don't like them….
Fieri: Sauté them with some bacon, onions and a little parmesan cheese, and eat one of those bad boys!
TVGuide.com: That sounds much better! What's a favorite dish that comforts you?
Fieri: Really well-made meatballs, tomato sauce and really al dente spaghetti — it reminds me of my mom and dad and growing up. People ask why I would pick something so simple. Food is not just eating energy. It's an experience.
TVGuide.com: Finish this sentence: I can't cook in my kitchen without...
ieri: Good energy. It's like, is the light switch on or off? I could say I can't cook in my kitchen without a knife, a stove, garlic, but the true reality of when my food explodes is when the energy is flowin'. That is when it's most alive.
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