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SMITH: He's cooking while the pan is hot

Just seven years after one of Sonoma County's less-celebrated restaurateurs mailed a homemade demo tape to a TV show, Guy Fieri has three-quarters of the world eating out of his hand and he's driving the other fourth completely nuts.

Since Guy's spark first lit up The Food Network in 2005, he's become a phenom adored by fans of his real food/real people shows, now broadcast 35-plus hours a week. He's also roundly scorned by critics of his taste in food, his hair and catch-phrases and the success that prompted Forbes to estimate his annual income at $8 million.

The newest enterprise of the co-founder of Sonoma County's Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's restaurants is the enormous Guy's American Kitchen and Bar on Times Square. Some New York critics have bashed it with relish: Steve Cuozzo of The Post wrote, "I wouldn't feed the mess to a cat."

Those of us who got to know Guy in Santa Rosa and have witnessed his trajectory know it's not his cooking or training that won him "The Next Food Network Star" and "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives." It's his seismic personality and fascination with people and what they like to eat.

He told Food Republic, "I am who I am and that's kind of what it is .<TH>.<TH>. If someone doesn't really jibe with it and it's not their style, that's their prerogative."

So it is. As Guy reaps the opportunities open to him, people who don't like his shows shouldn't watch them and people who don't like his restaurants shouldn't patronize them.

Plenty more are eager to eat up whatever he serves. My grandfather would have said he's cookin' with gas.

FUNK AND WINE: Today is Lou Funk's 100th birthday. Its approach led the busy Santa Rosan to revisit emories, such as when he helped expand Sonoma County's enviable family-doctor residency program while he was administrator of the former Community Hospital.

Lou took over the top job at what was formerly called County Hospital in 1969. Before that he was at Vallejo General, where, in the early Sixties, the state Wine Advisory Board dropped off some wine and asked the hospital to test offering patients maybe five ounces of it with dinner.

"We concluded that it was a good idea," Lou says. The nationally publicized findings were that with a little wine in them, patients rested more comfortably and less often called for nurses.


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