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.
When he arrived on the set earlier this month - a kind of renovated warehouse design with a surfboard and a wall of license plates - he was stunned by how well it fit his style.
On taping days he would arrive two hours before his call to think through ingredients, talking points, presentation and engaging commentary he planned to include in each program.
"Multi-tasking at warp speed" is how he describes shooting a show, his earpiece in place as he chopped ingredients and rattled on.
Each time the director yelled "cut," he'd have to start again - sometimes many times, sometimes all the way back to the introduction, trying to make sure to repeat everything "with enthusiasm."
By the end of 12 or 14 hours, he felt "like Jell-O," Fieri said.
Family was always on his mind. He was in constant contact with home - his wife, Lori, and sons Hunter, 9, and Ryder, 5 months.
He'd stop taping to fit in daily conversations with Hunter - on one or two occasions taking his son's calls to the set. He stayed abreast of business by e-mail and phone calls, using every 10 or 20 minutes of down time on the set to stay in touch.