Guy Fieri is one of the most likable guys in the food industry. He’s charismatic, wacky, seemingly uncontroversial and wildly entertaining. Right now, he’s at the top of his game, too, with producer or star credits on multiple shows and a stake in numerous restaurants around the world. Fieri’s life is thrilling, then, but it hasn’t always been easy. Indeed, there has been many a setback on his bumpy road to success.
Fieri has always been a family man. In 1993 he met a woman called Lori at one of his restaurants, and they married in 1995. The couple have two sons: Hunter, born in 1996, and Ryder, who came along in 2005. It was Lori who convinced her husband, a talented cook and restaurateur, to audition for a show on the Food Network.
And so Fieri appeared on and won the second season of The Next Food Network Star in April 2006. The show’s title couldn’t have been more apt as a few months later Fieri had his own six-episode show, Guy’s Big Bite. To many viewers, his down-to-earth presenting style was something new and exciting.
After that came Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, which premiered in 2007 and was a huge success. The popular show received Emmy nominations five years in a row, for Best Reality Program and Best Structured Reality Program. Now on a roll, Fieri became the face of Food Network and pulled in plenty more viewers for the channel.
And yet before Fieri found such fame and contentment, he was forced to overcome a number of hurdles. The first came when he was just eight years old after his younger sister Morgan was diagnosed with cancer. The Fieri family received plenty of support, but clearly the news still hurt. “Nothing takes away the pain of being there,” the star told Delish in 2016.
Morgan overcame her childhood trauma, but unfortunately cancer struck again when she reached adulthood. This time Fieri’s sister was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, from which she sadly succumbed in February 2011. A few months later various gossip websites reported on a custody battle for Morgan’s child, but luckily the matter was kept mostly under the rug.
Understandably, Fieri was devastated over the loss of his sister and ended up getting a tattoo in her memory. “My little sister died of cancer eight years and three days ago,” he told Delish in 2018. “It was terrible. It was the worst thing. I got this tattoo with her name on it because this keeps her with me every day.” The tattoo was a picture of Morgan with the word “Namaste” around it.
“She’d always say that – namaste – and I never understood it until her passing,” he went on. “Namaste means ‘the god in me sees the god in you.’ There’s different ways people say it, but the way I recognize it is acknowledging the power in somebody.” And it certainly seemed to be the way Fieri led his life, too.
That whole year was a terrible one for Fieri. In August a producer on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, David Page, sued the Food Network. Page claimed that the channel had barred him from seeing Fieri, thus preventing him from being able to produce the show. But after a settlement was agreed, Page claimed that it was actually Fieri who had gotten him fired from his job.
Fieri soon found himself on the receiving end of some pretty unpleasant accusations. Page spoke to City Pages in October 2011 and claimed that the affable presenter was secretly a homophobe. Fieri, he claimed, had told him, “You can’t send me to talk to gay people without warning! Those people weird me out.”
This claim was made all the more unsettling by the fact that Fieri’s late sister had, in fact, been gay. A spokesman for the star then released a statement to the website Eater, which basically rubbished Page’s allegations. “Guy’s reputation speaks for itself,” the statement read. “He’s a standup guy who does right by people. He would never make the kind of comments attributed to him in this story, and anyone who knows or has even met him knows that.”
In 2012 Fieri faced criticism of a different kind. That year marked the opening of Fieri’s first restaurant in New York, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. And the restaurant had only been operating a few weeks when it was hit with an extremely harsh review from Pete Wells of The New York Times. Moreover, the criticism seemed to be directed at Fieri himself. “What is going on at this new restaurant of yours, really?” Wells wrote.
“Why undermine a big fist of slow-roasted pork shank, which might fly in many downtown restaurants if the General Tso’s-style sauce were a notch less sweet, with randomly shaped scraps of carrot that combine a tough, nearly raw crunch with the deadened, overcooked taste of school cafeteria vegetables? Is this how you roll in Flavor Town?” was just one segment of the snippy review. Needless to say, Fieri wasn’t pleased.
“I thought it was ridiculous. I mean, I’ve read reviews – there’s good and there’s bad in the restaurant business, but that to me went so overboard, it really seemed like there was another agenda,” Fieri said on Today that November. “It’s a great way to make a name for yourself – go after a celebrity chef that’s not a New Yorker that’s doing big concept in his second month.”
Unfortunately for Fieri, it turned out that there was probably some truth to Wells’ words. In 2016 a report from the Department of Health about Fieri’s restaurant leaked, and its contents didn’t make for happy reading. Apparently, there was a general lack of hygiene in the kitchen. Moreover, the place was riddled with flies, and roaches had even been found on the premises. It was the final straw: the restaurant had closed by 2018.
The failure of the restaurant wasn’t Fieri’s only business setback, either. In 2015 he attempted to establish up a wine-tasting room at his vineyard in Sonoma County. (His wine is called Hunt & Ryde, after his children.) But locals were furious, and they let the planning board know. Most of their objections centered on Fieri himself, with some of his neighbors accusing the TV star of sundry acts of unsociable behaviour.
In the end scores of people came out in protest against Fieri’s plan, some even going so far as to hold placards at a public hearing. GQ reported on some of the objections at the time. “One resident told the planning board that allowing the tasting room would be like ‘putting Disneyland in downtown Graton,’” the magazine wrote.
A notable fellow celebrity chef doesn’t much like Fieri either, and he’s pretty vocal about it. Anthony Bourdain has referred to Fieri in pretty aggressive terms, and the feud between them doesn’t seem likely to end anytime soon. Reportedly, matters started at a celebrity roast in 2012, when Fieri made an over-the-line joke about Bourdain’s past drug addiction.
The nicest thing Bourdain had to say about Fieri after that came in 2016, when he spoke to Adweek. “I find Guy Fieri a rich and deep vein of comedy, there’s no doubt about it, and he’s worthy of a solid and maybe relentless mocking as anyone who has made his sartorial choices deserves,” he said. “But is he bad for the world? On balance, probably not.”
And hopefully most people would agree with Bourdain. After all, Guy Fieri overcame a lot of adversity in order to pursue his passion, and he’s done a lot of good in his career. Fieri has a charity project called Cooking With Kids, he’s brought a Make-A-Wish kid to every episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and in 2015 he officiated an epic 101 same-sex weddings. He’s a much more interesting and thoughtful person than you might ever have guessed.