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Food-a-Palooza

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The food world’s definitive rock star gets fired up for his stop in the Big Easy

When Guy Fieri premiered his inaugural show on the Food Network in 2006, a definitive culinary rock star was born unto the world of food. With his affable, outgoing and over-the-top style, Fieri woke food up with colorful and creative flair on Guy’s Big Bite, and his quickly multiplying fans ate it up. Today, the likeable California guy with the spiky blond hair also hosts the Food Network’s top-rated “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and “Tailgate Warriors.” He guest judges on “Next Food Network Star” and hosts NBC’s primetime series “Minute to Win It.”

Already a successful author of two New York Times best-sellers– “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip . . .with Recipes!” and “More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: Another Drop-Top Culinary Cruise Through America’s Finest and Funkiest Joints” – Fieri’s got a new book out, Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It, a culmination of personal recollections, off the hook original recipes and other tasty tidbits surrounding the fun-loving tattooed live wire.

Currently, Fieri is on the road for the Guy Fieri Food Tour sponsored by the National Pork Board, and the laid back celebrity chef will bring his motley crew for an evening of food, frivolity and rock ’n’ roll to Harrah’s New Orleans on Saturday, June 4. Brimming with passion for New Orleans and its people, culture and food, Fieri is fired up for his stop in this city, and promises an adrenaline-filled and entertaining night centered on food, drink and music. A wound-up Fieri put his cooking utensils down for a moment to share with New Orleans Living his excitement for food, his brand-new book and his live tour, no doubt leaving this foodie town hungry for more!

Guy! How you doing man!

What’s up New Orleans! Oh, I love your area! I am a huge, huge, huge fan of New Orleans. I’ve got good buddies down there, it’s always a party there, the people are great and there is some great food down there, mmm, mmm! We’ve shot some Triple D and other stuff down there.

I loved the episode of “Tailgate Warriors” where the Saints fans whooped the Vikings fans in the cook-off. Thank God we beat Minnesota in more ways than one!

Look, you can’t come into N’awlins and beat N’awlins! You have to get that straight! I mean, that’s tough for anybody. That’s like having a bridge fight with the Golden Gate; you just can’t win.

(Laughs). It’s easy to see why you are so loved down here. It’s the way you embrace food in a fun way. You bring great new meaning to “play with your food!”

I’m glad that’s how it comes off, because when you find people that embrace a fried oyster sandwich properly dressed on some fantastic French bread, and you can get people waiting in line for an hour and a half to get that, those are my kind of people. Oh boy! I can’t wait for New Orleans; I’m already trying to figure out how to get a po-boy out of Sammy’s! I have to figure out how to have a convoy meet me as I roll into town, with Sammy’s, Casamento’s, Mahony’s, all of them! I gotta get a roast beef outta Parasol’s. I’m already counting the calories!

Yes, you’ll be rolling into town for a stop on your food tour at Harrah’s on June 4.

An important stop it is! One of my good friends is Fred LeBlanc with Cowboy Mouth and we hook up sometimes when I visit New Orleans. We started talking about how it’s such an awesome place to play, and I’m like, my God! The bands get to play New Orleans; why can’t I go play? So here’s my tour, baby!

Cool. And your show is pretty unscripted, isn’t it?

Incredibly unscripted. I mean, we know when we’re going to start and when we gotta end. We know what dishes we’re probably going to cook, but depending on the audience and what happens, it’s anybody’s game. I like to call it a food-a-palooza; its food, music, a crazy audience, me, a little bit of eating, drinking, storytelling and everything in between. It’s a food celebration but the word “celebration” doesn’t sound right because it sounds like an ’80s hit song! It’s a bunch of people that are down with food and the Food Network and the shows I do. Sometimes they Q&A me to death; that’s OK. Sometimes they want to play music, dance and hit the beach ball in the air; that’s all right. Sometimes they ask technical cooking questions; I’m down with that! It can really go anywhere.

The whole food, drink and music concept of your tour makes New Orleans an even more perfect stop for you. …

Absolutely! They got the attitude and enthusiasm for it. We’ve shot Triple D down there many times, and we have many good memories and friends down there; hopefully, a bunch of my Triple D joints will come out and say “hi” and come hang with us; that makes it nice because the audience wants to see that the real deal is there. We had a great time doing the last tour about “Diners,
Drive-Ins and Dives” and that will play a part of this tour. “Minute to Win It” will be involved in this tour. DJ Cobra is coming back, we’ve got three big shots from Triple D: we got Panini Pete from Fairhope, Alabama, we got Stretch from Grinders’ in Kansas City and we got Gorilla from Gorilla Barbeque in Pacifica, so we’ve got those three characters coming out, two big tour buses and my family, my wife and my two boys will be with me for part of the tour. It’ll be wild!

It’s going to be a motley crew without question! And you’ve got a brand spanking new book out, “Guy Fieri Food: Cookin’ It, Livin’ It, Lovin’ It.” You’ve had two best-selling books with your Triple D books, but this book is actually your first book featuring your original, unique recipes. Your family has even contributed stories to it. The artwork is fabulous. It’s new territory for you.

Absolutely. That’s what makes this all so important, so amazing, so timeless. The big thing on this tour is my new book. This book is an important part of my life. Part of it is memoir, lots of it is recipes and it’s dedicated to my little sister. This book is a monster; it’s over 400 pages, over 150 recipes, and the plates we used in the photos were drawn on by my tattoo artist. Then I had my tattoo artist also come in and do illustrations on top of the entire book; there’s a lot that went on that makes it extra special for me. You kinda play
that game like it’s your last game, you perform that concert like it’s your last concert, you put everything into it –I’ve put everything into this book.

There are some really neat recipes in your new book. Looks like you had fun riffing off of a classic New Orleans dish with that Jambalaya Sandwich recipe. …

Absolutely that’s what that is! You know I learned jambalaya from a good ol’ Cajun boy named Ron Walker; we call him “Unyawn” and we talk about him a bunch in the book! I was going to a football game and I was going to make jambalaya and I had this big ol’ pot, and I thought, man, sitting there eating it with the rice and all, I don’t know if I can get everybody to go for it; but what
I can do is take all those great flavors and throw ’em into a sandwich – that’s what I’ll do! So I did it and, oh my gosh, people go bananas for it! It’s been one of the big hits. There’s all kinds of dishes in the book, from oysters to po-boys to Louisiana barbecued shrimp – people just flip out when you’re like, no, it’s Louisiana style, there’s no barbecue! They can’t believe it’s possible! (Laughs).

Your recipes spring from all kinds of different inspirations. There’s a watermelon pork taco recipe in the book that looks perfect for summer.

Ohhhh, it’s such a delicious recipe! We were serving it when we were in New York for the release of the book, and all the big book bloggers were there and we were serving that stuff up and they were like, “You’ve got to be kidding me! This is bananas!” It’s like something they’ve not seen before.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I have tried some of your recipes. One of my staples is part of one of your recipes that a friend introduced me to; it’s the Chipotle-Lime Slaw that’s on that pan-fried catfish sandwich of yours – but I haven’t even gotten to making the catfish part of it yet, I just can’t get past the slaw! I’m hooked! And now I’m ruined and can’t eat regular coleslaw anymore!
(Laughs).

Ha ha ha ha ha! Well amen to that. I’m glad it has that effect on you, because the creativity of food and the no boundaries effect of food is what I love. I mean, you guys wrote the book; so many of the great chefs that I’ve recognized and known hail from your area, and Emeril is one of my good buddies. You look at what goes on in New Orleans: You guys are really one of the epicenters of food and culture, so for us to come your way and throw the party, we’re looking forward to it.

It will be exciting! And the theme in all your cooking and recipes is big and flavorful … or go home! Why is this your mantra?

Ha ha ha ha! Because just like talking to you, it’s either full throttle or go to bed! It’s hard for me, I was making a belated Mother’s Day dinner for my wife, and with everything I want contrasting, not competing flavors, so we had a variety of stuff going on, and my kids looked at me and were like, “No pasta? No rice? What’s the story?” And I said I just didn’t have any inspiration for one, so no, no starch tonight! The kids are ready for mutiny! I just can’t serve you up white rice or butter and noodles.

Let me guess: You just have to do the cooking yourself on Father’s Day, right?

Yes! (Laughs). I like to cook on Father’s Day and spend time with my parents and my kids. I like to take it easy. It’s usually me cooking, my dad cooking with me, Hunter and Ryder jumping in to some degree at some point and everybody just enjoying each other.

Speaking of family, you started your foundation recently, Cooking With Kids, and it must have been special for you to have had a hand in drafting the California legislation that proclaimed
the second Saturday as “Cook With Your Kids Day.”

Two weeks ago I took my kids and we walked onto the Senate floor at the state capital in California. I told my son, “You can do whatever you want in life; cookbooks and shows will come and go, but the reality of it is what did you do for mankind?” And we just changed “Cooking With Your Kids Day” from being just one day a year to 52 days in a year; every Sunday now in California is deemed “Cook With Your Kids Day.” Just like you said, go big or go home!

Wow, well congratulations! That’s awesome. That’s powerful. So was television something you dreamed of doing before the opportunity came up?

Never even had a desire! I worked in L.A. and I ran a lot of restaurants down there and we had a lot of actors and actresses working with us and I watched them going for auditions and I always thought, wow, how painful! I always thought how lucky I was that I loved what I do. That was never really a driving force. It just kind of happened, I guess.

Well you sure are a natural at it. I mean, gosh, “Guy’s Big Bite”, “Diners, Drive-In’s and Dives”, “Tailgate Warriors”, you’re a guest judge on “Next Food Network Star”, you host “Minute to Win It”
on NBC …

Oh, yeah, it’s crazy, I mean it’s a full schedule: five restaurants, four shows, three cookbooks, two great kids, a super cool wife and no free time! (Laughs).

You’re as high octane as you look! And I was reading over the menu at your restaurant Tex Wasabi’s and saw “Koi Fish Tacos – just kidding!” I was at first horrified then cracking up! (Laughs).

Ha ha ha ha ha! I think that was pretty funny! It’s great being able to have that free reign of creativity to do what I want to do.
It must be cool to be able to unleash your passion for food through your new book, all the television shows, all your restaurants. Wow.

Yeah, it really is. It’s all a big homecoming for me. You do a lot of things in your career and I’m fortunate that when I look back I don’t have any regrets. I’m really happy with the way things have gone.

Guy, thanks again for being such a rebel in the kitchen and for playing with your food to yield such excellent results. I’m looking forward to trying the recipes in your new book, like many others who dig food are. I mean, look, you had me at Chipotle-Lime Slaw; I gotta get past it and venture out! (Laughs).

Ha ha ha ha ha! Thanks Christine! And if you can quote the great Jerry Maguire then you are good in my book! (Laughs).

-CHRISTINE FONTANA