Guy Fieri, a Good Dude, Raises More Than $20 Million for Restaurant Workers

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Perhaps no celebrity chef is as unnecessarily polarizing or as unfairly demeaned as Guy Fieri. As host of both Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and Guy’s Grocery Games has been an outspoken advocate of bold flavors and the independent (often family-owned) restaurants across the country that dish them out.

Somehow, though, his bleached hair, over-the-top menu items, and unironic enthusiasm for out-of-bounds food rubs people the wrong way. For a long time, hating Fieri and his brand of loud, brash cooking was a requirement for becoming a Serious Food Person, best exemplified by a scathing New York Times review of his Manhattan restaurant. He was an easy punching bag, a stand-in for all things lowbrow and proudly unpretentious whose Donkey Sauce might as well have been poison to most coastal elites.

If you still hold onto that increasingly arbitrary and incredibly petty Fieri hatred, you might be surprised to learn that the mayor of Flavortown is doing more to help unemployed restaurant workers than most actual mayors. Fieri recently teamed up with the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation to launch the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, which provides grants to restaurant workers who’ve lost wages or their jobs in the wake of Covid-19. How much did he help raise? Just a casual $21.5 million.

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Instead of filming himself singing “Imagine” from his mansion, Fieri told TMZ that he sent out personal videos to “heavy hitters [and] CEOs involved in the restaurant business” asking them to step up and contribute to the Restaurant Employe Relief Fund. So far, Fieri’s efforts have translated to more than 40,000 unique $500 grants distributed to restaurant workers across the country.

Though $20 million is a massive milestone, the giving isn far from over. “As long as the money comes in, we’re going to continue to give these grants,” Fieri told TMZ. Given how quickly the government’s Payroll Protection Plan funding got snatched up, it’s pretty clear that independent restaurants and their employees still need just about all the financial help they can get.

And if raising eight figures for restaurant workers and officiating 100 gay weddings in a single day aren’t enough to convince you that Guy is a fundamentally solid dude, maybe his the next phase of his fundraising efforts might do the trick. On Friday, May 15, Guy and his son Hunter will compete against actor/eccentric Bill Murray and his restaurateur son Homer in the “Nacho Average Showdown.” The two teams will create signature nacho dishes in the hope of raising even more money for the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund. The whole thing goes down on Facebook Live at 5PM EST, with help from celebrity judges Terry Crews and Shaquile O’Neal.

So unless you’ve raised $21.6 million or more for underemployed or laid-off restaurant workers over the last two months, you should probably give Guy Fieri a pass at least until the pandemic is over. In the meantime, you can chip in with a donation of your own here.

 

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