I'm not surprised to hear you mention 7 Habits -- on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives you possess a manager-as-motivator sensibility. Do you admire motivational speakers?
Fieri: Well, I read the book. I really got a lot out of it. And I'm a Dale Carnegie fan. How to Win Friends and Influence People is another great book. I met Tony Robbins the other day, for the first time. He's such a power. But no, there's no rhyme or reason. I get inspired by random people, random kind of people.
Fieri: Sammy Hagar's a really good friend of mine. We have good laughs all the time [...] I have admiration for people that are creative, people that make music and make people happy. I've always liked art. Whenever I go to a town, I'll always go to where the artist studio is and stop in and look, like when they have the little co-op of artists paintings and pottery. I appreciate people that create. And I love rock and roll. I'm a crazy music fan, and all different types of music from Gypsy Kings to Metallica. I'll take it all.
Hagar says you are the guy who would walk into a room and say, "Let's do a shot. Let's smoke a joint!" Fair claim?
Fieri: There might be a part of me that would walk in and create a little havoc. There's a part of me, without question.
Have you picked up language from the rock world? I ask because I just watched an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives where you pulled "Slamma jamma I love that lamb-a!" out of nowhere. Then I saw you have a recipe called "Slamma Jamma Parmigiana." So at some point, you acquired the phrase "slamma jamma."
Fieri: This is what's hard for people. People can believe whatever the hell they want, I don't care. I don't think them up. It's not like tomorrow we're doing lamb [and I think], "I know what I'll do. I'll say something. I'll make up a line. Let me think, what would that line be?" It's not like a comedian getting ready to do a joke. I'm just out there. I've always been witty. I've always had fun. I've always had fun with it. This is the truth.
The crew that I work with on Triple D are my brothers and sisters. They're phenomenal people, and they work so goddamn hard. Everybody wants to give me accolades -- "Oh, Triple D, we love it!" I said, "You know what? The reason I throw touchdown passes, the reason I get to do Triple D, is cause I got the hardest workin' team in showbiz." I'm not sittin' here blah blah blah blah blah, spouting a bunch of bullshit. Anybody from the food industry, the television industry that works with them goes, "Oh my God."
But this is what happens: I have Tony Rodriguez sitting here filming me. I'm taking a bite of the lamb. He's dying to have a bite of the lamb. I look at him and in my own little, ha-ha way. So, you know what this is? This is some Slamma Jamma Lamb-a. He'll laugh, and then we'll all have a laugh. You guys can't see it on TV because it can't turn into all this "ha ha ha." There's a little break for all of us to have a comedic moment. Really, the genesis of it all, it's about me and my crew, and me trying to say something that would get a chuckle out of 'em.
Hagar also says you're in a "bottomless pit of fame and fortune." You have to say yes to every opportunity. But what do you still want to accomplish in the food world? What do you strive towards?
Fieri: My dad and I have this conversation on a regular basis. When you hit maximum capacity, when you have checked off everything from the bucket list. I don't know that I really even have a list. I'm just kind of taking it day by day. I think the opportunities continue to make themselves available. I just opened up a restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, and I gotta go back to the Children's Hospital and do more with them. I keep things happening, but have I hit it all? I don't know.
Have you recently encountered chefs or specific dishes on the road that still surprise you?
Fieri: I had Thai food in LA the other day at a place owned by this lady on my show, Guy's Grocery Games. I thought that I had a pretty good foundation in the world of Thai. I had my buddy, Jet Tila, who's a fantastic chef, and so immersed in the culture of Thai. I was there with him and I said, "Oh, so it's way more than what we think it is." We're seeing people become braver. Chefs are starting to just throw it all on red, throw it all on one number and say, "I'm going to make this vegan," for instance. Vegan and vegetarian.
I had a nacho the other day made by chef Allen [Campbell]. I didn't know who he was. It was at my charity event for Best Buddies, this nonprofit for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I have all these chefs coming to do their little presentation of 800 samples for all the folks coming for Best Buddies. I take this bite of this nacho, it's just a chip with a little cheese and a little bit of chorizo on it. I take a bite -- fantastic. He goes, "Are you gonna freak out when I tell you it's vegan?" and I go, "Wait, there's no way this is vegan." He turned out to be Tom Brady's chef. So I call Tom later that afternoon. We started talking and I said, "Dude, I don't know where this guy came from or what he do." So, yeah. Am I seeing stuff that's surprising me? Yeah. I have to be open minded. I said, "Thank you for not telling me it was meat."
When The New York Times or Anthony Bourdain knocks what you do, your response is often to brush off the critiques. But is there any criticism you've heard and internalized over the years?
Fieri: Everybody has an opinion. I would be the last person to go around and tell people not to have an opinion. I'm not super flamboyant about expressing mine about other people. Ya know? I tell the people that I care about and the people that I think I can help my comments or my opinions about where I think they are. I think that sounding group via my wife, or my parents, or my kids, my best friends, the producers I work with, my executives at Food Network. I trust people to weigh in and offer me recommendations. And chefs.
You gotta know me to be able to tell me what you think I should be doing, because if you get thrown off by the fact that I have bleach-blonde hair and tattoos, and listen to rock and roll, gettin' Sammy Hagar, and that's where your premise is going to come from, then you really don't know me well enough to tell me to do anything or really have a position that you should be making an opinion about me. But that's fine.