Interview: Guy Fieri On His Current Food Obsession, Staying Grounded, And Feeding Kids

I would like to believe I am an open minded person – period. After all, I will put just about anything in my mouth – crawling, live, broiled, boiled, fried....doesn't that qualify as openness? Reality check, my lady. Like a lot of us, I too am guilty of judging the book by its cover.

On the heels of Planet Hollywood Observatory's recent renovation, I had the privilege of an intimate and heartfelt rendezvous with the infamous Triple D superstar Guy Fieri.

Despite the paparazzi, handlers, and hospitality staff lurking around, for a hot minute (more like 25 minutes), it was just a girl, the Guy, and our common obsession for all things food and wine. Beneath the blonde spikes and deep ink I discovered a gentle giant whose cosmic chakra revolves around his family, food, and laughter.

Hoping to capture a glimpse of the real Guido (aka Guy Ramsey Ferry), we asked a few questions:

Primlani Kitchen: What's your current food crush?
Guy Fieri: I'm a phở junkie. I dig Asian food, especially Thai, Korean, and Japanese. People don't understand how useful soy sauce is in any dish. Use too much and it's super identifiable as soy. Use sparingly like Worcestershire sauce, it has great depth and umami. And the same can be said for sesame oil or rice wine vinegar. It's clean, simple food.

People would prefer to believe my whole life is pizzas, tacos, and burgers. As a person and a chef who has been on the road for three weeks, the only thing I am looking forward to when I land tomorrow night is a simple, home cooked meal.

So I have to ask since I am also an Indian. What about Indian food?
After savoring this phenomenal North Indian restaurant called Punjab in London, my kids and I were on a curry craving quest. My dear friend and Food Network host Aarti Sequeira shared this Indian cookbook with me and I must have cooked at least 150 or so recipes.

Food is romance. Did I mention I am headed home? Thinking of Sushi from Morimoto in Napa makes my mouth water.

Speaking of Napa, as a wine writer and sommelier I have to ask: We heard through the grape vine you are making wine? Will it make an appearance at Planet Hollywood Observatory?
Yes, we're on our fifth vintage [of Hunt & Ryde]. We drink what we like. I'm not a wine snob.

Nine restaurants and counting, 10+ food shows, BBQ Hall of fame Inductee, cooking line of BBQ sauces and salsas and Flavortown? You're a super cool and confident person. Is there something, anything that fazes you? One rock-on crazy moment even for Guy Fieri?
I don't get rattled very easily.  I do run hot, very fast, and have no off button. I am positive that without the grounding blanket of my family, I would have spun out of this universe's orbit a long time ago. With a million things on my plate today, dear friends to catch up with, baller weather in Florida, Yet all I can think about is my 11 year old Ryder who I haven't seen in two weeks. I just want to get home. Rest of it is pedal to the metal.

As a self-anointed spice goddess, I have to ask which spice rocks your boat?
Honestly, it's the most under-appreciated, over-utilized, misinterpreted spice. Black peppercorns. Unless you're living under a rock, nobody in today's world buys pre-ground coffee.  It's acceptable to purchase coffee beans, grind them, and use them over the next two weeks. [Cracks pepper from pepper mill.] Smell it? I rest my case. It's not hot. It's a flavor profile.

Spices are alive, and they have a shelf life. They have their moment of expiration. UV light, heat, air kills spice. That clear container sitting by your stove is a carousel of death. Might as well use saw dust or dirt. And then you make a dish and question if my recipe was accurate?

What's up with donkey sauce and Knuckle Sandwich? Share the story behind the names!
Remember your childhood car rides? When we invented games and songs? Life for me is a car ride and I see no reason to make it boring. A pedestrian name like "pastrami burger" versus "Mayor of Flavortown" – I've barely finished speaking and you can't stop smiling.

It's not excessive or bizarre, just creatively unconventional, deserving of its own moniker.

I take food, our industry, cooking, very seriously, but I don't take myself seriously. You have to wake up wanting to do what you love and you got to have fun.

So, I required a LLC to cash in my small Food Network checks. Since my home is the soup kitchen, I invited my best friends to come up with an idea to name my chef company. "Dirty," aka Paul Thompson stated, "Diego why don't you make us something to eat? While you're cooking we will come up with a name." "Hey Dirty, why don't I make you a knuckle sandwich?" And the rest, my friends is history.

Gingerly approaching a controversial question your platform Cooking with Kids, how do you justify these angina-inducing meals?
I'm your chef, not your doctor. That said, I much rather have a kid eat one burger than drink unlimited refills of soda. Education is the key.  My 73 year-old mother, who bicycles 120 miles a week, is a tiny little thing, who eats and drinks like a sailor. Her motto: Eat and drink everything in moderation.

How do we get kids turned on by food and take responsibility for what they eat? After all, what we put in our mouths is who we are. Once we empower education, awareness, and responsibility, kids can make choices – good choices. As bad choices are typically uneducated decisions.

Cooking with Kids is a bigger vision. One that involves enlightening kids about the fundamentals of cooking, refined foods, acknowledging special treats such as vacations and Knuckle Sandwiches. We don't get kids enthusiastic about cooking Brussels sprouts. We capture their attention with something they enjoy (pizzas and burgers) and eventually we transform them away from the movie trailer. Please feed your kids raw salad, green vegetables, unprocessed grains, every day.

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Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. And Guy Fieri, genuine, warm, witty, sporting laughter as his clock of armor, successfully inspires and reminds us to appreciate the simpler things in life we take for granted: family, food, and Mother Earth.  

Planet Hollywood Observatory is slated to unveil this coming fall with a much-anticipated new menu created in partnership with Fieri. The menu will include six Big Bite Burgers, Knuckle Sandwiches, lobster feast Fra Diavolo, vegetarian options such as Morgan's Veggie, pimento grilled cheese, citrus kale, and spinach & berries. Sweet finales include Chocolate Comet and Strawberry Borealis, Cream Challenge, Planet Melt Down, and brownie sundae martini.