27. May, 2016

Part 3: The Entertainers

With the advent of the Age of Aquarius came the age of “Reality TV”. Personally, I can think of very few “reality” shows in which people behave remotely like they would in real life. Life starts imitating art the moment participants start thinking about how much money they can rake in if they “build a personal brand”. The lengths to which some people go to become “celebrities” are astoundingly tasteless: to wit the gay schmuck running around naked in Survivor, brain dead Ferdie taking a very public dump in the garden in Big Brother SA and Kim Kardashian turning her nether regions into lucrative commodities. The trick, it seems, is that you have to remain in the public consciousness at all costs; this is what gets you invited to “star” in other “reality” shows.

This trend has made its mark on foodie TV shows as well. Poor Julia Child, James Beard or Delia Smith would have battled to compete with today’s generation of celebrity chefs. Among them count risqué photographic models, hilarious comics, ballroom dancers, racing car drivers, tattooed yobs and foul-mouthed drill instructors. That does not mean that they can’t cook; far from it. Many are exceptionally well-trained and commercially successful chefs, but it is almost as if these qualities only get you a ticket to the game. Whether you make it big on TV nowadays depends almost as much on your ability to entertain as on your culinary skills. Here are a few cases in point:

Anthony Bourdain became the enfant terrible of the American restaurant industry after becoming famous (some might say infamous) thanks to his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. This exposé of some of the unsavoury goings-on behind the scenes fascinated readers and embarrassed numerous chefs and restaurateurs. Despite his self-confessed liaisons with sex, drugs & rock and roll, he managed to become a top chef before choosing to focus mainly on media work, and his net worth is currently estimated at $9m. 

He was born in New York City on 25 June 1956, and grew up in New Jersey. His father Pierre was an executive at Columbia Records, and his mother Gladys Bourdain (née Sacksman) a staff editor for the New York Times. He maintains that his love of food was kindled in his youth while on a family vacation in France, when he tried his first oyster on an oyster fisherman's boat. After high school he attended the prestigious Vassar College, but dropped out after two years. During recesses he worked in a number of seafood restaurants in Provincetown, Massachusetts. It was during his time here that he decided to pursue cooking as a career.

Despite an eventful time as undergraduate, Bourdain graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1978. From there he went on to run various restaurant kitchens in New York City, including the Supper ClubOne Fifth Avenue, and Sullivan's. In 1998 he became Executive Chef at Brasserie Les Halles in Manhattan. The concept proved so successful that other outlets followed in Miami, Washington DC and Tokyo. 

After the success of Kitchen Confidential, he was contracted to host the food-and -travel TV show A Cook’s Tour. It ran for 35 episodes on the Food Network in 2002-‘03. In 2005 he began hosting the Travel Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure shows Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (2005–2012) and The Layover (2011–2013). In 2013 CNN signed him up to host Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Bourdain’s presentation style is the key ingredient of the success of his shows: laconic, irreverent, drily witty yet respectful towards the people and cultures he encounters.

In July 2006, he was in Beirut filming an episode of No Reservations when one of the many conflicts between Israel and Lebanon broke out. The crew had filmed very little of the footage planned for the show at the time. Bourdain's producers responded by recording behind-the-scenes footage of him and his production staff, including their encounters with Hizbolla supporters, their days marooned with other expatriates in a Beirut hotel, and their eventual escape aided by a “fixer”, whom Bourdain dubbed Mr Wolf after a character in Pulp Fiction.  This episode of No Reservations was nominated for an Emmy in 2007.

Bourdain has been equally successful as an author. A sequel to Kitchen Confidential was published in 2010, called Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine in the World of Food and People Who Cook. Bourdain has written two more nonfiction best sellers: A Cook’s Tour (2001), written in conjunction with his first TV series, and The Nasty Bits (2006), another collection of essays mainly centred on food. Other works include Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook, the culinary mysteries Bone in the Throat and No Reservations: Around the World on an Empty Stomach. He is a prodigious writer of articles, essays and columns for the likes of The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Observer, Financial Times and The Times of London.

His engaging personality has made Bourdain a popular guest on many shows; both reality and fiction. He has appeared as guest judge on Top Chef and The Taste, as guest commentator on Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods: America, as “Dr Tony” in Yo Gabba Gabba!, as himself on The Simpsons and on the animated show Archer as the voice of “Chef Lance Casteau”, a parody of Bourdain and other aggressive chef personalities. He also appeared as himself in the 2015 movie The Big Short, in which he uses seafood stew as an analogy for a collateralised debt obligation.

Bourdain has an abrasive public persona. His liberal use of profanity and sexual references in his television show No Reservations, has caused Travel Channel to place viewer discretion advisories on each segment of each episode. He is also noted for his put-downs of his peers - most notably Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Guy Fieri and Giada de Laurentiis – whom he blames for the overt commercialism of the celebrity cooking industry and its lack of culinary authenticity. In his defence it has to be said that he is even-handed. He has been equally outspoken in his praise for chefs he admires, particularly Mario Batali, Marco Pierre White, Ferran Adrià, Thomas Keller and Julia Child.

He is also known for his sarcastic comments about vegan and vegetarian activists, saying that their lifestyle is an insult to the inhabitants of many countries he visits. He considers vegetarianism (except on religious ground, as in India) a "First World luxury", believes Americans eat too much meat and admires vegetarians who allow themselves to put aside their vegetarianism when they travel in order to be respectful of their hosts. Despite regularly consuming exotic dishes like ant eggs, seal eyeballs, a beating cobra heart and fermented shark, Bourdain insists that the most disgusting thing he has ever eaten is a Chicken McNugget!

He used to be known for being an unrepentant drinker and smoker but stopped smoking sigarettes in 2007 because of the birth of his daughter. He is also a former user of cocaine, heroin, and LSD. In Kitchen Confidential he writes of his experience in a trendy Soho restaurant in 1981: "We were high all the time, sneaking off to the walk-in refrigerator at every opportunity to 'conceptualize.' Hardly a decision was made without drugs”. In the same book, he frankly describes his former addiction, including how he once resorted to selling his record collection on the street in order to raise enough money to purchase drugs.

Some of the accolades this maverick foodie has received include Bon Appétit magazine’s Food Writer of the Year in 2001 for Kitchen Confidential, Food Book of the Year in 2002 by the British Guild of Food Writers for A Cook’s Tour, induction into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America in 2008, Emmy and Critics’ Choice awards for No Reservations in 2009 and 2011 and the Emmy for Parts Unknown in 2013 and 2014.

Bourdain is a vocal advocate for communicating the value and tastiness of “peasant” foods, specifically animal parts not usually eaten by affluent, 21st-century U.S. citizens. He has also tirelessly championed the high quality and great taste of freshly prepared street foods in developing countries as compared to the fast food served by franchises in the USA. When it comes to Hispanic immigrants he is the antithesis of Donald Trump. Bourdain considers Latinos as naturally talented chefs and hard workers at other jobs in a kitchen, underpaid and unrecognised - even though they have become the backbone of the U.S. restaurant industry.

Andrew Zimmern could easily have emulated other Jewish New Yorkers like Mel Brooks, Billy Crystal and Jerry Seinfeld and become a comedian – he is one of the most naturally funny people around. He chose to immerse himself in food culture instead, and is today universally regarded as one of the most versatile and knowledgeable personalities in the food world. This nearly didn’t happen. At the age of 31 he was a homeless junkie. He not only overcame his addictions to alcohol and drugs, but has built a food, travel and business empire using three talents: his uncanny gift for cooking, his equally powerful gift for storytelling and an ability to let the lessons of his past guide the principles of his future. Between travelling to exotic locales to record footage for his Travel Channel series, he busies himself with a full-service production company, his stadium food concessions, writing, podcasting and serving as a board member of several public benefit organisations. He also has a fourth talent: He’s really, really good at eating bugs.

Zimmern was born (on the 4th of July 1961, nogal!) and raised in New York City. Thanks to parents who had him traveling around the world mouth first, he knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in food. As a teenager, Zimmern spent his days at the beach and nights cooking in Long Island restaurants. After attending The Dalton School and then Vassar College, he was on the fast track to success; cooking in New York restaurants run by Anne Rosenzweig, Joachim Splichal and Thomas Keller. He helped open and run a dozen restaurants, but became a drug addict and alcoholic along the way. He eventually lost his apartment and spent a year living on the streets, stealing to support his addiction.

A last, despairing intervention by close friends brought him to the renowned Hazelden Foundation in Minnesota. Transforming his life around sobriety, Andrew began washing dishes at the Minneapolis franchise of New York’s Café Un Deux Trois in 1992. When a line cook fortuitously didn’t show up for his shift, Andrew took over his station, and within seven weeks was named Executive Chef! He spruced up the menus and turned Un Deux Trois into one of America’s first successful gastro-bistros during his six year tenure.

Zimmern’s revamped menu of French dishes with Vietnamese and Chinese elements soon drew the attention of local media. Local news appearances led to regular TV work as the “in-house chef” on HGTV’s shows produced in Minnesota, most noticably Rebecca’s Garden and TIPical Mary Ellen. The viewers’ response was so overwhelmingly positive that he sold his restaurant partnership and volunteered to intern for a local glossy monthly magazine, TV and radio station. Within months he had a regular job as a features reporter doing live local news, became MSP Magazine’s dining critic and restaurant columnist, and hosted his own drive time radio show.

His end goal was to make programmes about food and culture, rather than mere cookery shows. To this end he wooed Travel Channel, and created a DIY pilot show for what ultimately became Bizarre Foods. This launched a long and successful partnership which saw Zimmern create, produce and host the Bizarre Foods franchise on Travel Channel (including Bizarre Foods with Andrew ZimmernAndrew Zimmern’s Bizarre WorldBizarre Foods America and the new Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations). Over the past two decades he has explored the food cultures of more than 150 countries, encouraged viewers to try unusual or foreign foods and promoted fresh ways of thinking about, creating and living with food.

The success of his Travel Channel series and Zimmern’s experience as a journalist led him seamlessly into the world of publishing. Giving a behind-the-scenes look at the cultures and lifestyles he found in his favourite destinations, The Bizarre Truth (2009), inspired readers to travel, explore and eat the unconventional. Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre World of Food: Brains, Bugs and Blood Sausage (2011) gave younger fans a backstage look at his culinary adventures. His experiences tasting iconic dishes from every hemisphere has inspired his book designed for young adults, Andrew Zimmern’s Field Guide to Exceptionally Weird, Wild, Wonderful Foods: An Intrepid Eater’s Digest (2012), a pop culture-influenced look at funny, fantastic and occasionally bizarre ingredients.

Zimmern is a contributing editor and Chef-in-Residence of Food & Wine Magazine and a senior editor of Delta’s Sky Magazine. He has been nominated for eight prestigious James Beard Awards, including digital content nominations, and he has won three awards: for “Outstanding Food Personality” (2010), “Best TV program on location” (2012), and “Outstanding Personality/Host” (2013). In 2016, he was named one of “America’s 50 Most Powerful People in Food” by The Daily Meal.

The gooey, smelly, unsightly and generally exotic meals featured in the various Bizarre Foods series are powerful drawcards: there’s a primal hands-over-the-eyes curiosity to watching Zimmern eat bugs, slugs and critters that would have made even Pumbaa cringe, animal parts not commonly talked about in dinner conversation, or things that have not yet died. The only item I can recall him being unable to swallow was Stinky Tofu, and he has me heartfelt sympathy on that one! Zimmern is a savvy-enough showman to know that you need to draw people into the tent, but a wise-enough businessman to know that novelty alone won’t keep them there. He clearly understands that what he is documenting isn’t really food at all. It is the world and its people, the things a culture’s food tells us about its people and how important meals are in bonding us together.

Zimmern resides in Edina, Minnesota with his wife Rishia and Noah. When he’s not sampling unusual dishes at home and abroad, Andrew teaches entrepreneurship and offers the latest insights on food issues and problem solving to the students and faculty of The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College, a learning laboratory for the real-world problems facing business and society.

The thing I like most about the guy is the obvious and genuine pleasure he derives from engaging with people. Despite Bizarre Foods being one of Travel Channel’s longest-running, most successful shows ever, that unadulterated pleasure remains undiminished. As one senior Travel Channel executive put it: “The food is just the starting point. He truly celebrates everything he’s experiencing. That’s who he is. That’s not scripted. That’s Andrew in his element.” I can only say “Amen” to that. Andrew Zimmern is what his tribe would call a mensch.

“Yorkshire’s Finest”, James Martin is a self-confessed “petrolhead”, with an obsession for Ferraris that sits oddly with his fondness for preparing snacks. While he may still be young (he was born on 30 June 1972), he seems to have been around forever. He is perhaps best known for presenting Saturday Kitchen from 2006 – 2016, but has also starred in Strictly Come Dancing, raced sports cars and toured around the UK with his live “Plates, Mates and Automobiles” show. Rumour has it that he was one of the candidates shortlisted to present the new, post-Clarkson Top Gear. Oh yes, and he is a hunk as well. Judging by the rock-star reception he gets at his sell-out live shows, he makes fans’ hearts beat faster than a Magimix on full throttle.

Martin grew up on the Castle Howard estate in Yorkshire, where his father was the catering manager, As a child he helped his mother in the kitchen, which started his interest in food. He attended Malton Comprehensive School, which he represented in both rugby and cricket. He battled academically, however, due to undiagnosed dyslexia. After studying catering at Scarborough Technical College, he went to France and trained at Hostellerie De Plaisance in the St-Emilion winelands near Bordeaux. After a stint at the 3 Michelin-starred  restaurant Maison Troisgros in Roanne-sur-Loire, he joined the staff of Anthony Worrall Thompson’s One Ninety Queen's Gate restaurant in Kensington. He was a young chef in a hurry: he made “whistle stops” at The Square in Mayfair and Harvey’s in Wandsworth (both with 2 Michelin stars) before becoming Head Chef at the Hotel du Vin in Winchester at the ripe old age of 22!

Martin opened his first restaurant, called The Leeds Kitchen, inside the Alea Casino in Leeds in 2011. While the restaurant was popular, the casino - and with it the restaurant - closed in March 2013. In 2012 he opened a restaurant inside The Talbot Hotel in Malton, his old stamping ground. The restaurant was placed in the Michelin Guide at the end of 2012. In 2013 a meal there was described by The Observer’s food critic as "three beautifully poised, close to faultless dishes".Later that same year Martin opened James Martin Manchester, specialising in modern British cuisine.

He first appeared on television in 1996 with programmes including James Martin: Yorkshire's Finest (set in various locations in the county and featuring regional cuisine), Ready Steady Cook and The Big Breakfast. He will forever be associated with the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen, which he hosted for 10 years, and which had a regular viewership of more than 3.5 million. Perhaps the single most important TV appearance of Martin’s life had nothing to do with cooking: his participation in Strictly Come Dancing in 2006 – in which he made the semi-finals – led to him landing the Saturday Kitchen contract. The rest, as they say, is history.

Apart from guest appearances or acting as a judge in a myriad of cookery shows, Martin has hosted several of his own. These include Sweet Baby James (in which he focused on desserts, puddings and cakes), Eating with the Enemy (in which he mentored ambitious amateur chefs), Operation Hospital Food (in which he revamped the menu at Scarborough General Hospital), United Cakes of America (on baking in the USA), James Martin's Food Map of Britain (focusing on 10 regions of Britain and their produce and cuisine), James Martin: Home Comforts (in which cooks food inspired by memories of his childhood in Yorkshire), James Martin Digs Deep (on how to grow one’s own vegetables) and James Martin’s Christmas Feasts.

In 2012, Martin presented Racing Legends: Sir Jackie Stewart, a one-off special for the BBC, in which he interviewed the former world champion about his life and career whilst the pair drove through the Alps in a De Tomaso Pantera supercar. He also drove Stewart’s championship-winning 1971 Tyrell Formula One car around the famous Monza circuit. In 2013 Martin appeared alongside Angela Hartnett and Richard Corrigan in a special edition of The Great British Menu entitled The Great British Budget Menu. The show aimed to highlight food poverty and involved the chefs cooking nutritious meals on a budget.

James Martin is a prodigious writer, and to date has published 17 books. The best-known among them are The Deli Cookbook, James Martin's Delicious!, Easy British Food, James Martin's Great British Winter Cookbook , James Martin's Great British Dinners, Slow Cooking: Mouth-watering Recipes with Minimum Effort, Masterclass: Make Your Home Cooking Easier and Driven: Cooking in the Fast Lane (an autobiography).

Martin likes performance cars, and entered a vintage Maserati in the 2008 Mille Miglia but failed to complete the race due to a broken crank shaft. He has also raced in the Mini Cooper Masters Series, where he was crowned champion in 2013, and driven a "works" Aston Martin GT at the Aston Martin Centenary Festival in July 2013, where he finished 9th out of 30 racers. He also holds a private pilot’s licence. Still a highly eligible bachelor, Martin lives with his dogs Fudge and Ralph in Hampshire. This unassuming, instantly likeable man still has a lot to offer the culinary world.

Words like “unassuming” and “likeable” don’t often appear in the same sentence as “Gordon Ramsay”.Ramsay is a short-tempered, opinionated and often foul-mouthed Scottish-born chef, restaurateur, and television personality. Although he is best known for presenting TV programmes featuring competitive cookery, such as Hell’s Kitchen, The F Word and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, he is much more than a ranting prima donna. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars in all, and currently hold 9. His signature restaurant, Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea, has held 3 Michelin stars since 2001. In 2015, Forbes listed his earnings at $60 million for the previous 12 months, and ranked him the 21st highest earning celebrity in the world.

Ramsay was born on 8 November 1966 in Johnstone, a town in Renfewshire. From the age of five, he was raised in Stratford-upon-Avon in England. Ramsay's father, Gordon James Senior (died 1997), was a swimming pool manager, a welder, and a shopkeeper. His early life was itinerant; his family moved constantly due to the aspirations and failures of his father, who was an at-times-violent alcoholic. In his autobiography, Humble Pie, he describes his early life as being marked by abuse and neglect from this "hard-drinking womaniser". 

Young Ramsay was a talented footballer; first chosen to play under-14 for Warwickshire at the age of 12.  His footballing career was marked by injuries, causing him to remark later in life, "Perhaps I was doomed when it came to football". In 1984, Ramsay had a trial with Glasgow Rangers, the club he had supported as a boy. He seriously injured his knee, tearing the cartilage during training, but continued to train and play with the injured knee until he tore a cruciate ligament while playing squash. That was to be the end of his footballing career.

By this time, Ramsay's interest in cooking had already begun. Rather than be known as the football player with the gammy knee, at age 19 Ramsay started paying more attention to his culinary education. After weighing his options, Ramsay enrolled at the Rotarians’ North Oxfordshire Technical College to study hotel management. He describes his decision to enter catering college as "an accident, a complete accident". In the early 1980s, he started working as commis-chef at the Wroxton House hotel in Banbury, then ran the kitchen and 60-seat dining room at the Wickham Arms in West Yorkshire, until his sexual relationship with the owner's wife made the situation untenable. Ramsay then moved to London, where he worked in a series of restaurants until being inspired to work for the mercurial Marco Pierre White at Harvey’s.

After working at Harvey’s for nearly three years, Ramsay, tired of "the rages and the bullying and violence", and decided that the way to further advance his career was to study French cuisine. White discouraged Ramsay from taking a job in Paris, instead encouraging him to work for Albert Roux at Le Gavroche in Mayfair. After a year at Le Gavroche, Roux invited Ramsay to work with him at Hotel Diva, a ski resort in the French Alps, as his number two. After three years in France, he tired of the physical and mental stress of restaurant kitchens and took a year off to work as a personal chef on the private yacht Idlewild, based in Bermuda.

Upon his return to London in 1993, Ramsay was offered the position of head chef (under chef-patron Pierre Koffmann) at the three-star La Tante Claire in Chelsea.  Shortly thereafter, Marco Pierre White re-entered his life, offering to set him up with a head chef position and 10% share in the Rossmore, owned by White's business partners. The restaurant was renamed Aubergine, and went on to win its first Michelin star fourteen months later. In 1997, Aubergine won its second Michelin star. Despite the restaurant's success, a dispute with Ramsay's business owners and Ramsay's dream of running his own restaurant led to his leaving the partnership. In 1998, Ramsay opened his own restaurant, Gordon Ramsay, in Chelsea with the help of his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. The restaurant gained its third Michelin star in 2001, making Ramsay the first Scot to achieve that feat.

Ramsay's restaurant empire has since expanded rapidly. Gordon Ramsay Chelsea was soon followed by Petrus in Kinnerton, Amaryllis in Glasgow and Gordon Ramsay at Claridge’s. Restaurants at the UAE’s Dubai Creek and Connaught hotels came next. Gordon Ramsay at the Conrad Tokyo and Cerise by Gordon Ramsay both opened in Tokyo in 2005. In November 2006, Gordon Ramsay at the London opened in New York City, winning top newcomer in the city's coveted Zagat Guide, despite mixed reviews from professional critics. In 2007, Ramsay opened his first restaurant in Ireland, Gordon Ramsay at Powerscourt, at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in County Wicklow. In May 2008 he opened his first restaurant on the US west coast in the London West Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles.

Ramsay's first television appearance was in two documentaries: Boiling Point (1998) and Beyond Boiling Point (2000). His big break came in 2004 with Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares - which saw him trouble-shooting failing restaurants over a one-week period – and Hell’s Kitchen, which featured Ramsay attempting to train ten British celebrities to run a restaurant which opened to the public for the two-week duration of the show. In 2005, Fox TV introduced Ramsay to American audiences in a US version of Hell’s Kitchen. The show followed a similar premise as the original British series, showcasing Ramsay's perfectionism and infamously short temper. Ramsay also hosted a US version of Kitchen Nightmares.

Ramsay clearly revels in controversy and rubbing people the wrong way. In the first series of his more recent The F Word, Ramsay mockingly named the turkeys he raised Anthony, Ainsley, Jamie, Delia, Gary and Nigella – all after other celebrity chefs. During the second series, During the third series, Ramsay reared lambs selected from a farm in Wales named them after two Welsh celebrities, Charlotte Church and Gavin Henson. During one episode of The F Word, Ramsay cooked for the inmates of Doncaster Prison. The chef was so impressed by the speed at which a prisoner, Kieron Tarff, chopped vegetables that he offered him a job at his restaurant following his release in 2007 Ramsay joined several other celebrity chefs in the 2010 series, The Big Fish Fight, where he, along with Jamie Oliver and a few others, spent time on a trawler to raise awareness about the wasteful discarding of hundreds of thousands of undersized fish.

Ramsay was awarded the OBE by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006. In the same year, he won the Catey award for "Independent Restaurateur of the Year", becoming only the third person to have won three Cateys. In September 2006, he was named as the most influential person in the UK hospitality industry in the annual Caterersearch 100 list, overtaking Jamie Oliver. His flagship restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, has been voted London's top restaurant in Harden’s for eight years In January 2013, Ramsay was inducted into the US Culinary Hall of Fame.

Ramsay married Cayetana Elizabeth (“Tana”) Hutcheson in 1996. The couple have four children, and live in Wandsworth, London. Until his retirement in 2010, Ramsay's father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson, was responsible for the business operations of Ramsay's restaurant empire. Over all, Ramsay’s net worth is currently estimated at $120m+, second only to Jamie Oliver’s whopping $400m.

Ramsay's reputation is built upon his goal of culinary perfection. Since the airing of Boiling Point which followed Ramsay's quest of earning three Michelin stars, the chef has also become infamous for his fiery temper and use of expletives.  Ramsay once famously ejected food critic AA Gill and his dining companion Joan Collins from his restaurant, leading Gill to state that "Ramsay is a wonderful chef, just a really second-rate human being." Ramsay's ferocious temper has contributed to his media appeal in both the United Kingdom and the United States, where his programmes are produced. Although Ramsay often mocks the French, several of his most trusted staff are French, and he also speaks fluent French from his time in Paris.

Guy Fieri (born Guy Ramsay Ferry on 22 January 1968) looks and sounds like the kind of tattooed, bottle-blond creep you pray your daughter will never date. Despite his Bozo-like persona, Fieri is a successful restaurateur, author and television personality; reportedly worth $8.5m. He co-owns six restaurants in California and is widely known for his television series on the Food Network. In 2010, the Food Network had made Fieri the "face of the network". The New York Times gushed that Fieri brought an "element of rowdy, mass-market culture to American food television", and that his "prime-time shows attract more male viewers than any others on the network.” There is clearly no accounting for taste – millions of Americans want Donald Trump to be their next president!

Fieri was born in Columbus, Ohio and grew up in Ferndale, California. He developed a passion for food and entrepreneurship early on. He and his father built a special pretzel cart when he was 10 years old. Fieri eventually earned enough money from selling pretzels to fund the adventure of a lifetime; at the age of 16, he spent a year in France studying culinary science. On his return to the United States, he worked at The Red Lion Inn in Eureka, California before attending college in Las Vegas. Fieri graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel Management in 1990. After graduation, he went to work for the Stouffer’s restaurant chain and managed their flagship restaurant in Long Beach. After three years in southern California, he became district manager of Louise's Trattoria, managing six locations along with recruiting and training for the restaurants.

Guy changed his anglicised surname, Ferry, back to the original Fieri when he got married in 1995, in order to honour his immigrant great-grandfather, Giuseppe Fieri. In late 1996, Fieri and business partner Steve Gruber opened Johnny Garlic's, styled a “California Pasta Grill” in Santa Rosa. This was to become the first of several outlets. Subsequently they launched Tex Wasabi's (barbecue and sushi) in 2003 in Santa Rosa, but this combination of cuisines proved too weird - even for Californians! When Fieri opened his first New York City restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen and Bar, in 2012 it received scathing reviews but succeeded nonetheless. In April 2014, Guy Fieri's Vegas Kitchen and Bar opened in Las Vegas and became an instant success. One of his most successful ventures is his partnership (since 2011) with Carnival Cruises which resulted in Guy’s Burger Joint outlets on all their cruise liners.

Egged on by his friends, Fieri auditioned for the second season of The Next Food Network Star in 2005. He told the network that he likes to "live big, laugh hard, and cook wild" in his audition video. His rock 'n' roll attitude helped earn him a chance to compete, and ultimately winning. This earned him a six-episode commitment for his own cooking show. Guy’s Big Bite premiered in June 2006, and continues to this day. Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, his second series, premiered in April 2007, with Fieri traveling the country visiting local eateries. The New York Times called the series "not a cooking show as much as a carefully engineered reality show". Guy Off the Hook made its debut in September 2008 but failed spectacularly. For Thanksgiving 2008, Fieri hosted a one-hour special titled Guy's Family Feast. Fieri has appeared on several other Food Network programs such as Dinner: Impossible, Paula’s Party, Ace of Cakes and The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

In 2009, Fieri began touring with the Guy Fieri Roadshow, a multi-state food tour that featured some of his fellow Food Network personalities. He also appears in regional Food Network events, such as the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival and the South Beach Food and Wine Festival.

Fieri has co-authored three books with Ann Volkwein; the first two of which were New York Times bestsellers: Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: An All-American Road Trip (2008), More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: Another Drop-Top Culinary Cruise (2009) and Guy Fieri Food: Cookin' It, Livin' It, Lovin' It (May 2011). He lives in Northern California with his wife, Lori, and their two sons. He collects classic American cars, including a 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle, a 1968 Pontiac Firebird, a 1976 Jeep CJ-5, a 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS, and a 1967 Chevrolet C10 pickup.

His appeal is by no means universal, and he has few fans in the culinary mainstream. Restaurant critic Brett Michael famously described Fieri as “a mascot for Middle American lowbrow” and blogger Erin Mosbaugh said that the best description of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives was: “A troll figurine comes to life, and decides to roam the countryside eating garbage.” Anthony Bourdain started a running verbal battle with Fieri by claiming that the opening of Guy's American Kitchen and Bar made Times Square even more tacky than it already was!

As a believer in the Free Market, I respect fellow consumers’ right to choose how and where to spend their money. Personally, I would rather watch Jacob Zuma give a talk on Econometrics than eat in one of Fieri’s restaurants. It’s not just that the owner’s persona dampens my appetite; the hodgepodge combinations for which his menus are renowned are beyond fusion - they flout the culinary rules it took clever people centuries to codify. I don’t “get” concepts like “Tex Wasabi” or a “Pasta Grill”. Iconic Johnny Garlic dishes like the Jackass Roll (a sushi-style maki with pulled pork and green chili) and Cajun Chicken Alfredo make my hair stand on end, and I don’t even want to guess what “Donkey Sauce” is made of. Nevertheless, I will defend Joe Sixpack’s right to disagree with me with my life. Vive la Difference