After filming a range of episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in the Monterey-Carmel in recent years, Fieri is as hooked on PBFW as its audiences are on his brash cooking demos and festive meals. “After we did ‘Triple D’ there and found a lot of the great spots – and after this many years of the festival,” he says, “I’m starting to think it’s my vacation spot.”
What PBFW story would surprise guests?
When I sabered all the Champagne by the [Spanish Bay] firepits. I love to saber Champagne. So I started sabering bottles with anything I could saber with. If you do it with the right technique you can do it with butter knife. Pretty soon everybody started ordering Champagne – and Spanish Bay ran out of it.
Most outlandish situation you’ve seen at PBFW?
We were doing burgers at the grand tasting and the next thing I know the line is 150 people long. I got my three chef buddies who were there as my guests working in dress clothes. Dude, it was out of control.
Most inspiring PBFW moment?
Year before last at PBFW a lady told me about her son, who was ill, and how much she enjoyed watching “Triple D” with him – it was their little escape. We’re there because of the fans, so for them to tell me the show is making an impact, that’s what is really special.
Best compliment you’ve received?
That I’m keeping it real. Listen, I’m not anyone special. I’m a good dad and husband and son and buddy. Unfortunately when people watch individuals on television and movies, they don’t know if who they’re portraying is who they are. I like it when they walk up and go, “You know what, man, you’re just like you are on TV.”
The single most underrated ingredient?
Anchovies. There’s a depth of flavor and creativity in anchovies that I don’t think people get. There’s an umami going on. I throw them into all sorts of sauces. Roasted red pepper, garlic , shallots, just a touch of anchovy, just a teaspoon. It’s far beyond pizza toppings and Caesar salads.
Hardest lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Less is more. When you have the cornucopia of ingredients and styles and methods – it’s about refining and capturing the essence of key pieces. That’s in life too. (Pause.) That’s the most profound thing I’ve said in a while. (Laughs.) I don’t know where that came from.
Most Zen-like cooking practice for you?
Working with anything I get from my garden. I have two huge gardens, and I’m putting in an acre garden with 42 fruit trees. I like having my own little farmers market of what’s fresh. I love my veggies. I do a lot of roasting. I make enough to have a great lunch and side dishes for the next few days. People on the road say, “When you get home I bet you don’t want to cook.” It’s the first thing I want to do.
Three things you can’t live without in the kitchen?
Really good pepper grinder, really sharp knife, great pair of tongs.
Out of the kitchen?
My family. My dogs. My friends.
Wait. What kind of dogs?
An English mastiff who’s a rocket scientist – the dumbest animal known to mankind but the sweetest. A German shepherd who thinks he’s a housecat. Taquito and Burrito the mini donkeys. Then there’s the 480 goats and two gigantic Sulcata desert tortoises. The chickens and turtles take all the rot and scraps and eat it. Full sustainability, buddy.
You know, it’s a funny thing. We talk about this meal all the time in my family. Even though carbs are not my buddy – they make me tired – it would be a really good bucatini with fantastic spicy tomato sauce, an arrabiata. With a nice crusty piece of garlic sourdough and Caesar salad from scratch. My mouth just started to water.