He’s always had a bit of an entrepreneurial bug: when Fieri was in fifth grade, he convinced the organizers of the Humboldt County Fair to allow him to sell balloons! Over the next six years he earned enough money to spend a year in France, by running a pretzel cart.
When Fieri was 16, he moved to Chantilly, France, for a year abroad, and was miserable for most of the time. He was given a tiny room to live in (the bathroom was two flights downstairs), and he couldn’t even use the phone without permission, because it was locked away.
Seeing Emeril Lagasse on an episode of Good Morning America was another "a ha" moment. As he watched Lagasse strut his stuff and keep the audience in the palm of his hand, Fieri was blown away by how cool Lagasse was, and it served as a major inspiration for him.
Auditioning for The Next Food Network Star wasn’t his first attempt to get on Food Network, and he actually needed to be convinced to give it a second shot. His first effort, an audition to be on a barbecue show in 2004, went nowhere.
Fieri hails from a part of the country that doesn’t really have many of the classic, Jersey-style diners, and on the first day of production he still really had no idea what a diner was. He thought that diners were synonymous with burger joints, and criticized the ones with long menus because he thought that meant that they couldn’t do any one thing well.
Hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen, a big fan of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, contacted Fieri's handlers and asked how much it would cost to hang out with him for a day. The price tag was $100,000, and Cohen gladly forked it over. The two eventually became close friends.
While it’s just Fieri on camera, he actually travels with a huge posse, and sometimes they get rowdy. One time, one drunk entourage member broke an elevator by jumping up and down in it, and yelled at the hotel staff after he was freed. The whole gang was almost kicked out of the hotel after that.
Cosmopolitan of Las vegas
In 2010, Fieri's sister Morgan sadly passed away after a bout with cancer. Fieri was scheduled to appear at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival soon afterward, and was told that if he needed to cancel the organizers would understand. Fieri soldiered on through his grief, however, and said that his sister would have wanted him to be there.
In 2011, Fieri had a major falling out with the creator and producer of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, David Page. Page was fired and 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 Jews and gays, and never paid attention to notes. The lawsuit eventually settled out of court, and a new producer was brought on.
Emeril Lagasse, who’s never opened a restaurant in New York City, warned Fieri about opening a restaurant in the most competitive, dog-eat-dog restaurant marketplace in the country. His main concern was that Fieri didn’t have a trusted team, like Bobby Flay and Mario Batali. Fieri pressed on and opened the restaurant, and the reviews were incredibly scathing.
Fieri was furious about the reviews, and his PR firm almost suggested to him that he apologize for the poor quality of the food and shut the restaurant down until the issues could be resolved. Instead, Fieri fought back and said that the reviews were filed too soon.