Wayback Machine: Guy Fieri at the Copley Place Mall

[This is, of course, from 2007. And I must say while the guy’s “brand” is annoying, he was very personable like a friendly drunk uncle.]

At the Copley Place mall, the Food Network star proves that his future’s so bright, he has to wear shades

By Elisabeth Donnelly

Trying on Food Network chef Guy Fieri’s red Spy sunglasses makes a girl feel as cool as LeVar Burton playing Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” A slim pair of shades with rectangular mirrored lenses, they give an air of “mac” (as in “mac daddy,” to quote Fieri) to Fieri’s perfectly put-together look: bleached spiky hair, tattoos of grenades and horseshoes, and chunky gold and silver jewelry that he affectionately refers to as his “bling.”

Although Fieri’s biker look is a bit intimidating, in person he’s the same guy you see on TV: warm, friendly, charismatic, and a bit of a goofball. At the Copley Place mall a day before a Simon’s Super Chefs weekend of cooking demonstrations and autograph signing (he would spend more than two hours doing this at the Northshore Mall, and two more at the South Shore Plaza), Fieri’s goal was to check out the Sole Mio Sunglasses store. He’s a collector after all, and owns about 80 pairs.

His red Spy glasses matched his red Tex Wasabi’s T-shirt from the “rock ‘n’ roll sushi BBQ” he owns, with dueling logos of a cowboy riding a koi fish and a geisha riding a bull. Fieri’s tattoo artist did the lively cartoon logos, and Fieri loves them: “He busted it out so fat.” Back to the subject of his many pairs of sunglasses, Fieri noted, “As metro as that is, I sometimes [coordinate].” He then pointed out that his flip-flops come with a bottle opener on the bottom and proceeded to wrap a blue cloth napkin around Super Chefs producer Richard Gore’s head. Gore was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, and the head wrap accentuated his sushi chef look.

Before Sole Mio, Fieri went into the kitchen store Williams-Sonoma. A 30-something California native who owns four restaurants there, Fieri took a particularly modern road to “celebrity chef-dom”: He won the second season of “The Next Food Network Chef” last year. Fieri was initially apprehensive about the reality show process, but “my buddies saw the first year of the show and said, 'Aw dude, you can totally do that.’ ” Fieri sent in a video on the last possible day and beat out 10,000 contestants on his way to hosting “Guy’s Big Bite” and “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” (the latter of which has featured Kelly’s Diner in Somerville.)

According to Fieri, his cooking career started when his mother got tired of her 10-year-old son’s complaints about her eggplant parmesan. His first attempt at a meal was a steak, some red sauce, and raw pasta that he crumbled up and put in the sauce. After taking a bite of the steak, his dad said, “This might be the best steak I ever had.” Laughing, Fieri admitted his father said something like that at every meal.

At Williams-Sonoma, Fieri chatted up the manager and talked about the three knives every kitchen needs: serrated, boning, and chef’s. He was particularly passionate about “honing down” his knives, a process of redefining and aligning the vertical tip of the knife that he likened to “making a mohawk.” After noticing the pristine 25-year-old aged balsamic vinegar on the shelves, he rhapsodized about the value of the vinegar. “It’s so misunderstood in American culture,” he said, citing the story about an Italian father who leaves a tub of balsamic vinegar to his son, who ends up selling it for two villas and a Ferrari.

“People get too lost in gadgetry,” said Fieri, and he pointed out products that actually are useful – the lemon/lime hand juicer for one: “I’ve been using them like crazy on my show,” he said. The sight of an old-fashioned apple peeler inspired Fieri to think up an instant recipe that uses the machine to peel a potato into a long, curly string, which is then fried with garlic, parsley, and parmesan cheese.

Fieri headed to Sole Mio, talking about his love of sunglasses. “I am the master of all bling,” he joked. In fact, he’s figured out another way to wear sunglasses: on the back of his head. It’s the perfect place for storing sunglasses, and with such a sweet collection, ranging from Oakleys with a Bluetooth and iPod fitting to the aforementioned Spys, losing a pair would be a bummer. Heed his advice: Fieri is evangelical about his sunglasses, and while simple, the back-of-the-head trick is remarkably effective. Just one of the many fun facts you can learn from Fieri. 

Originally published in The Boston Globe Friday, June 8, 2007