Provocative title aside, I have nothing personal against Guy Fieri. He seems like a nice enough guy, might even be fun to hang out with, with his lots of energy and enthusiasm for whatever his current endeavor seems to be. And I know some of you are big fans.
But I keep having this dream where I'm sitting at a table with him, about to eat, when he suddenly reaches across the table, grabs my sandwich, waits for the camera to zoom in on him, takes a huge bite of it, looks at me and the camera simultaneously, chews with gusto and exclaims, "Now that is a sandwich!"
SIDEBAR: I mean, do you really want to be making your famous tamales with your crew of handicapped orphans for a church picnic and have Bobby Flay show up for a throwdown where he's going to make goat cheese and wild boar tamales in hand-ground masa wrapped in organic corn husks and steamed in virgin apple cider?
So, problem one. These people deem it their duty to "legitimize" foods that were already legitimate. By virtue of their singling you out and visiting you, all of a sudden, your humble little restaurant matters. All of a sudden, your onion rings are bigger, crispier, and crunch than they have ever been, all because they've been blown up TV-sized and are entering Guy Fieri's ample mouth. See, it's a brand. They aren't just the best onion rings in town, they now have the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives Seal of Approval.
Which leads to the second problem. The Guy (pun intended) will brand anything without discernment. He may travel out to the Iowa State Fair to bite into your pork tenderloin sandwich, but he'll also throw that same over-the-top energy into the latest offerings at T.G.I. Friday's. And, at that split second when the Guy Fieri brand treats a Friday's cheese stick machine-made in a corporate food factory in Montclair, New Jersy as the same food orgasm he experiences at a po-boy shack, he's done. At least, in my book. Zero credibility.
You cannot have it both ways, Mr. Fieri. Either you are like Jan and Michael Stern, who created the concept of Roadfood and who somehow craft a jointly-reverent prose to promulgate its ephemeral qualities to readers, or you are a moneygrabber who knows that your time as a "celebrity" will be brief and so you must expose yourself anywhere andeverywhere that suits your financial purpose--even as host of a game show.
We are a franchised nation. We take comfort in seeing the same stores and restaurants repeated every few miles. But, there was also a joy in being able to discover a local place that did things differently, perhaps better than, those ol' reliable chains. There was a joy in venturing out. Now, talentless middlemen are, in a sense, franchising even the Mom 'n Pops. Now all of those places become Guy's places and people will go to them because they have been pre-selected and certified on televisions in the safety of their living rooms.
People like to make fun of Rachel Ray, but, really, Guy Fieri is no different. In fact, he's simply stolen her original idea of going into a city, finding the cheap, out-of-the-way places and eating well for less than $25/day. He's just put his own name and brand on it.