Guy Fieri is bringing Flavortown to Beantown this weekend when he teams up with Tom Brady again for the annual Best Buddies charity festivities.
For the second year in a row, the “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” star is hosting a food and wine festival with more than 30 of New England’s top chefs, which coincides with Friday’s celebrity-filled, Best Buddies Football Challenge at Harvard Stadium. The fun precedes Saturday’s bicycle ride in Hyannisport, with proceeds from each event going to benefit Best Buddies International, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to helping people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The cause is close to Fieri’s heart, as his cousin Doug has an intellectual disability and has competed in the Special Olympics. The 49-year-old Food Network icon got involved with Best Buddies after having dinner with the organization’s founder and Boston native Anthony Kennedy Shriver several years ago.
While he’s excited to be back in town, don’t expect to see the food fanatic on the gridiron during Friday’s game.
“I’ll be out there to say hello to everybody, but everybody’s got their jobs and their responsibilities. I’ll probably be stuck over in the kitchen doing what I do,” Fieri says. “Also, I don’t want to get stuck trying to cover [Julian] Edelman.”
We chatted with the Triple D star about this weekend’s charity events and (ahem) why his surprisngly healthy personal diet isn’t all that different from Brady’s meal plans.
The food and wine festival debuted at the Best Buddies event for the first time last year. What are you guys cooking up that’s new for 2017?
We had been talking about it for quite a while. When I first started with Buddies, it was just helping out with a menu and cooking out front on a barbeque. Then it just continued to grow, getting all those Boston chefs to support it, so it’s awesome! I think [it’s going to] become a really recognized food and wine festival.
Between this event and you’re new restaurant at Foxwoods, you’ve been spending a bit of time in New England. Any plans to expand into Boston’s food scene?
My wife is from North Providence, and one of my cousins lives in Boston. I just love the energy. Boston is one of the greatest of all towns with so much history and passion for food and family. It’s always been one of my favorite places to go. Foxwoods was a really nice opportunity and I partnered with a really good friend of mine, [Foxwoods president and CEO] Felix Rappaport, and Felix and the Foxwoods team donated a bunch of money last year and this year to the Best Buddies program. So, right now I think that’s fulfilling the need, but who knows. My buddy [chef] Michael Schlow is pretty successful with his restaurants in Boston, and I like the way he does food and operates. So there could be something in the future. I’m just happy to have what I have.
What are some of your favorite restaurants and eateries that you like to check out when you’re in Boston?
Oh boy. You say one of them and everyone gets upset with you. Of course, all of Schlow’s joints are great. Rino’s in East Boston is a great place. Jay Hajj’s joint over by City Diner. Listen, you just can’t go wrong. I don’t get the time to go visit all the joints that I want to, but like I always say, coming back, I’ll get a whole week, I’ll make my tour.
You previously stated that you’d be down to open a restaurant with Tom Brady, who’s known for his strict diet. What would that menu look like?
Tom, he’s a phenomenal athlete and he’s mindful of what he eats, how he eats and when he eats. You don’t get as great as you are without being on your game… I think Tom probably enjoys and eats a lot of the ways I eat. I love raw food. It’s just great food. When you’re working with quality ingredients and treating it with respect, and you’re being mindful of how they’re best utilized, that’s when you get the best out of them. You take your really great vegetables and you just treat them with respect and cook them the right way. Take them with your whole grains and proteins. Protein doesn’t mean there has to be meat. It would be a lot of fun. He’s a California guy, but he’s so rooted in New England, that if he did end up opening up spots — big scale, small scale, whatever it may be — I think he would do incredibly well. I’ve told him it before and I’ll tell him it again, if he ever wanted my help with it, I would be willing and happy to help him.
Speaking of healthy eating, you’ve been looking pretty lean and mean yourself these days.
I’ve been a whole grain, greens, salads and vegetables guy for probably longer than anybody would ever understand. Twenty years ago, I’d probably have pasta three times a week to now maybe having pasta one time a month. Because I’m so worried about the weight, that kind of thing, I just know what makes me feel better when I eat. My family and the way we eat, the way my parents eat (they live next door), we eat very sensibly. Not that we don’t all enjoy chicken parmesan, but the reality of it is, when you got my kind of schedule and work the way I work, I have to be very mindful of what I’m eating, what time I’m eating it and all that kind of stuff. It affects the way you sleep, it affects how active you are. People want to believe that it’s all pizza and corndogs and burgers, but I’m a real sensible eater. I really enjoy Asian food, a lot of Japanese. Seaweed salad and a miso soup, man, that’s it. I know people hear that and go, “Come on!” It’s the straight truth.
If you had to pick, who’s the Tom Brady of the food world?
Wow man. That’s a big one. I don’t know. One of my favorites in the food world has always been Jose Andres. He’s a real innovator. He’s another level of chef. There are great chefs, and Emeril [Lagasse] is another one of my favorites who I think would be recognized and is representative of being the greatest in the biz. But something interesting with the way Brady is and how masterful he is, and Jose is that way. Jose is just this really mindful, powerful, insightful, all of those kind of things. It would be Andres.
If you go:
Guy Cooking with Best Buddies Celebrity Chef Food and Wine Festival, June 2, 6 p.m. – 9 p.m., Harvard University, Cambridge, $100 – $135, gcwbb.org