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Q&A: Guy Fieri on barbecue, country music and why he’s coming to Stagecoach

Chef, restaurateur, New York Times bestselling author and Emmy Award-winning TV host Guy Fieri is bringing the nation’s finest barbecue pit bosses to Stagecoach for Guy’s Stagecoach Smokehouse.
(John Lee / Food Network)

A stretch of the 10 Freeway headed toward Indio is packed with dozens of billboards for a number of the artists on the lineups for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach Festival.

Eminem, Kasey Musgraves, Odesza, Jade Jackson and Kamasi Washington are some of the acts plastered high above the freeway. And then there’s Guy Fieri, whose signature frosted tips nearly poked out of the frame of his billboard.

No, the chef, restaurateur, New York Times bestselling author and Emmy Award-winning TV host isn’t adding musician to his list of gigs. He is, however, one of Stagecoach’s high-profile bookings, as he was tapped to elevate the country music festival’s food scene this year with Guy’s Stagecoach Smokehouse, a 40,000-square-foot experience boasting barbecue from across the country.

Ahead of this weekend’s Stagecoach, we caught up with Fieri to talk festival food and the music that moves him in the kitchen.

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How did the collaboration with Stagecoach come together?

I’m a big music fan. I love music in any shape or form, especially live music. Went down to Coachella a couple years ago and had such a blast. I’ve been to a lot of festivals, but I thought [promoter Goldenvoice] did such an awesome job. I was surprised at how great the food scene was. We started having conversations and they asked me if I liked country music. What a lot of people don’t know [is that] my parents had a country store and I grew up on the music.

Really? What did they sell?

Boots, hats, saddles — the whole thing. All I grew up on was old country music — Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Conway Twitty, Johnny Cash — that’s always been my wheelhouse.

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Food has increasingly become such a focal point of the festival experience. What’s your take on that?

Growing up and going to rock concerts, no one ever said, “Hey, we’ve got to go early, because the food’s really good.” People never used to think like that. When I went to Coachella, I remember having a vegetarian ramen bowl before seeing G-Eazy and I about died. It was incredible. The food there, man. I think I went to three or four places a day.

I want to bring that to Stagecoach by having some of the great barbecuers of the country. At a country show, you’ve got to have barbecue, and you’ve got to have smoke. There has to be that smell of smoke in the air, that smell of barbecue going. It’s just fitting. It needs to be like Disney’s Soarin’, where the scents just keep hitting you.

Curating the picks must have been fun. How many calls did you get from chefs wanting to get in?

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It’s like the lottery, the NBA draft and Powerball lottery among my friends right now of who’s getting to come with. You’ve never seen more friends showing up at your house, like, “You know, I just happened to cook up this prime rib and I thought you might like it.” Having been to so many barbecue joints across the country, we had just a king’s ransom to pick from. You’re going to get mix and mingle with some of the true legends of barbecue all while this music is being played in the same arena. It’s really going to be a great package.

Do you have a cooking soundtrack? Like if you’re in the kitchen, these are your go-to jams.

It drives my wife nuts, but I listen to a lot of Pandora. I’m a huge Willie and Waylon fan. I Hank Williams and Hank Jr.

Old school country is really kind of my jam, but I like throwing on Pandora and just hearing it all. There’s so much cross-pollination of the greats and the new ones, so I’ll listen to it all. I’m really getting into Brothers Osborne right now.

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Anything you’re looking forward to on the Stagecoach lineup?

Well, I mean, you have Garth Brooks on the lineup. Losing my mind about that one. Tyler Childers, Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line. Molly Hatchet, is going to be a crazy one. I’ve got to keep my schedule straight of when I’m cooking. I’m bringing down one of my big stick burners, and my son is going to help me cook — but I know he’s going to run off to go see some of these bands, so I have to work out my negotiations with friends because I want to catch some of the music too.

gerrick.kennedy@latimes.com

For more music news follow me on Twitter:@GerrickKennedy

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