Degree: '90 BS Hotel Management
Occupation: Food Network star
In The Kitchen With Guy Fieri
Of all the adjectives used to describe celebrity chef and UNLV alumnus Guy Fieri, "modest" is usually not one of them. That's not to say that he's arrogant (quite the contrary, actually), but he does have a certain élan that comes across both on his Food Network television shows and in his eclectic cooking style.
In reality, he's a humble, self-effacing guy, someone who is more apt to attribute his success to good luck than to great skill—though he seems to possess both in abundance.
"It's funny to think that my career has experienced this meteoric rise in the past couple years," Fieri told a group of hotel college students. "I was just this guy who liked to cook. I worked in the kitchen seven days a week. It's who I am. Now people are paying me to talk to high school kids. It's weird."
Fieri was on campus this past October to headline UNLV's Chef Artist Dinner Series, a fundraising event that benefits the food and beverage department, and to talk with UNLV students about what it takes to run a successful restaurant business.
"You've got to really want it," he told the class. "But the really exciting thing is that it's yours to lose. It may sound cliché, but whatever you want to be today, you can be."
Let's face it, Guy's personality may have helped him open a few doors, but it certainly can't account for all his success. After all, you can't be the star of three separate shows on the Food Network, the co-owner of five popular restaurants, a soon-to-be author and the father of two young boys without putting in the requisite hard work and dedication. And if that lineup's not daunting enough, he's also recently established his own foundation: The Guy Fieri Foundation for Mentoring and Imagination.
"I really don't believe that we have enough imagination in this world," Fieri says. "It seems like we don't even have to think at all anymore because we can just do it on a computer or a video game."
The concept is patently Guy Fieri: bold, ambitious, a little quirky, and right on the money. It's a combination that seems to work for him, both in the kitchen and out. Fieri's first restaurant, Johnny Garlic's, isn't your typical Italian restaurant (unless you consider jalapenos in your pasta, typical) and his second restaurant concept, Tex Wasabi's, is a blend of barbeque and sushi (enough said).
"I've got a lot of crazy concepts up my sleeve," he says.
Fieri's flair for fusing seemingly disparate flavors may be part personality, part good business sense. He believes limiting yourself to one specific component of the culinary profession is an outdated approach.
Chef at Heart
"It's not enough anymore to be a great Italian chef, or sushi chef, or to make the greatest biscuits in the world, or whatever," Fieri said. "If you want to be in this business—if you want to be great in this business—you have to fortify yourself in all aspects of the industry."
Underneath it all, though, Fieri is still just a chef at heart. Pleasing others through his art is the thing that has always inspired him, from his earliest days selling pretzels from a three-wheeled bicycle (at the age of ten) to his growing restaurant empire today.
"All the TV stuff is great and the money certainly isn't bad, but my truest love is food and making people happy," Fieri said. "It's what I enjoy most."
And he has certainly succeeded. Just ask any of the people who attended the sold out dinner at the Stan Fulton Building, which included a number of his signature dishes. He worked with UNLV executive chef John Gremo and a group of UNLV student chefs to help prepare for the dinner.
"The experience our students get from this event is invaluable," says Pat Moreo, chair of UNLV's food and beverage department. "It's a way for them to work with successful restaurateurs and for the public to have a dining experience they typically would not get in a restaurant."
The money raised from the event benefits the students and faculty in UNLV's food and beverage department through scholarships, professional development opportunities, and new equipment for the kitchens.
"I'm proud to be a graduate of this school," Fieri said. "I think it is now my responsibility to give back."
You can catch Guy Fieri several times a week on the Food Network on Guy's Big Bite; Guy Off the Hook; or Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.
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