Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Diners, Drive-Ins, and No-Talent Ass Clowns

The Byrds--"Truck Stop Girl" (mp3)

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!"

And there it is. Not that I mind sharing a sandwich in my dreams. But, you see, Guy, I already knew it was a sandwich, suspected it was quite a sandwich, or I wouldn't have ordered it in the first place. And so did the person who made it.

Guy Fieri is a shill, a shyster, a middleman that America does not need. Certainly, he is not the only one. But at the moment, he is the most visible of a disturbing trend--a kind of redundancy of validation.

Here are two major problems with Guy Fieri and his ilk. And I'm talking about everyone from Rachel Ray to that guy who travels around the country trying to eat the ridiculously huge or the rididculously hot foods of America on Man Vs. Food. Like Guy Fieri, they all want to become brands. Obviously, Rachel Ray already is one.

But here's what that means. Guy comes into a town where his research assistants have drummed up some local place that has a dish or two that they're known for and proud of. They contact the establishment, indicate that Guy wants to do a segment on their _______ . What is the restaurant to do? Even if they think Guy is some kind of bozo who's going to come in and mug for the camera, they can't say no. Who would? Who wants to be the place that turned Guy Fieri down. So, they play the game, probably have to advertise in advance to ensure that there will be a great crowd then when Guy and the Cameras (rock band name, anyone?) burst on the scene. All so that Guy can come in and give them the "Guy Fieri Chomp Of Approval."

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.

While not a huge fan of the celebrity chef concept, I do acknowledge that those men and women are incredibly talented. But celebrity eaters? I can do that myself.

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.


Sara C said...

I completely agree. I can't really enjoy any of those shows because of the inevitable eye-roll and gush after the inevitably huge bite. I would love it if one of them took a bite of something they'd just made and said, "you know, this needs something" like they would in real life.

Anonymous said...

Yeah I wish I had his job too.

TommyD said...

dude, don't knock Man vs. Food.

Bob said...

TommyD, I won't knock it, especially when I recall you bobbing for apples against a Marine on Halloween night at Magoos!

Hank said...

I have not watched D.D.D. since discovering Man vs. Food.

TommyD said...

Exactly Bob. Adam and I are kindred spirits. We both love food and intense competition.
(btw, I got one more apple than that marine)

jed said...

i'm not sure the Man V. Food dishes are "legitimate," but it is fun, like watching a trainwreck.

troutking said...

Guy should not be endorsing TGIF as it runs counter to the idea behind his show. Agreed. But, I still love the show. Sure he's a bit of a buffoon, but he's an amiable doofus and I have had a number of great meals at places that have appeared on the show. Yes, he's parlayed the show into a money making scheme for himself, but he's still performing a service of publicizing local mom and pops that most of us would never had heard of and can now enjoy if we so choose. In any case, the toasted raviolis I had at Geraci's in Cleveland, OH on his recommendation were so delicious, he can do as many stupid game shows as he wants.

Randy said...

I like the show also. Especially when I imagine Guy is just TommyD with a funny haircut.

troutking said...

Yes, that's true. In fact, you can imagine Guy's ever-present wristbands helping Tommy avoid carpal tunnel syndrome from changing CDs so often.

Bob said...

This joker was on TV last night, doing an AFLAC commercial.

jonniec said...

I've always thought he was a douche!