I was watching an old episode of Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, where the heavily tattooed mayor of Flavortown was getting all effusive about a Thai restaurant in, of all places, Duluth, Minnesota.
Duluth? Authentic Thai cuisine? That’s when it hit me: If there is one show on TV now that is a showcase and celebration of America’s rich ethnic, cultural and racial diversity, it is Triple D.
Since it hit the air in 2007, Fieri and his crew have filmed more than 260 episodes, and featured just about every type of restaurant you can imagine: Italian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Spanish, Filipino, Polish, Hawaiian, Thai, Cajun, Jewish, Middle Eastern, Korean, Czech, Puerto Rican, Japanese, Ethiopian, soul food, classic American... I could go on and on. The show is a veritable love song to the American melting pot.
I know. You’re already snorting in your morning coffee, because while Fieri has his legions of passionate fans, he also engenders in many people an equally intense hatred. Maybe it’s the spiked, dyed hair, the excessive jewelry, the surfer dude-goes-bro attitude, the sophomoric jokes... You get the idea. And if you don’t, Google “things to hate about Guy Fieri,” and you’ll come up with a whole slew of articles.
So maybe call me an outlier, but I love Guy Fieri. More specifically, I love Triple D. I love the fact that Fieri doesn’t really visit diners, drive-ins or dives anymore, but instead he roams America’s big cities, small towns, and strip malls, looking for the local curry joints, taco houses and noodle palaces. These are generally family-owned, populist restaurants where the “real folks” eat and the chef isn’t just going through the motions, but is actually adding an innovative touch to his or her menu.
Fieri’s favorite spots are the kind of places that aren’t seen all that often on the Food Network, on other TV channels or in America’s food magazines, which are all too often geared towards haute cuisine and celebrity chefs making frou-frou dishes that look like they should be in an art museum.
I also love Fieri’s enthusiasm—faked or not—for the food he sees being made. I love that he talks to patrons, the average Joes from Spokane or Gulfport, who are obviously enjoying their tlayudas, lamb vindaloos or bánh mìs, and are just glad to have a place that is not a hoity-toity, upscale snobbery or a chain restaurant serving the usual burger/ribs/fried chicken fare.
The fact is, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is actually a show about two things that have truly made America great: individual entrepreneurship and immigration. The people Fieri features have come to these shores from other countries and have totally enriched our lives. Not that Donald Trump, who thinks a taco bowl is authentic Mexican cuisine, would understand this. But that doesn’t matter, because Triple D is the real America, and Guy Fieri, whether you like him or not, is putting it out there for everyone to see.