By Brenden Gallagher
I was fully prepared to hate Guy Fieri's Thanksgiving special, Guy's Big Bite: A Very Fieri Thanksgiving. Not only did the title make me hate the very concept of rhyming, but, for God's sake, look at the man.
And in case you thought this photo is just a bad hair day / bad shirt day / bad life day, here's another image of Mr. Fieri with the same frosted hair / bowling shirt / goatee combo we know and love.
This is the man whose Times Square restaurant received the most savage review from the New York Times since the paper reflected on its' own Iraq War coverage.
Guy Fieri is the most mockable celebrity chef, which is kind of like saying he is the hottest cast member of Magic Mike XXL or the NFL player least sensitive to women's issues. He has a face even a mother could punch. And yet, after watching his Thanksgiving special, I get it.
Guy Fieri is selling something that's hard to hate: being a good guy and having a good time.
On paper, the premise of A Very Fieri Thanksgiving sounds like the most boring shit to come to television since True Detective Season 2. Guy invites a few of his celebrity chef friends over to his house and they cook dinner. Then they eat that dinner. That's it. Riveting.
Fieri understands that around the holidays, people just want to hang out and have good times with their friends and family. He also understands that there are many lonely souls who don't have that opportunity. With this special, Fieri does what holiday specials have been doing for decades: he provides that perfect holiday experience that we all wish we could have.
Is that so wrong?
In the spirit of holiday forgiveness, let's raise a glass of Donkey Sauce to the celebrity chef I so wish I could hate. Here's Everything Guy Fieri Taught Me About Thanksgiving.
Lesson 1: Cook Whatever the Hell You Want
Thanksgiving would better with bacon.
One of the shittiest things about Thanksgiving is that you feel compelled to choose from the culturally approved list of things people are supposed to eat at Thanksgiving. Does anybody really like cranberry sauce? Guy and his celebrity chef buddies will not be limited by traditional Thanksgiving boundaries. They are going to cook whatever they damn well please, and that means a lot of bacon.
Of the five dishes that the team of pro chefs prepared, two included bacon (Bone Marrow with Bacon Marmalade and Grilled Cauliflower with Bacon and Brie), and none involved cranberry sauce, potatoes, or green beans.
Guy Fieri has set us all free from the tyranny of store bought canned cranberry sauce. Look upon his spiky blonde mane and rejoice!
Lesson 2: Make Fun of Everyone Else in the Kitchen
The best way to ease the tension of Thanksgiving cooking is busting on each other. This is easy if one family member is way worse at cooking than everyone else. If you're like me and are typically assigned potato peeling duty, you know what I'm talking about.
Making fun of your fellow cooks is a little more difficult when each of you is a millionaire restauranteur, but damn it, these guys find a way.
At least a half dozen times, the chefs make fun of the way Bostonian guest chef Beau MacMillan says "marmalade." When Colorado restauranteur Aaron May decides to take a breather while everyone else prepares dinner dishes, Guy jokes, "Aaron is managing the wine currently." I don't care who you are, that's a sick burn.
Guy has the same sense of humor as your hilarious drunk uncle, but instead of yelling about immigrants and passing out, he actually does most of the cooking. And his wife is still speaking to him at the end of the meal. Double bonus.
Lesson 3: Find A Way To Compliment Everyone
Kitchen ball busting needs to be accompanied by the periodic compliment. Otherwise, hot temperatures and tight spaces could create an emotional powder keg. Guy and company find ways to give each other a pat on the back that never sounds condescending or forced. Whether he's telling Aaron May that his "bread pudding is off the chain" or letting the audience know that chef/farmer Duskie Estes is "so farm to table it isn't even funny," the vibes remain positive in Guy's kitchen.
Guy even goes beyond food to pay compliments, pointing out that among the husky men in the kitchen, G. Garvin is clearly making an effort to lay off the bread pudding.
Even though no one has said "off the chain" unironically since 1998, this approach is better than the passive-aggressive biting comments that most famiies go with during the holidays.
Lesson 4: Make the Vegetables Exciting
Nobody wants to eat vegetables, especially at Thanksgiving. Instead of serving a plate of steamed carrots that will be ignored by everyone except for your little cousin who decided she's vegan after smoking weed with older kids who play in an indie rock band, make vegetables that are worth eating. Guy's solution is adding bacon and cheese, which is actually pretty great solution when you think about it.
Lesson 5: Put Yourself in the Best Light Possible
You may not host half a dozen shows like Guy Fieri does, but that doesn't mean you can't learn to brag like Guy Fieri does. Repeatedly throughout his special, Fieri mentions the shows he hosts on the Food Network: Guy's Grocery Games, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, and Guy's Big Bite. He brings up the shows up so often that eventually it doesn't feel like bragging anymore.
Take a page out of Fieri's book and mention that promotion at work or that degree you finally finished, and steer the conversation away from your messy break-up, gambling problem, or anything else you don't really want grandma's opinion on.
Another bonus of talking yourself up whenever possible is that you'll leave very little room for grandma to say something that will offend your boyfriend.
Lesson 6: Don't Be Upset When Your Parents Put You To Work
One of the best moments of the show was when Guy's son Hunter returned from college at UNLV just in time for dinner. Even though he had a panel of celebrity chefs helping him in the kitchen, Guy still put his son to work.
Right after his son walked in, Guy said, "There's a platter back there if you wouldn’t mind grabbing it for me.”
When your parents make you clean the basement this Thanksgiving, know that you are not alone. In this instance, you should be more like Guy's son than 50 Cent.
You're never too big to take out the trash.
Lesson 7: Set Up A Dinner You Can Be Thankful For
No matter how much Fieri's constant presence in pop culture annoys you, once you see him eating with his family, your heart will no longer be as hard as Guy's arteries. After he gets his friends and family around the table, Guy gives his son Hunter the Thanksgiving spotlight. You watch him beam with pride after his son tells the table that he "thankful for this moment right now."
Then you realize that despite the blonde hair dye and the Donkey Sauce, you and Guy Fieri may not be that different after all. Except for that the fact that he's a millionaire chef with a gorgeous house and family, and you're sitting in a dark apartment making fun of him on the Internet.
And Finally, An Apology
After watching A Very Fieri Thanksgiving, I realize that you aren't nearly as terrible as your reputation. Like Larry the Cable Guy and Macklemore, culture has saddled you with baggage you don't deserve. You aren't a meme, you are a man. And you seem like a nice one. Over the course of your hour-long culinary special, you taught me things bout food, about Thanksgiving, and about life that make me realize that maybe I'm just as likely to see a douche when I look in the mirror as I am when I watch your television shows.
You're welcome on my TV anytime, even if there's no way in Hell I'm ever going to your Times Square restaurant.
Please, save me a seat on the bus to Flavortown.
Yours in off the chainedness,