With the precision of a surgeon, Guy Fieri can dissect a kitchen— any kitchen—in 30 seconds flat.
It's 7:45 a.m., and Guy is rummaging through a tiny burger-and-seafood joint called Big & Little's in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. From my perch on one of the 10 bar stools (the restaurant's only indoor seating), I can see the Diners, Drive-ins and Dives crew buzzing around, making last-minute adjustments to lighting, testing sound levels and ensuring onions are chopped, eggs are cracked and everything is in shiny metal bowls, ready for showtime. But Guy is off on his own, digging through drawers and firing questions at the restaurant's co-owner Tony D'Alessandro (the "Little" of Big & Little's), who is nervously watching the spiky-haired, tattooed host of the show inspect his kitchen.
An audio engineer nicknamed Butterbean (every member of the crew has a Guy-given nickname) leans over to Tony and whispers, "Guy might be a little standoffish. He likes for everything to be on camera and doesn't want to talk too much beforehand."
Standoffish is right. Guy jerks his head toward the grill and barks at Tony: "Thirty-six inches?" It is. He grabs a sauté pan. "De Buyer?" Yup. He sniffs an unmarked shaker of seasoning. "Truffle salt." Right again.
After filming more than 150 episodes of "Triple D," as Guy calls it, there isn't a kitchen gadget, cooking tool or secret spice mix he hasn't seen. And even though he walked into this kitchen just a few minutes ago, he is now moving through it as if it were his own.
"This is a funky, funky joint," he announces. For a man who makes a living eating his way across the country and telling everyone how "are-you-kidding-me!?" awesome it all tastes, "funky" is a top-of-the-line compliment.
"Triple D is all about three things," Guy explains to me. "Food, story and character. We shine a light on places like this, which are run by people who love the same kind of food I love."
This morning he's going to get plenty of the food he loves—a pork belly po'boy with maple mayonnaise, sautéed foie gras with french fries, and fish and chips with tartar sauce. It's a calorie bomb of a breakfast.
"I need to stay disciplined on the road," Guy says. "Too much food can wreck your palate." Then he points to an oversize Styrofoam cup in his hand. "And I juice."
I peer into the cup to get a rare glimpse at what the First Dude of Diner Food eats for breakfast, and it's not pretty. In Guy's hand is a sludge-brown liquid made of carrots, apples, honeydew melon, bok choy and blueberries. He winces as he sips it.
The producer on set, Lamb Chop, signals that it's go time, and then lights, camera, action—the Guy train leaves the station.