“I Got a Ph.D. in Baguette.” — Guy Fieri at NYC Wine and Food Fest

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The crowd hissed, hollered and applauded as he walked on stage. Rock star? Icon? Celebrity? Pretty much. Clad in his signature spiked wristband and sporting his classic bleached-blonde ‘do, Food Network host and chef Guy Fieri spoke to a sold-out crowd on Saturday during a New York City Wine and Food Festival event at the Times Center. Interviewed by Julia Moskin of The New York Times, Fieri explained that he did not grow up with the traditional makings of a chef but instead a “funky food style” defined by “floor-of-the-earth bread” and school lunches that looked more akin to science projects than grade-school fare.

Guy recalls fondly the one dinner in particular that solidified his passion for food and set him on the road to culinary stardom. After he questioned his mother about why she was making eggplant parmesan instead of chicken like “the normal families,” she charged the young Fieri with the task of cooking dinner for the family. A few perfectly grilled rib eyes and a botched batch of pasta later, Guy realized three things about his place in the kitchen: “I cook, we can eat meat. I cook, [it] makes people happy. I cook, I don’t have to do the dishes.”

After time spent in France earning “a Ph.D. in baguette” and experiencing local delicacies, including Chicken Feet Soup, Guy returned stateside, eventually opened his first California restaurant, Johnny Garlic’s, and later turned Food Network star.

Though often portrayed as the guy with the biggest bite and taste for all things double-stacked, greasy and cheesy, Guy promises that he prefers “real food,” including salads loaded with fresh greens and vegetables, perhaps the most atypical Diners, Drive-ins and Dives dish. Regardless of what he is eating, Guy said simply, “I want it right.” And for that he has taken to his own California kitchen, in which he roasts healthy cauliflower and makes a mean Neapolitan-style pizza with thin, crispy crust.

Read more about Guy Fieri.

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