Why did Anthony Bourdain (RIP) despise Guy Fieri so much? Well, we have a new clue, and it's how Fieri appeared to happily greet Donald Trump when the pair ran into each other at a UFC match in Las Vegas over the weekend.
Stars in the Discovery pantheon — Food Network, HGTV, etc. — have long been skilled in downplaying or completely skirting talk of politics or religion, in order to appeal to the broadest audience possible. In approximately 87 seasons of Fixer Upper, for example, evangelical Christians Chip and Joanna Gaines were allowed to make maybe three references to their church — and in one episode where some fellow Christians asked for some Jesus stuff incorporated into their decor, the edit all but avoids it.
Guy Fieri, who rose to prominence on the Food Network after winning the second season of The Next Food Network Star in 2006, has also masterfully avoided being associated with anything politically charged in his near-two-decade TV career. Fieri opened his first restaurant Johnny Garlic's in Santa Rosa in 1996. He's since expanded with multiple brands, restaurant concepts, and something like a dozen Food Network shows — several of which are still in production, and they have him hosting the annual Tournament of Champions as well.
His Times Square restaurant Guy's American Kitchen and Bar was infamously and hilariously panned by the New York Times critic Pete Wells in 2012, but it lasted another five years before closing. He currently has licensed his name to Guy's Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise Lines, and in Las Vegas he has Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen & Bar, as well as the national delivery-only/ghost kitchen concept Guy Fieri's Flavortown Kitchen.
Last week — the reason he was likely in Vegas — Fieri opened the new Guy Fieri's Flavortown Sports Kitchen at the Horseshoe Las Vegas, a.k.a. the former Bally's.
But many have surmised that Fieri's got a toxic masculinity bent to him — and there were some fairly damning accusations made a decade ago in a lawsuit from a former Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives producer, as reported by our former sister pub Gothamist and picked up by SFist. In court documents, that producer, David Page, alleged that Fieri was openly homophobic, and told producers, "You can't send me to talk to gay people without warning! Those people weird me out!" He also allegedly made an anti-Semitic remark to Page, and "Anytime any woman mentioned 'cream,' Guy went into a sexual riff."
This also tracks: Page alleged, "When cutting the show, you had to tell the editors to watch Guy's eye line, because it's always on breasts."
So, now it's July 2023, and no one should be at all surprised that given the opportunity to shake Donald Trump's hand and pat him on the arm, Fieri took it.
I've been trying to tell you about guy fieri but a lot of you didn't want to listen. pic.twitter.com/1oH9vj2t3V— eric rivera (@ericriveracooks) July 9, 2023
As the Daily Beast reports, the photos — and there are multiple — are causing plenty of eye-rolling and consternation on Twitter, and a lot of I-told-you-sos from the chef community. While Fieri's early reputation was one of being a seemingly dumb, uncomplicated bro who loves meaty sandwiches and finagled his way into food-TV stardom by being relatable, he's had something of a character rehabilitation in recent years — with SFist even softening its tone on Fieri in 2013, and many local publications praising him for his generous responses after Sonoma County's wildfires in 2017 and 2020.
But this Trump photo... it's gaining plenty of traction online. Rocker Jack White posted to Instagram on Monday, "Anybody who "normalizes" or treats this disgusting fascist, racist, con man, disgusting piece of shit Trump with any level of respect is ALSO disgusting in my book. That's you Joe Rogan, you Mel Gibson, you Mark Wahlberg, you Guy Fieri."
And there is a whole lot of Twitter-esque back-and-forth happening between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump factions about whether to boycott or "buycott" Fieri as a result.
A single Trump meet-and-greet photo likely won't tank Fieri's career, and for half or a third of Food Network's demo, it's probably great PR. But that unspoken rule about HGTV and Food Network stars being apolitical and agnostic, at least one camera, could come back to bite him as Fieri is going into the third year of a three-year, $80 million contract he signed with Discovery in 2021.
Fieri's also parlayed his Food Network fame into a whole studio setup in Windsor or Santa Rosa where he shoots Guy's Grocery Games, and he's been shooting episodes of Guy's Ranch Kitchen on his own property up there, which means he doesn't have much of a commute to work.
Anyway, here is Bourdain (again, RIP), giggling about Fieri and his dumbness, circa 2017.
One last post about Guy Fieri 🤣 pic.twitter.com/QEa8nwvygF— Wu Tang is for the Children (@WUTangKids) July 9, 2023
Top photo: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JULY 07: Guy Fieri poses in the iconic 1968 Chevrolet Camaro from the hit TV series "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" at Guy Fieri's Flavortown Sports Kitchen at Horseshoe Las Vegas on July 07, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/Getty Images for Caesars Entertainment)