Frenetic SR chef kicks it up a notch as he balances limelight, family

  • Guy Fieri, with his 5-month-old son Ryder, recently returned from New York, where he was taping his show for the Food Network. Photo taken May 25, 2006.
    (The Press Democrat/ Christopher Chung)

Reality show chef Guy Fieri had settled into his plane seat after 10 grueling days taping his new food show in New York City when he joined the millions who watched the crowning of the latest "American Idol" winner.

"Man," he thought as he watched the TV broadcast of the overcome winner, Taylor Hicks. "Dude. You have no clue what's coming."

Fieri of Santa Rosa realizes that his own cable network identity is on a different scale from TV giant "American Idol." But his taste of the limelight is enough to bring understanding of the changes that come with instant celebrity.

Autograph hounds seek him out. There are marathon workdays, cross-country flights and production debates. The press clamor for interviews and photo shoots. The unexpected life of Guy Fieri now straddles the competing worlds of young father, husband, restaurateur and TV icon.

"Crazy" is the term Fieri, 38, is most likely to toss out to describe his current existence, his eyes and smile both growing wide - a signal that he loves it.

"To me," he shrugged, "it's just, you run the engine up a little bit higher. It's kind of the difference between a lawn mower and a race car."

Except that Fieri, co-owner of three Sonoma County restaurants who soon will open a fourth in Sacramento and is father to two boys, already was revved pretty high when last month he was declared winner of "The Next Food Network Star."

Since then, he's created the concept and content for his new show, "Guy's Big Bites," to air June 25, taped the six initial shows that are his prize for winning the "next star" title, auditioned to host a second show, received three cookbook offers, interviewed agents and started an addition on his northwest Santa Rosa home.

Yet even the frenetic Fieri was unprepared for the complexity involved in launching a new show on such short notice. The 30 to 40 people attached to the production have him "in awe," he said.

There was the title to choose, a logo to design, musical selections to be made - not always his first choices, but close enough.

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