Say the name Guy Fieri, and the mind fills with images of frosted tips, bowling shirts covered in flames, and a made-up land called Flavortown USA, where manhole covers are made of pizza and the law states that one must always “sauce with authority.”
It’s got it’s own fan site, but you won’t find it on any map — Fieri himself is still amazed at the epic proportions to which one simple catch phrase has grown. But making people happy, he says, is what makes him happy — and coincidentally, spreading happiness is something that being a chef and a beloved internet meme have in common.
“In today’s world, so many people are doing things that make people unhappy, and there’s so many sad situations that are going on. To know that there’s a picture of me as a fat little cherub baby with sunglasses on, and a whole family makes a t-shirt of it and wears it to Disney Land?” he said, “Amen.”
TheWrap recently caught up with Fieri regarding his Emmy nomination for his long-running Food Network series “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” — and to persuade him to tell us the epic tale of the founding of Flavortown, and how he came to be elected mayor.
He took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said, “we’re gonna burst the bubble on some people’s ideas that I’ve got some witty style and personality, and just get the story straight.”
The origin of Flavortown, he said, came about completely by accident.
“I just, unfortunately, run at the mouth. I just say things. Ten-plus years ago, I’m there in a diner, and I said to the guy — he made a pizza, I think — ‘That looks like a manhole cover in Flavortown.’ Because of how big it is,” he said.
“I do a lot of it to make my film crew laugh, ’cause they’re sitting there listening to this stuff all day long. So I say a one-liner, and it comes up again. Somebody makes some big dish, and I say, ‘Oh, it’s like a steering wheel on the bus to Flavortown,.’”
Fieri only recalled mentioning “Flavortown” five or six times on the show before it started to catch on.
“All of a sudden, fans start seeing this and start writing in, or start walking up to me, saying, ‘Which way is Flavortown? I’m a resident of Flavortown!’” he laughed. “It turned into this whole thing, I didn’t even start it. It just took off. And now Flavortown is — well, it’s a whole different world now.”
So naturally, this reporter had to ask — What are the laws of Flavortown?
Fieri laughed heartily.
“That’s another one! I’m sitting there talking to a chef, he’s cooking, we’re talking about making pasta water — you gotta make sure you have enough salt in your pasta water. I said, ‘Well, that’s a law of Flavortown right there.’ And of course, what happens? It picks up. Everybody says, ‘What are the rest of the laws of Flavortown?’ and on and on and on,” he said.
“People are residents of Flavortown, and I’m the mayor of Flavortown. I can send you pictures of all the Flavortown signs and banners and badges and t-shirts, and everybody that says there’s a whole society of Flavortown residents. I’m tellin’ ya!”
Of course, it’s hard to think about Flavortown without immediately googling “Guy Fieri memes” and getting lost for a moment in the joyous absurdity of it all. Fieri is cool with being a meme, he says — in fact, he’s all for it.
“Oh, I think it’s hysterical. I mean, to be in a spot in this lifetime… I’m a cook, y’know? I’m a dude from Northern California. I’m sitting here on the deck in flip flops and a t-shirt. I’m what you see is what you get,” he says. “There’s so many sh—y things that can go on, we sure gotta celebrate the fun things. And if I’m someone that’s helping bring the fun, right on.”