Maybe you know Guy Fieri as the season two winner of "The Next Food Network Star." Or maybe you dig him as the shorts- and shades-wearing wanderer on the cablenet's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." Or maybe you just discovered Fieri as the host of NBC's "Minute to Win It."
Beginning Sunday, Jan. 1, prepare yourself for Guy Fieri, celebrity cooking instructor, when Food debuts its six-week series "Rachael vs. Guy Celebrity Cook-Off." The show pits Fieri against fellow network star Rachael Ray to see who can craft the ultimate chef from a pool of famous foodies that includes Coolio, Cheech Marin, Lou Diamond Phillips and Olympic champ Summer Sanders. The winner earns $50,000 for charity.
"They gave Rachael and I so much creative freedom," Fieri says. So the first thing the duo insisted on was the culinary caliber of their celebrity students.
"You have to give us real people who have a real vested interest in food and really believe in it," he says.
The coaches insisted the challenges have some spice, too. "Oh, we jockeyed every possible angle you could imagine!" Fieri says, laughing. "It was like, 'OK, tomorrow's challenge is this.' And Rachael says, 'I think they should have more time.' So I would say, 'OK, I'll give you more time -- but I think the ingredients should be cut in half. And they don't get to use all the burners!' It was like backroom poker before the show!" But, Fieri says, the payout is well worth it for all involved, especially viewers. "You will be wowed by some of the culinary skills you see. And I mean wowed."
And touched by the spirit of giving that permeated the project. "These people can write a check for their charity in this amount and not put themselves out there," Fieri says, "but it's not just about the money. It's about awareness. It's about showing the energy and leading the way."
What are you currently reading? "Harold Magee's 'On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.' I've been reading that book for years."
What did you have for dinner last night? "I got into New York late last night, and I was starving, so I stopped at one of the salad bars and had this monstrous salad of artichoke hearts, beets, asparagus, lettuce, pickled beans. As light as I could -- but as much as I could!"
What is your next project? "I have my whole big adventure in pots, pans and cooking equipment getting ready to be debuted in March at the Home Show in Chicago."
When was the last vacation you took -- where and why? "I was raised in this little Victorian village in Northern California called Ferndale. So I talked all my buddies and their families into bringing their RVs to Ferndale and parking them in the field behind my house. I brought out my 22-foot-long barbecue trailer and had Thanksgiving for 40 people. It was the greatest Thanksgiving I've had in 25 years."