What Sonoma County Really Thinks of Guy Fieri

Why do we love-hate-admire-loathe our native son?

By now most of us have read the New York Times review of Guy Fieri’s New York restaurant. 

Between laughing hysterically at the unrelenting vitriol and feeling some sort of vindication for having our own taste buds assaulted by Tuna Tots, most of Sonoma County is letting out a collective sigh of relief over the very personal, very funny and very high profile attack penned this week.

Mostly because Pete Wells pointed out what we’ve known for years and felt uncomfortable saying too loudly about our native son: Your food is really kind of awful, bro.

Sure we’ve whispered it, we’ve hinted at it, we’ve said it to each other in hushed tones. But mostly we sort of cough nervously and look away when True Fieri Fans ask about his Sonoma County restaurants. We say things like, “Oh Guy Fieri’s restaurants? Hmmm. I don’t know that I’ve been there, but he seems like such a niiiiice guy.”

Really, what can one say? It’s like kicking a puppy. People LOVE Fieri in places like Dubuque, Iowa and Scranton, Pennsylvania. He’s this lovable lug who represents cuisine for The Rest of Us. He’s the Larry The Cable Guy of Food and its hard not to feel like a snob when you say something like, “Well, if you like Applebees, you’ll probably be really stoked about Johnny Garlic’s!”

It just seems so, well, Wine Country of us, what with our obsession about heirloom tomatoes and heritage pigs and biodynamic seasonal peas served on a bed of free range arugula. 

Not to mention the fact that there’s a personal connection for many folks in Sonoma County. A lot of you helped him with his rise to stardom. A lot of you worked in his restaurants. A lot of you knew him way back when. A lot of folks have benefitted from his beneficence to local charities and causes. Personally, I’ve never seen him be anything but friendly and polite when throngs of middle-aged women crowd around him asking for an autograph. His mom is one of the most charming people I’ve ever not had a conversation with.

Yet we gnash our teeth that his food is connected in any way with Sonoma County, home of fresh, local, sustainable food. Of which Tuna Tots are not. A lot of you haven’t heard from him since he got famous or if you have, it was simply to get an autographed 4×6 which he carries with him at all times. Guy doesn’t do himself a lot of favors by walling himself into his home compound and surrounding himself with fellas who weigh 350 pounds and wear jackets that say Kulinary Krew. He doesn’t talk to local media (which at some level is understandable when any article about him results in dozens of mean-spirited comments). He hasn’t always remembered the little people who got him where he is. Trust me, I’ve heard most of the stories, and what I haven’t heard gets posted all over my Facebook page or blog if i deign to say his name.

What’s so terribly ironic about all this is that the nation is worked up about all this but guess who isn’t? Guy.

He’s mugging it up on talk shows, milking this little bit of PR gold for all its worth. I’m guessing we won’t get a quote from Guy for tomorrow’s news story about how this all is impacting him, but instead get lots of folks around him saying nothing but nice things like, “Any publicity is good publicity for a man who’s really put Sonoma County on the map.” And guess what, he has in his own way.

Meanwhile, his restaurants will continue to be financially successful. He’ll continue to assault our tastebuds with things like Bloody Mary Tri-Tip and Cheeseburger Sausage at Costco, have “cookbooks” on the best-seller list and charm his way into the hearts of millions whose only question is, “So where was that restaurant of Guy Fieri’s I’ve been hearing so much about?”

PS. I think calling him “Sphincter Mouth is a lot meaner than anything Pete Wells wrote..

Guy’s Response on the Today show…

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