My wife and I were at the Chill & Grill Festival in Waveland Park on Saturday when suddenly – out of nowhere – Food Network chef and personality Guy Fieri appeared in all of his magnificent bleached-highlights glory.
(OK, so maybe it was more of a scheduled event than a magical appearance, but you never know with Guy Fieri. I've always imagined him to be Food Network's version of Leap Day Williams.)
Unfortunately, by the time Guy Fieri showed up we already had been at the festival for almost two hours and we both were hot, thirsty and tired – none of which were conditions that the sudden appearance of Guy Fieri would satiate. So we went home.
But not before watching just a bit of the introduction. The handlers pumped up the crowd, Guy Fieri walked onto stage like a boxing champion and then he started throwing T-shirts toward the crowd like a teenager making minimum wage at a ballpark.
It was just like the start of a concert.
"Doesn't he kind of remind you of a rock star penguin," my wife asked as we headed toward the exit with a backward glance toward Guy Fieri.
I couldn't have agreed more.
He does kind of look and act like I imagine an animated rock star penguin would. Always excited. Always with sunglasses. Disney probably already is salivating at the prospects.
I know people who love Guy Fieri. I know people who hate him. I'm somewhere in between.
I obviously am not a big enough fan to say out in the sun to see him do a demonstration. But I'm also quite content to sit on the couch and spend an hour watching "Diners, Drive-ins and Dives" reruns. He's a compelling host for the show, with just the right amount of enthusiasm to make the show entertaining.
Most importantly, he's one of the best success stories around. Without any formal training as a chef, he has become the face of a TV network devoted entirely to food. He turned winning a "Next Star" show into actual stardom, which happens about never unless your name is Guy Fieri or Kelly Clarkson and he has her trounced at the moment. This is a man with not nearly as much discernible cooking skill as the truly great chefs around the country, yet he might be the best known of them all.
To some this is tragedy.
But as for me, all I can do is stand and politely clap – just like I did when he was introduced at Chill & Grill. Whether you like the man or not, you have to respect him for what he's accomplished.
• Joe Grace is a writer and journalist who lives in Chicago with his wife. He doubts he will ever be compared to a rock star penguin. Somehow, he's OK with that. Write to him at email@example.com.
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