Whether or not you think Guy Fieri opening a restaurant at Harrah’s Philadelphia next month is the bomb-dot-com, here’s a little-known fact about the sunglass-wearing Food Network star: He’s actually a down-to-earth guy.
Yes, according to Philly chefs and restaurateurs who’ve been on his show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, when you meet him IRL, the mayor of Flavortown is more than just a bombastic catchphrase king.
“He was actually pretty cool. I didn’t expect that,” says Sidecar Bar & Grille chef Brian Lofink, who hosted The Frosted One at his restaurant for a segment that aired on a 2013 episode of Triple D. “He was very respectful to me and my staff.”
Not only was Fieri nice, he knew his stuff: “He acted and talked like a chef and we talked food while he was there — he wasn’t like his on-air persona.”
“He was a really decent person off-camera,” agrees William Reed, whose gastropub Standard Tap was included in the same episode (side note: if you haven’t tried the chicken pie featured on the show, get to Northern Liberties ASAP).
“Guy was very nice to us and I had a great time with him,” says chef Valerie Erwin, who wowed Fieri with Lowcountry food at her (now-closed) Mt. Airy restaurant Geechee Girl Rice Cafe. “I tell people that he’s like he is on TV. But he’s not like that all the time.”
It’s not a Jekyll and Hyde situation, in other words, but the TV persona is a magnification of the man, not his everyday garb. Nancy Morozin, second-generation owner of The Dining Car in Northeast Philly, has a similar take.
“I think he’s genuine,” she says, adding that he’s even funnier in person than he is on the show. “He is a riot. A little off-color, which of course he is a more careful about on-camera.”
Ok, cool. Seems like Fieri made a universal impression on his Philly contacts as a nice dude who cares about food. So they might consider checking out his new spot when it opens…right?
Morozin would — “I’ve eaten in his place in Vegas, a lot of hype and flash but it was good” — but she’s the only one.
Hungry Pigeon chef Scott Schroeder, who cooked for Fieri’s show when he was at South Philadelphia Tap Room, has a simple answer: “No. I don’t care about the kind of food he serves.”
C’mon Scott, dishes like Guy-talian Nachos, Dragon’s Breath Chili and Ain’t No Thing Butta Chicken Wing don’t do it for ya?
“It might be funny,” admits Reed, but then quickly volunteers his food-focused business partner instead. “Maybe Paul [Kimport] would go.”
“I’m a non driving city gal,” says Erwin. “I don’t do suburbs and seldom have occasion to go to towns or small cities.”
Even though Harrah’s is in Chester, less than a half-hour drive from Center City (and a 10 minute trip from PHL Airport), other non-car-owners probably agree. Then again, even if you have your own transportation, it is Chester.
“As far as going to Harrah’s…there is nothing that could make me go to Chester,” says Lofink.
Last but not least, there’s the surrounding atmosphere to consider, per Erin O’Shea, who was chef at Percy Street Barbecue when Fieri stopped by the South Street ‘cue joint.
“I find casinos to be pretty depressing,” O’Shea says, “so I won’t be there!”