Guy Fieri, The Food Network King With A Massive New Deal, Pushes For More Restaurant Relief

April 30, 2021

By Jay Ku

Once mocked by white-tablecloth elites, Guy Fieri just signed a landmark pact for a TV chef as he steps into a respected elder statesman role in the food world – raising millions for workers unemployed due to COVID-19: “I was pissed.”

On a visit to interview Fieri, The Hollywood Reporter’s Mikey O’Connell says that Fieri raised more than $25 million for food workers left unemployed by COVID-19 closures this past year. He is now devoting most of his energy and, under a landmark new TV deal, his creative output into rebuilding the industry that once poked fun at his unrefined aesthetic and bacon-bedazzled menus.

Some businesses anointed by Fieri’s Midas touch have seen sales climb fivefold after he scarfs their creations on TV, which gives them the boost they need considering the disastrous effect of the downturn on the restaurant business. “They need some love,” says Fieri.

These days, O’Connell says, it’s hard to not take Fieri seriously. As he plans to increase his efforts in the restaurant relief, and those hardest hit by America’s selective recession start to fall out of the news cycle – the goateed gastronomist’s sense of purpose may be the thing to finally eclipse his brash persona.

“Nothing can replace what this kind of recognition, appearing on TV, can do for these people and their businesses… for their lives,” he says, taking a sip of coffee. “I need to keep doing this because it just needs to be done.”

Thirteen months ago, as the pandemic began and the country’s collective anxiety skyrocketed, Fieri was not scared or nervous. He was too angry. “I don’t get pissed or lose my shit,” he explains. “But I was pissed.”

Restaurants were closed from coast to coast, and, by Fieri’s estimation most – the types of mom-and-pop places featured on his show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ – maybe had a 10-day runway before the money dried up. He asked his business manager for contact info for CEOs of major corporations like Amazon’s Jeff Bezos to solicit for donations. These donations would ultimately be used for an emergency relief that would award more than 43,000 grants to out-of-work line cooks, servers, and other restaurant professionals.

“I’m not into shaming people and telling who didn’t donate, that’s not my style,” Fieri says, as he credits getting huge sums from PepsiCo, Uber Eats, and Procter & Gamble. “Jeff, by the way, didn’t help us,” he shares.

“There is no better salesman than Guy,” says Food Network president Courtney White, whose most bankable talent has fronted 14 series on her network. “There’s a power to his enthusiasm. It gets people to rally around his vision, whether it’s a pitch for a show or in raising all that money.”