Last March, Guy Fieri was self-isolating at his northern California home, trying to figure out what he could do for the restaurants and service industry workers whose livelihoods were already being threatened by what was rapidly becoming a global health crisis. He started making phone calls and quickly convinced the National Restaurant Association and its nonprofit Educational Fund to partner with him to launch the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.
Within a couple of weeks, he'd already raised over $8 million. Last month, the eternally upbeat Food Network personality and restaurateur announced that his Relief Fund had brought in almost $25 million in donations, allowing him to give more than 43,000 restaurant employees a one-time grant of $500.
After more than a year of non-stop do-gooding, and constantly worrying about... well, the entire service industry, you wouldn't blame Fieri for taking a break or asking someone else to step up for a change—but that's not how Guy Fieri operates. "As long as I'm above ground, as long as I can help out, I'll do it," he told Food & Wine. "My friends and family get a kick out of it, because I've got my own restaurants and projects, but I get more fun and inspiration out of this. I was raised by amazing parents to be community-oriented, and I've got a good platform to work from. I'm fortunate to be in the position I'm in, so I'll do it as long as I can, and as long as people listen."
That's why Fieri has taken charge of another project that he hopes can benefit the restaurant workers that he loves—and if you talk to him for more than three minutes, you'll figure out that he loves every single one of them. On Saturday, June 12, Fieri will be hosting Guy's Restaurant Reboot Presented by Lending Tree, a prime-time special that he hopes will be both a celebration of the restaurants that have been able to endure the challenges of the past year and a source of encouragement for the next generation of restaurant owners.
"This is about bringing celebrities, entertainers, chefs, and restaurants together, all with the message of trying to inspire and promote the industry," he said. "It's not a telethon. No one is calling in, and we're not asking for money [because] we've already raised three-hundred grand."
Oh yeah, you didn't expect Fieri to hang up the phone, did you? Because he's raised another $300,000 in grant money that will be given out to 11 burgeoning restaurant owners during that evening's broadcast. "There's a lot of people out there that really love to cook, and who want to take care of people," he explained. "There are businesses, landlords, and communities that want to see restaurants prevail, and are making things happen where they can. It's never an easy time to open a restaurant. You have to have a lot of drive and enthusiasm—but do you know what helps with enthusiasm? A $25,000 grant from Guy's Restaurant Reboot. That's a nice little starter."
While Fieri had his phone out, he also called some of his friends to see if they'd be willing to participate, and they all enthusiastically agreed. "Everybody loves this industry," Fieri said. "We go to restaurants and bars for the good days and the bad days, for celebrations at both ends of the spectrum. And when you start thinking that your favorite pizzeria, your favorite restaurant, your favorite bar could be on the cusp of closing right now... well, that's why the future of this industry is so important to us. And I think that's why everybody who's gotten the message about Guy's Restaurant Reboot has said 'I want to help.'"
The show, co-host by chef Antonia Lofaso, will include a segment called "Behind the Counter Conversations," in which Fieri hosts a roundtable discussion with more than a half-dozen other celebrity chefs including José Andres, Cat Cora, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marcus Samuelsson, and Buddy Valastro.
Another part of the event, "Off The Hook Celebrity Creations," will allow NFL star Rob Gronkowski, former NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal, and model Adriana Lima to create new menu items at their favorite restaurants in Tampa, Atlanta, and Miami, respectively. (Their creations will also be available for delivery on Grubhub, in case you've ever said 'Yes, I'd like to have what Gronk's having.') Oh, and Diplo and Old Dominion will be performing, because Guy Fieri apparently knows everybody.
"The whole deal is this: yes, we need to raise money and all of that, but we need to raise awareness too," he said. "Our industry has been hit really hard. Employment's a tough thing right now, new products are a tough thing, dining still has its ups and downs with how people can do it. That's why we need this kind of informational, inspirational, motivational event."
Guy's Restaurant Reboot will kick off at 7 p.m. ET on June 12. The free Livestream will be available on Guy Fieri's Facebook page and will be simulcast by its partner LiveXLive on more than 20 other platforms, including LiveXLive, TikTok, Twitter, Twitch, and YouTube. It can also be seen at GuysRestaurantReboot.com.
And as soon as the cameras stop recording, as soon as the stage is cleared, and as soon as the last napkins and to-go containers are thrown in the recycling bin, you just know Fieri's going to be thinking about what he should do next.