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10 Questions for Guy Fieri

by: COURTESY OF THE BROOKS GROUP, 
Chef Guy Fieri hosts “Guy’s Big Bite” and “Ultimate Recipe Showdown” on the Food Network and owns five restaurants. When roasting a turkey for the holidays, he believes the most critical part of preparation is in the brine.

Guy Fieri never envisioned that his affinity for cooking would someday bring him rock star status.

But, it has, and the star of three Food Network shows will be in Portland at Newmark Theater on Dec. 12 as part of his 'Guy Fieri Road Show.'

His life has become crazy, and 'I'm holding on with both hands,' says Fieri, who lives in Santa Rosa, Calif., with wife, Lori, and boys, Hunter and Ryder. 'I got a lot of people riding on this Guy Fieri train. It's crazy. Where it goes, I have no clue.'

His first book, based on his hit Food Network show 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: An All-American Road Trip,' reached No. 2 on The New York Times Bestseller List, and his follow-up book ranks No. 3. He also plays host to 'Guy's Big Bite' and 'Ultimate Recipe Showdown' on the Food Network and owns two restaurants: Johnny Garlic's (three locations) and Tex Wasabi's (two locations) in Northern California. He's been on 'The Jay Leno Show' and 'Late Night with David Letterman' twice.

The Tribune caught up with Fieri, 41, to talk about his tour, his books and TV shows, his five restaurants and his ideas of holiday meals:

Tribune: How do you cook a turkey, and advice for others?

Fieri: Remove the legs and thighs from the turkey. Roast it separately, it makes it more tender. The idea that you have to roast them together is (nonsense). Another idea: Cook the turkey ahead of time, and take all the meat off it; take your bones and make turkey stock. And, take some meat and put it away, and you have turkey sandwich stuff ready to go, and you don't have to worry about somebody eating too much - that's how you beat that, and you get to test your oven, your timing, to see where you're at. But the most critical part of preparation is brining the turkey. It's a simple recipe: A gallon and a half of water, three quarters cups of sugar and salt, peppercorn or cloves (etc.) . . . it's a wild mixture, and you bring to a boil and submerge the turkey and put it in a five-gallon bucket for up to 24 hours. It doesn't come out tasting salty or sugary.

Tribune: What about fixings?

Fieri: I'm unconventional. Yeah, stuffing is huge; you take bread, let it go stale, and you make turkey stock and combine things like sage and celery, cranberry raisins, onions and garlic, put everything in the 'pool' and brine it. I'll also use a pasta dish, like ravioli. And I always do prime rib, but you don't brine prime rib.

Tribune: Do you bake for the holidays?

Fieri: Not well. I don't have the patience. Baking is, you get it done and wait for the results. That drives me nuts. I've made cobblers and pies . . . but with cooking, I want to taste it, touch it, control it.

Tribune: You've been to Portland before?

Fieri: I've been up there personally and at restaurants, a variety of things. I have a goddaughter who lives there. We've come up and shot 'Diners,' at Otto's Sausages (on Southeast Woodstock Boulevard) and Pine State Biscuits (on Southeast Belmont Street).

Tribune: What's the 'Guy Fieri Road Show' about?

Fieri: It's a little bit about what I do at my house. I'm a cook, and cooking's good - you're hanging out, telling stories, talking smack, carrying on. I'm calling it a celebration of food, we wanted to do something with more enthusiasm and hype. We'll have a local chef and a mixologist.

Tribune: You're a high-profile person, but on 'The Jay Leno Show' you told the story about how somebody introduced you one time.

Fieri: Yeah, this woman was professing to a friend about what a great fan of mine she was. She tells her friend, 'This is Gus Ferrari.' I get called all kinds of stuff; they call me 'the cooking guy.'

Tribune: Did you ever envision your career taking off to this extent?

Fieri: Gosh, no. I started my first restaurant 14 years ago, and the Food Network came about four years ago. I gotta hand it to the Food Network, they've built an interest and an empire.

Tribune: You'd really like to see your latest book, 'More Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Another Drop-Top Culinary Cruise Through America's Finest and Funkiest,' reach No. 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List?

Fieri: That's a milestone I want to see. Both are in the top 10 (second one, No. 3; first one, No. 9). It doesn't make any sense; I mean, it makes sense, but it's amazing.

Tribune: Who has been your influences?

Fieri: I have great admiration for all of them. Emeril is one of my favorites; he wrote the foreword to the second book. Rachael (Ray) has been great, giving advice. Mario (Batali), Bobby (Flay). Mychal Simon and I are good friends. It's a nice extension of the family, the ones who paved the way for all of us. Wolfgang Puck I've not met, yet. I never had the opportunity to meet Julia Child. I love watching reruns, because of her flair and love for food.

Tribune: How do you describe yourself, and what do you make for your wife at home?

Fieri: It's along the lines of 'no boundaries,' I cook all different foods and ways, with all different people and ingredients. I love big flavors - I'm not a subtle cook - and I don't take time for delicate presentation. . . . I test all the recipes at home before I put them on TV. My family are the guinea pigs. (My wife) likes anything Italian, usually. Italian and Chinese would probably be my favorites.