After a shift, what is your favorite guilty pleasure to eat? “Real-deal, kick-ass, legit popcorn. So, we save all of our bacon fat in a tin right there on the stove. Two or three tablespoons of bacon fat, a sliced-up jalapeño and a little bit of shallot and a little bit of garlic. Cook that down. Strain it real quick, so we don’t burn the garlic and don’t burn the shallots. Add that fat back to the pan and throw it in with some fantastic Amish popcorn, if not we’ll use some Orville Redenbacher. Drop that in, pop it off and throw the salt in when it’s getting ready to pop, so it coats the kernels with the salt. If you don’t have really good popcorn salt, the salt gets too heavy on it and falls off. No need to add butter to it because you have that pork fat in there. Real deal popcorn is a staple. Don’t go putting it in one bowl. Count who is on the couch and bring everybody their own bowl.”
What is your favorite music to listen to while you cook? “I’m an old-school country guy. I love country but old-school country, Willie, Waylon, Conway Twitty, Hank Sr. and Hank Jr. We have Sonos at home, so when I come home I put on my Sonos and play my Willie station. My parents had a western clothing store when I was a kid in Northern California, so all they played was great ’50s, ’60s, ’70s and into the ’80s country music. And I was in that store all the time. So that’s what I play when I’m home and I’m cooking. It drives my wife nuts.”
All-time favorite spice. “Black peppercorn. It’s kind of like bacon, use it whole it has this great well-rounded flavor and use it in its smaller form and it’s got a nice fiery bite to it.”
Is there one dish you won’t cook? “The kryptonite of me and food is liver and onions. Beef liver and onions. I can’t even be in the same room. You could hide keys to a free Ferrari under liver and onions and I wouldn’t be driving it.”
What city’s food scene has impressed you recently? “You know we had a great visit down in San Antonio. I had never been there for a long period of time. I think when you get a chance to spend a few days in a city you start to get a little of its feeling. We shot in a Mexican bakery down there that had a style of Mexican baked goods that I’d never seen before. These folks were doing some baked goods down there that just blew me away.”
Did you grow up cooking as a kid? “There was a rule in my family, which is the rule that we have in our family, that you’re not allowed to ask what’s for dinner until you have lunch. It would drive my parents nuts because I would come out of my room, getting ready for school and I would go ‘what’s for dinner tonight?’ Because I would really look forward to it.”
Name the all-time best cooking show. “I go back to Julia Child. I go back to Graham Kerr. I go back to Sara Moulton. I though Good Eats was always a great show.”
What cookbook is your go-to resource for inspiration? “I don’t use a lot of cookbooks but I love to read them. When we go to our cabin I’ll just bring cookbooks with me that I haven’t read yet.”
Is there one chef you’d like to cook with? “I’ve had a chance to cook alongside quite a few of the greats, but I would like to throw down with Julia Child. She had such a great personality and such great swagger. And she had such an impact on what we’re all doing.”
What is the one tool that you always make sure to pack when you’re traveling for business? “My wife thinks I’m trying take on a culinary war anywhere I go because I travel with it all. Everything. She says ‘where are we going? You have an immersion circulator and a wok. You have a mandolin, eight cutting boards, a barbecue and two Dutch ovens. What are we going to eat on the road?’ I said ‘I don’t want to be there and have it not be available.’ I pack the goods.”
Guy Fieri hosts the Food Network shows Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy’s Grocery Games. He also owns seven restaurants around the country.
We got caught up with Guy Fieri at the recent South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Interview has been condensed and edited.