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Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is a certifiable juggernaut. Helmed by Guy Fieri, who rode the success of winning the second season of The Next Food Network Star to become the veritable face of the network, the show follows its host around America as he hangs out in the kitchens of restaurants that dish up delicious comfort food. But even if you’ve caught every episode (22 seasons and counting!), we bet that there are some things you never knew about this super popular show.
According to Allen Salkin’s From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, David Page was an investigative news producer for ABC and NBC when he decided to shift his focus to producing food programming, working with Al Roker on Food Network specials. He spent months pitching show ideas to Food Network programming executive Christianna Reinhardt before one stuck in 2006: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
During that fateful call, Reinhardt asked Page if he had any ideas about ways to feature diners. Even though he didn’t, he came up with the name of the show off the cuff, and Page quickly wrote up a one-page summary of the show.
Even though it was clear that Fieri was ready for prime-time, the show wasn’t his idea, and being from California (which, though it once had plenty of drive-ins, isn’t exactly the land of classic diners), he wasn’t too knowledgeable about the culinary landscape. According to Page, Fieri was under the impression that diners only specialized in hamburgers and thought that huge menus (which are the hallmark of many diners) were a sign of poor quality. Also, the first time a chef referred to chicken soup as “Jewish penicillin,” Fieri cracked up, thinking that the chef had invented the term.
The pilot episode took 21 days to film. It aired as an hour-long special on November 6, 2006, and because it was such a success, a full season was ordered. The first episode of season one, in which Fieri visited restaurants in Tarpley, Texas; Wichita, Kansas; and Baker, California, aired on April 23, 2007.
Fieri’s star quickly began to rise, and he was a certified celebrity by the time the third season rolled around. So much so that a hedge fund manager, billionaire Steve Cohen, paid $100,000 to be Fieri’s bro for a day, during which they drove around Cohen’s home state of Connecticut and visited diners. The two actually became fast friends, and Fieri later highlighted Cohen’s favorite hot dog spot, Fairfield’s Super Duper Weenie, on the show.
While you may see only Fieri on camera, he actually travels with a huge posse of friends and bodyguards, and sometimes they get rowdy. Once, a drunk entourage member broke a hotel elevator by jumping up and down in it, and yelled at staff members after he was freed. The whole gang was almost kicked out of the hotel.
In 2011, after filming more than 100 episodes, Fieri had a major falling out with David Page, the show’s creator and executive producer. Page was fired, but he sued the network for breach of contract; the network sued him back, claiming that he mistreated staff. In return, Page claimed that Fieri plundered the budget, had issues with Jewish and gay people, and never paid attention to notes. The lawsuit eventually settled out of court, and a new producer was brought on.
There have been 22 seasons of Triple D to date, with each season averaging about 13 episodes, plus an hour-long special or two. Fieri visits three restaurants per episode, give or take, so do the math and you’ll find that that’s more than 850 restaurants that he’s given exposure to, with no sign of slowing down.
The majority of the restaurants that Fieri features are already wildly successful by the time his team shows up, so the influx of rabid fans who arrive in the show’s wake (and in the days following each subsequent airing) is often difficult for the owners to handle. According to the Houston Press, one local restaurant owner was so incensed that he “loudly and profanely cursed host Guy Fieri for selecting his restaurant, then loudly (and profanely) complained about the ‘new clientele’ the show had drawn in.”
Even though it might look like he has a diet primarily composed of burgers and giant sandwiches, Fieri actually maintains a healthy eating regimen. “I need to stay disciplined on the road,” he recently told FoodNetwork.com, showing off a cup of juice made with carrots, apples, honeydew, bok choy, and blueberries.
Even though it may look like it’s just Fieri and the chef in the kitchen, casually cooking some food, in reality, there’s a whole crew of preppers who set up all the ingredients for each and every dish, just like on a traditional cooking show. After each dish is prepared, the camera stops rolling, Fieri takes a seat, and the crew sets up the next dish.
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After a restaurant appears on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, it doesn’t take long for the hordes to descend. Lines form around the block, the restaurant is packed from open to close, and folks even ask for autographs. Fieri makes sure that restaurant owners are ready for the onslaught before he leaves, even advising them to stock up on merchandise that they can sell to customers.
Watch enough episodes of DDD and you’re bound to spot a celebrity or two. Some serious A-listers have joined Fieri in the kitchen, including Matthew McConaughey, Kid Rock, Chris Rock, and Adam Sandler. Others, including Gene Hackman and Rosie O’Donnell, have showed up at restaurants he visits.