The Most Tragic Things That Have Happened To Guy Fieri - The List (2024)

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ByTanvi Akhauri

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Guy Fieri has spearheaded what The New York TimesFood reporterJulia Moskin once called a "rowdy, mass-market culture" of food on American television for years. His defiant appearance — with his spiky bleached hair, bold jewelry, bowling shirts, and all-over tattoos — gives him the look of one straight out of MTV rather than the Food Network, and he is widely regarded (or, rather, sometimes disregarded) as a telling reflection of his personal brand of cooking. And despite the contempt of his more epicurean contemporaries, Fieri has more than embraced his in-your-face persona. It's a simple explanation he gave to Success magazine: "What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to stop being me?"


But behind the flamboyant exterior of the Mayor of Flavortown, there is also a context of tragedy. As Fieri fluently put it himself: "I'm like anybody else. You get enough [criticism], you can get beat up. You can get hurt."

From losing people and businesses to combating frequent setbacks to his reputation, Fieri has seen a lot of difficulties up close. Sure, he may be the wealthy primary of an ever-growing million-dollar food empire, but the perennially upbeat celebrity chef has dealt with more than his fair share of tragedy.

Guy Fieri was involved in a car accident that left a person dead

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As it does for so many people, college marked a turning point in Guy Fieri's life. Not primarily from an educational standpoint but due to a tragic incident that opened the restaurateur's eyes to some hard truths. As Fieri revealed on "Now What? With Brooke Shields,"he was 19 and attending the University of Nevada in Las Vegas when he was involved in a car accident that left one of his friends dead. "I wasn't driving, I was in the back seat. And unfortunately, I was with a bunch of guys and ... we were drinking,"he told the "Pretty Baby"actor. A car chase ensued with cops hot on the boys' trail, and the vehicle Fieri was in eventually flipped over, killing the person who was sitting beside him.


Fieri didn't just end up in hospital — he was also accused of driving the car, which led the police to arrest him briefly. Though the situation with the cops was settled, Fieri's father didn't let him off as easily and gave him an earful about the importance of staying grounded. It was a wake-up call for Fieri, who came to grips with a profound internal dialogue. "Okay, my family didn't have any money. I'm not the smartest kid ... But if I'm going to win, I'm going to win based upon how hard I play and how disciplined I am." This wisdom he has since passed on to his sons.

He lost his sister to cancer

Guy Fieri was acquainted with some of life's hardest truths at an early age, having witnessed his younger sister Morgan having cancer, starting when she was only 4 years old. Though her cancer went into remission during her teens, tragedy reared its head once again (and more ferociously) in her late 30s when she was diagnosed with melanoma. Morgan shunned chemotherapy, owing to personal beliefs,and died soon after her diagnosis in 2011, according to GQ. She was just 38. Fieri told the outlet, "Losing my sister to cancer was ... That was the worst thing in the world, man," Fieri, who was very close to Morgan, continues to commemorate her on social media every year on her birthday.


The event marked a turning point in the celebrity chef's life, and though he admitted to feeling angry about Morgan's death when it happened, it earned him a lesson in resilience. "When you watch your mom and dad bury their kid and still get up and go live their life ...I don't know that I have that kind of strength as a person," Fieri told People. His father's own recovery from pancreatic cancer, meanwhile, taught Fieri a little something about seizing the day and living unapologetically.

Fieri's personal experiences have inspired him to do good for families affected by cancer in collaboration withMake-A-Wish Foundation, which honored him with the ChrisGreicius Award. "It's the greatest award I've ever received," he said (via Delish).


He faced heat – and hate – from critics in the food industry

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Too many cooks may or may not spoil the broth, but they could end up making it more bitter than it needs to be. As a key figure in the American culinary circuit, Guy Fieri has remained a constant target of criticism— most notably from fellow food critics like Anthony Bourdain. The famously profound cooking legend was unabashed in his disregard for Fieri, who stood in stark contrast to Bourdain's restrained personality with his larger-than-life character.


"I find Guy Fieri a rich and deep vein of comedy, there's no doubt about it, and he's worthy of a solid and maybe relentless mocking as anyone who has made his sartorial choices deserves," he once toldAdweek, stirring the pot as he often did during their yearslong feud. Bourdain's feelings about Fieri were widely understood to have stemmed from his distaste for massy, entertainment-focused productions — a sentimentrestaurateur David Chang echoed back in 2009 at a food festival inNew York, where he used some choice expletives to deride Fieri's particular brand of cooking.

Fieri did not endure the criticism quietly, hitting back frequently in interviews, even admitting that the hate got to him sometimes. But he seemed to grow a thicker skin, tellingParade,"I'm not going to make everybody happy. And anybody who wants to hate is going to hate. You have to be confident in who you are and what you're doing."


Several of Guy Fieri's friends have died

During his time as a VIP in entertainment circuits, Guy Fieri has accumulated a star-studded social circle in which he has loved and lost many friends. In 2019, he had to bid farewell to fellow restaurateur and Food Network regular Carl Ruiz, who died of a cardiovascular disease in his sleep. "Over the years, I've met a lot of great people but a friend like Carl is one in a hundred million,"Fieri wrote on X (formerly Twitter)at the time.Ruiz had established himself as a celebrity chef in his own right but had much to thank Fieri for because it was through the television host's show "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" that he found his launchpad to fame in 2013.


Fieri also grieved the death of Smash Mouth singer Steve Harwell in 2023. Harwell's career, which was at its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s, had all but declined after a string of physical and mental health issues affected his ability to perform. During the final stage of his life, the California native had been in hospice care and was dealing with liver failure. OnInstagram, Fieri posted a touching tribute to the late musician, with whom he didn't share just a great friendship but also — as internet commentary often suggested— an uncanny resemblance.

A teenager stole his $200,000 car

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Though he has been behind the wheel for over a decade on "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," Guy Fieri hasn't always had the best luck with cars. Years after the car accident of his youth, Fieri faced another setback in 2011 when a vehicle from his luxury fleet was stolen — by a teenager, no less. Max Wade, who was 16 at the time of the robbery, broke into a car dealership in California where Fieri's $200,000Lamborghini Gallardo was being serviced and made off with it. As Motor Authoritynoted, it would have been impossible for the exclusive car to be bartered for money without being traced. Sure enough, Wade didn't sell the car and kept it in storage in Point Richmond, even taking it out for a spin every now and then.


"I have friends calling me saying, listen I just saw your car on the freeway ...well, to come find out that he was driving it, brave kid," Fieri said (viaABC7).It took a year for authorities to track down Fieri's car thief, albeit for a different crime. In 2012, Wade opened fire on a vehicle containing a teen couple. He was reportedly infatuated with the female passenger, who managed to escape the attack with her boyfriend, sustaining only minor injuries. The shooting case led investigators to Wade's storage facility where Fieri's luxury ride was found. Wade was sentenced to 16 months in prison for stealing Fieri's car and life in prison for attempted murder of the couple.

Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant was maligned by a critic and ultimately flopped

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In 2012, California darling Guy Fieri tried to wedge his way into New York City's formidable culinary scene. His attempt took the form of an extravagant restaurant called Guy's American Kitchen & Bar that, given Fieri's growing television celebrity, seemed promising, to say the least. When the 500-seater gastronomic hot spot opened its doors in Times Square, it sure made an impact — just not in the best way. Any kind words visitors might have had to spare for Fieri's giant eatery were overshadowed by food critic Pete Wells' unforgettable takedown of it in The New York Times.


The piece — which started off asking, "Guy Fieri, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square?" — became a viral sensation as it mercilessly tore into the newly opened food joint and ripped much of the menu to shreds. "Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?" asked Wells, who was also dissatisfied with the watermelon margarita,which he said tasted "like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde."

Responding to the criticism, Fieri told "Today"that Wells' piece seemed motivated by an agenda to go after a non-local chef. "This is more heart and soul. This is not just a name stamp," he said. Notwithstanding the initial jolt, the restaurant pushed through and was reportedly raking in up to$17 million. Unfortunately, that still wasn't enough to sustain in NYC's high-end neighborhood, The Washington Post reported, and it permanently shut down in 2017.


He was involved in a custody battle after his sister's death

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In 2011, Guy Fieri was just coming to terms with the death of his sister Morgan when his family found itself in a legal tug-of-war over who would get custody of the child who survived her. Morgan shared her son Jules with her husband Dain Pape, who got custody of the then-11-year-old after a ruling inMarin County, TMZreported. Fieri's parents had reportedly sought custody of their grandchild, citing Pape's lack of means to care for Jules. Though the court favored Pape, he was not immediately able to take home his child, who had accompanied Fieri to a remote vacation spot in Northern California where network services didn't reach.


The legal back-and-forth didn't restrict Fieri and his nephew's relationship from strengthening over the years. Jules is nothing short of a son to Fieri.As seen on his Instagram, Julesspends a great deal of time with the whole Fieri family, including his cousins and grandparents. He holds a degree fromCalifornia State University San Marcos andaspires to make it big in the music industry. This independent career away from his uncle's million-dollar Flavortown empire is congruous with Fieri's less-than-lenient parenting, which has pushed his own children to seek independent success. "None of this that I've been building are you going to get unless you come and take it from me," he relayed what he told them in an interview withFox News.


Legal troubles have hounded Guy Fieri throughout his career

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With great fame comes great scrutiny — and often an even greater probability of run-ins with the law. Guy Fieri is probably all too familiar with this idea, given that every time the restaurateur moves some pieces around in his food empire, the ripple effect it causes isn't always in his favor. When he decided to shutter his beloved California restaurant chainJohnny Garlic's Inc. in 2015, he was met with legal resistance from his business partnerSteven Gruber.


Unwilling to discontinue the brand he co-founded with Fieri in 1996, Gruber sued the celebrity chef and sought to buy out his shares in the company. A tussle ensued for months over the value of Fieri's shares before the matter was settled and Gruber took sole ownership,Sonoma Magazine reported. As fate would have it, though, Johnny Garlic's shut up shop in 2018. Downtown Flavortown, another Fieri food brandin Tennessee, was slapped with a lawsuit in 2022 for alleged labor law violations and mistreatment of staff.

Allegations ofanti-Semitism, sexism, and hom*ophobia also persist around Fieri, courtesy of a lawsuit from 2011.Food Network and David Page, the ex-producer of "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," were caught in a legal battle that hinged on an alleged breach of contract and made troubling revelations about the workplace conditions on Fieri's show. "As happens to many instant celebrities, he pretty quickly decided he no longer wanted to be produced or directed," Page told Star Tribuneabout Fieri after the case was settled.


He suffered a major injury during his childhood

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"I would ride my horse to school." This proclamation Guy Fieri made to The New YorkTimesmight sound like a metaphoric reference to some profound wisdom or an exaggeration, if nothing else. But the celebrity chef said it, presumably in all seriousness, while talking about his laid-back rural childhood inHumboldt County, California, where heset up his first business selling soft pretzels off a bicycle cart at the age of 10. Growing up in the pastoral city of Ferndale kept Fieri in touch with nature — an experience thatwas primarily quaint but wasn't totally free of danger.


While talking to GQ, Fieri related aparticularly horrific memory of a horse throwing him off and stomping on him, causing considerable damage to his liver and bruising his heart. Unfortunately, Fieri's free-spirited parents were traveling across Europe at the time and couldn't attend to the situation with the promptness it required. "I was f****d up. My mom was devastated," the chef said. Alawyer stood in and signed off on the court order that gave 10-year-old Fieri the medical attention he needed. Beyond a mean scar on his torso, the traumatic incident didn't seem to have cut Fieri too deeply. The celebrity chef'sranch-style residence in Santa Rosa is surrounded by nature, where farm animals — including horses— roam and graze freely.


Guy Fieri was blamed for the decline of Food Network

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When it started out in the 1990s, Food Network was a revelation. It opened the doors for millions ofAmericans to discover and indulge their taste for cooking shows, guided by legendary chefs like Emeril Lagasse inside their households with a simple flick of the TV remote. The channel quickly built up an impressive roster of celebrity names like Ina Garten, Bobby Flay, Anthony Bourdain, and Mario Batali, eventually finding its be-all and end-all supremo in 2006.


After winning "Food Network Star" that year, Guy Fieri shot up the ranks and, with several shows under his belt, became practically synonymous with the channel. While Food Network viewed him as a valuable asset, many took exception to the commercial direction culinary TV took after Fieri's advent. Former stars like Bourdain were unreserved in their criticism of the network and its new strain of celebrity chefs who fulfilled a single requisite: "a personality with a sauté pan," as Bourdain put it in an opinion piece forThe New York Times.

Post-2010, the network's relevance came into further question whenForbes noted a ratings drop andjournalist Allen Salkin, author of "From Scratch: The Uncensored History of the Food Network," stated, "The Network doesn't know where to go and has lost its courage." For many, the supposed decline boiled down to the channel's spiky-haired figurehead, despite the scorn of culinary elites. Nevertheless, Fieri remains Food Network's highest-paid star with a $100 million deal to his name, as of 2023.


The Most Tragic Things That Have Happened To Guy Fieri - The List (2024)
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