Can a clown be a hero?
It’s happened before. After all, it’s the clowns who are able to wring not only the laughs from the belly but the tears from the eyes and the dollars from the wallets. Sure Jerry Lewis played an imbecile on the big screen but there he was every Labor Day on the small screen wedeling millions out of the viewing public. At that point do you think the Muscular Dystrophy Association cared if he did prat falls for a living?
Same thing with Guy Fieri. That’s why he’s a hero around these parts. Up here in Northern California we’ve had plenty of local boys and girls make good, from Academy Award winners to Nobel Prize winners to Electoral College winners. Nobody is going to equate a restaurant owner/chef/television celebrity with the Vice-President of the US but hear me out about what he has done and the efforts he has made not just during the pandemic but for years before.
We’ll start with the money. Over $25 million dollars raised that has gone directly to impacted restaurants and their employees. Fieri’s taken his celebrity and basically said “Hey corporate America, you want us buying what you are selling then cough up so we can stay in business and you can keep selling”. Sort of his own American Restaurant Rescue plan. And his new show on the Food Network, “Tournament of Champions II” has the winner of each round being handed $10,000 to GIVE AWAY to a struggling restaurant of their choice.
You say big deal, get your hands dirty and we’ll talk? Okay, how about this. Three fully equipped food trucks have been pulling up to hospitals across the country to feed medical staffs bombarded by the pandemic. Nothing unusual for Fieri since these trucks are the scions of the work he did during the NorCal fires of the past few years. Hot meals for firefighters and those burned out. He was criticized for bringing a smoker to a burnt-out location but honestly folks isn’t it better to have a covered controlled cooking device than an open grill in that situation? Geez give the Guy a break.
Then there is his newest idea, Flavortown Ghost Kitchens. Take existing unused restaurant kitchens across the country and temporarily turn them into delivery only comfort food emporiums. No, Michelin chefs are not going to be cooking there, but the legions of line chefs, short order chefs, wait staff, and other mid-level and lower restaurant workers currently unemployed will be getting a paycheck and a bit of self-respect while the restaurants’ owners will be getting a much-needed cash influx.
But…but… what about his personality?
What about it? He has been known to ping pong from one idea to another but hey ADHD just works for some people. His adulteration of the English language is nothing new or did you think the etymology of twitter, buzzwords, or Frankenfood reflect their old English lineage? Would I don platinum spiked hair, big rings, and tattoos? I didn’t even do that in my punk days, but it works for him. Besides in these days of 24/7/365 bombastic culture you need something to make yourself stand out from the crowd. I’d rather have kids emulating Fieri’s personal style than have them emulating the Proud Boys or any of their ilk’s style.
And on the subject of kids, he has been quoted as saying:
“My wife always tells me, ‘Stop trying to teach every kid you meet,’ but I can’t help it.”
Wow, an accomplished adult who thinks he might have a chance of reaching a kid who otherwise could be struggling. Last month Fieri purchased the butcher shop he had his first job at as a 5th grader, in the first part to keep the only butcher shop in the county going, but also because the shop is an important contributor to 4-H and Future Farmers of America. You can’t have “farm to table” if you don’t have farms. And you can’t have farms if you don’t have farmers. Maybe the spiked hair is his way of being able to connect the dots.
Most of all he loves his industry. Even more so, he loves his end of the industry, the, well, diners, drive-ins, and dives end. He’s exposed hundreds of small mom and pop joints to national audiences, bringing those establishments boosts in sales no amount of “buy one get one free” coupons in the local Penny Saver ever could. Beyond that he keeps in touch with the owners, letting them know when their episodes are going to be rerun so they can be prepared for the attendant increase in customers. After a taping he has been known to linger at the locations, talking shop long past the hour he was supposed to leave, giving advice, soliciting thoughts, and in general being more than just a TV celebrity who blew into town one day.
Speaking of the great god television if you have ever watched one of the competition shows he hosts you’ll notice that the chefs competing are a solid mix of the American melting pot. All genders, all races, all sizes, all levels of accomplishment, they are all there, all given an equal opportunity to succeed. I would be willing to bet an hour of Guy’s Grocery Games has more diversity on it than any other hour on American television.
So I don’t care if you think he’s a clown. I don’t think he cares if you think he’s a clown. Just like Jerry Lewis, Guy Fieri has taken that image and made something not only for himself but for his community. While that community has spread worldwide its heart originates right here in NorCal, covered in Donkey Sauce, assuming the Big Ass Burger position, and most definitely the real deal.
And I’ll be happy to call him Mr. Mayor.