A version of this post originally appeared on August 9, 2019, in “Eat, Drink, Watch” — the weekly newsletter for people who want to order takeout and watch TV. Browse the archives and subscribe now.
Much like his brother from another mother Matthew McConaughey, Guy Fieri went through a mid-career slump followed by a remarkable comeback. And there is arguably no greater example of the Fierissance than the celebrity chef’s Food Network show Guy’s Ranch Kitchen, which recently wrapped up its second season.
To backtrack a bit: Guido, as he calls himself, enjoyed six years in the spotlight as one of food TV’s biggest and most beloved stars before Pete Wells delivered a sucker-punch in the form of a 2012 zero-star review of the chef’s Times Square restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar. After that assessment — arguably the most famous restaurant review of all time — Fieri became the food world’s favorite punching bag. Undeterred, the celebrity chef kept opening spinoffs of his notorious Manhattan restaurant in more than a dozen cities across the country, all while keeping up his normal clip on Triple D, publishing cookbooks, and launching a successful game show called Guy’s Grocery Games (AKA Triple G).
But the real ignition point for Fieri’s career revival came in the form of a stand-up comedy bit by rising star Shane Torres. “People shit on that dude all the time,” Torres says at the start of his set. “But as far as I can tell, all he ever did was follow his dreams.” After running through a laundry list of Fieri’s most benevolent acts — Offering good benefits to his employees! Starting a culinary-non profit to get kids cooking! Working with Special Olympics athletes! Officiating a massive gay wedding! — Torres points out, “But because he has flames on his shirt, everybody shits all over his dude like he’s a member of Nickelback.”
This wildly successful comedy bit helped swing the pendulum back in Fieri’s favor, and the next few years were full of moments that also cast the Triple D star in a positive light. After setting up makeshift kitchens to feed victims of the Northern California wildfires in 2017 and 2018, Fieri inadvertently became the celebrity face of natural disaster relief. By agreeing to go scuba diving in shark-infested waters with his college-age son, Hunter, the Fieris became the unexpected stars of Shark Week 2018. And in recent months, Fieri’s Twitter account — which is now likely run by a savvy social media manager — started to garner praise for its custom photoshopped pop culture parodies and jokes that echo the chef’s outsized personality. All of these recent turns suggest that Fieri is, now more than ever, the reigning Mayor of Flavortown: a hard-working public figure overseeing all things gnarly and turbo-delicious.
Guy’s Ranch Kitchen is the seminal document of the Fierissance. Each episode features Guy hanging out with five celebrity chefs friends inside the massive porch-kitchen of his estate in Santa Rosa, California. This space features a wood-burning pizza oven, a massive grill, and several tricked-out ranges. Many of the dishes incorporate vegetables or herbs grown on the Fieri compound, and one episode even features a trip to go harvest honey from Guy’s personal bee farm. Fieri doesn’t do any of the cooking on the show, but he does do all of the tasting — except for the egg dishes, because Guido famously hates ‘em.
Part of the fun of this show is seeing what all of these chefs come up with based around the given theme. A few favorites include: the dukka-topped Egyptian spinach pie that Aarti Sequeira prepares in the “Cheese Please” episode; the “steamed and fire roasted goose” with blood orange sauce that Jonathan Waxman makes in the “Christmas at the Ranch” installment; and the shellfish-rich paella that Marc Murphy fires up during the “Game Day” cook-out. Out of the 10 or so dishes that are prepared in each episode, there’s usually one clear flop, but at least these creations are ambitious failures — Carl Ruiz’s French onion brandy shooter in the “Cheese Please” episode, for example.
Guy’s Ranch Kitchen is one of the more lively shows on the Food Network these days, and it has a particularly high hit-to-miss ratio where dishes are concerned. The first two seasons are now streaming on Amazon for $10 a piece, and the show also airs at 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.