Food Network star Guy Fieri is the subject of an unflattering Gregory Pratt’s interview with David Page, a former producer of Fieri’s hit food show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, in the October issue of City Pages. In the interview, Page, who created the show around Fieri, who won a development deal with the Food Network after coming in first on The Next Food Network Star. Known for his shock of bleached-blonde hair, shirts in ear-splittignly loud colors and a propensity to shove fried and cheese-covered food in his maw, he was an instant hit for the cable channel because he brought a “regular guy” aesthetic to the channel that can be a little lady-focused. He seemed unpretentious and fun – a gregarious personality whose enthusiasm for food was infectious.
However, according to Page, as Fieri’s fame and celebrity started to ascend, so did a noxious behavior that included leering, frat-boy humor towards the female guests, homophobic panic toward the gay guests and a particularly ugly incident of anti-semitism when Page was wrangling with Fieri over payment.
Not surprisingly, Fieri denied these accusations in a tersely-worded statement that pratically screams “PR guy wrote this”:
” Guy’s reputation speaks for itself. He’s a standup guy who does right by people. He would never make the kind of comments attributed to him in this story, and anyone who knows or has even met him knows that. That Mr. Page made these sadly desperate statements says more about him than it does about Guy or anyone on the Food Network team.”
Mind you this is the second time I discovered that a Food Network darling is being accused of homophobia. A blog writer posted a disappointing post about Great Eats star, Alton Brown who allegedly cracked a tone-deaf gay joke to a confused audience during an event.
So what do we do with Guy Fieri, then? Is he a homophobe or is this just a case of sour grapes by an axed co-worker. I won’t go the route of a lot of online posters who write that they “feel” that Fieri “seems” to be homophobic. Until he actually says “Boy, you’re a fag,” I just can’t be sure he’s anti-gay. That said, he isn’t doing himself any good by releasing the blandest statement in the world that is obviously penned by one of his “people.” If he addressed the controversy himself, in his inimitible style, he might convince those still wavering in their belief that he’s a bigot. And I don’t mean that he needs to go the whole “some of my best friends are gay” route because that would be too transparent, but a quick address to the homophobia accusation with maybe a brief assertion that he’s okay with the gays.
Unless, of course, he is homophobic and doesn’t care about what gays think about him; think about it, his demographic isn’t exactly the same as his Food Network colleagues, Paula Deen or Ina Garten, both of whom have become culinary gay icons. Although I am a fan of the show (my partner finds him loud, obnoxious and sometimes disgusting) and will continue to watch it, until he sends a clearer message toward his viewers (and this also goes for Alton Brown), I don’t know if my equivocal feelings toward him will change.