These days, it almost doesn’t seem like it’s a festival unless chef Guy Fieri shows up wearing his trademark sunglasses and Knuckle Sandwich gear. If that’s the case, the folks behind the Los Angeles Food & Wine Festival had nothing to fear. This year, Fieri brought his enthusiasm to the Santa Monica Pier where he hosted his new event, Brew B'Que.
While Guy roused the crowd on stage and displayed his signature off-the-charts energy, he made a point of showcasing the great lineup of talented chefs serving food at an event with a fantastic setting. There were previews of food at upcoming restaurants. For instance, Tim Love served the bulgogi and kimchi tacos he’ll be serving at his new taqueria on the Trinity River in Fort Worth (“We have about another four weeks of construction,” he noted). Similarly, Roy Choi served the short ribs he’ll be dishing out at his new place in Venice, Sunny Spot. Charles Phan served a fried chicken with Sriracha butter that could fend off any critic contesting that the Ferry Building is making him soft.
Still, it was Fieri who couldn’t walk five steps without fans looking to get a moment with him. The Daily Meal scored a little more time with the star than that, in this interview where he discussed the new festival, his nonprofit Cooking With Kids, and the rumor reported by Food Republic that he may be opening a restaurant in New York City.
What do you think about the first ever L.A. Food & Wine Festival?
This is what’s really neat about the chef world. And I especially like to see that we’re getting more of this on the West Coast. You know, the East Coast is so locked in and they do such an awesome job at the New York City Food & Wine Festival, they’re just really hitting it. I did Pebble Beach this year and to see the event come on down here to L.A., it's just like, “Oh, thank goodness.” Because people want this. I mean, look at all the people into food and wine that are here!
So on that note, we see you at South Beach, Miami, and New York, now out here, you’re at all these festivals, which one is your favorite?
Aw, man, I’m going to get in trouble giving you the answer to that. I mean, I’ll tell you this, if you’ve been to the festival in South Beach, it’s kind of like when you were a kid and you went to Disneyland. It's like, “You gotta be kidding me.” The weather, the people, I mean, that whole experience. But then you go to Pebble Beach, and I’m a NorCal guy, but you go to Pebble Beach, and the water’s different. And the temperature’s different, and the topography is different. There aren't palm trees, there are redwoods — so each festival kind of has its own piece, but the first one that I went to was Pebble Beach, so I have to say, I got a piece for that. But the fact that I live in NorCal, and I can bounce down to L.A. for this festival and you’re going to give me this weather on October 16th... on the pier? I’m sorry! But here’s the beautiful thing, chefs, we all love to make food, we like to make people happy — and to raise money for charity and to be involved and work collectively, and to thank the fans — I mean, the fans are why we get these opportunities. And all of the festivals are great because they're melting pots of people, and different cultures. Like this one, we have all kinds of different types of barbecue… I mean Tim Love's doing bulgogi over there… is this barbecue? Yes, it is, different ethnicities, different styles.
Last week we heard a rumor that you were thinking about opening up a restaurant in New York City. There are some people in New York who might be curious about this. Care to comment?
[Laughs] Well, that is a good rumor. There’s some validity to that. I don’t like to talk about anything until it’s inked and it’s done, but I spend a lot of time in New York, and we have a lot of fans on the East Coast. We’ve been meeting with some partners to do something. I’m not going to do anything tame. You know, it has to be something a little bigger than life. But there is a very good chance that we could be getting some really good traction on this happening.
Would you do something specific to New York, or would you be bringing Tex Wasabi's or Johnny Garlic's to Manhattan?
No, you know, it’s not going to be that. Those restaurants, we have six restaurants now, four Johnny Garlics, two Tex Wasabis, and I'll continue to do that. But they’ll probably stay pretty much on the West Coast, maybe Vegas, Portland, Seattle — I love the food scene up there. But this would be a little bit different. This would be a big restaurant. I mean, I’m talking a big, big, big restaurant. A real destination type of a thing. I wish I could tell you all the info… [laughs]
I hear, you, but you know, I’ve gotta try…
You got more than anybody else got! Because all I did, I was sitting there with The New York Times, and I gave little pieces, “Are you opening up a restaurant on the East Coast?” Well...
Last question: I know that you’re interested in pushing legislation for school lunches for kids, you’ve got the nonprofit, Cooking With Kids, can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing with that?
Here’s really the reality of it: kids are the future. Alright, I have two young boys — Hunter is 15 and Ryder is 5, and my nephew Jules, who is 11 — and you look at these little bodies, these little machines, these little people growing up, and you think about what we ate when we were kids, and food was so less refined, so less processed, and now you look at what’s happening, and it’s got to turn around. It’s got to turn around.
The food revolution boat has got to turn around. We’ve got to get kids into food. We took about a three-generation jump where grandma wasn’t living in the house anymore, and the parents weren’t cooking, and the kids weren’t getting taught about good food, and it never got passed along. And we went to faster, quicker, easier food to make. When kids are now excited about chefs like myself or Tim Love, or any of the chefs on Food Network, if that’s what interests them, and will get their attention, and then we can say, “And here’s the message, kids…” and I’m not saying we’re going to take everybody to organics, or everybody’s going to go to whole grains, but anything we can do is an improvement.
I love to see what Jamie Oliver is doing. I love to see that attention is being paid to him and it’s great, because it’s the kids now that we effect who will teach the kids of the future. It’s really a bigger wave than we notice. But I think it’s happening. I think it really is. We do a big thing at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival with the Kid’s Kitchen and this year we’re coming big. My son Hunter wants to come and do his own demo. So we’ll see if his mom, we’ll see if Lori will let him jump out of high school for a week and come with me, but it’s about educating kids about food. And you can tell I have no passion about this topic. It breaks my heart. Because kids will eat processed cheese versus real cheese. Refined flour and whole-wheat flour — little things like that make all the difference in the world.