As one of the most recognizable figures on Food Network, Guy Fieri has come a long way from his roots growing up in Northern California selling pretzels. He spent the early part of his career in the restaurant business, from being a manager and then a district manager, which eventually led him and a business partner to open their first restaurant called “Johnny Garlic’s” in Santa Rosa, California, which ultimately expanded to multiple locations. Some of Guy’s restaurants include Guy Fieri’s Chicken Guy!, Guy’s Vegas Kitchen & Bar, and Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ. Parallel to his restaurant group expansion, he currently hosts TV shows like “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” and “Guy’s Ranch Kitchen.” This year, Guy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame after a decade as a media personality.
In the below conversation, Guy shares how being a foreign exchange student shaped who he is today, how he’s stayed true to himself, the impact his dad had on his life, the life lessons he’s taught his children, and his best career advice.
Dan Schawbel: How did being a foreign exchange student in France shape who you are today?
Guy Fieri: When you grow up in Northern California, you think you know everything and then as soon as you travel outside of your comfort zone, you realize that the world is enormous. I traveled a lot with my parents and had a pretty good perspective of how big the United States was, but when you go to another country, with a different culture, you realize that the world is a much bigger place.
Dan: How did you adapt to the entertainment industry while staying true to yourself?
Guy: I had already made it in business and accomplished so many goals I wanted to accomplish. I wanted to be a great dad, husband, chef, and restaurant owner. At 35 years old, I had done everything I wanted to do. Getting the opportunity to do television, I thought, “you know what, I don’t know how long this is going to last, I’m going to appreciate every moment and take it responsibly and respectfully, while staying grounded to my family and true to what I want and believe in.” I was already at that age that I could handle it. Being accomplished in what I wanted to do already, and being a little older, allowed me to be more balanced.
Dan: What impact did your dad have on the man you’ve become?
Guy: My dad had probably the greatest impact of anybody. I was recently just on a road trip with my kids in Canada. I was sitting there telling them about insulators on an electric power line. I looked at my 13-year-old looking at me like, “why are you telling me this?” It was the random information, at random times throughout the course of my life, that really gave me a big perspective and blanket of knowledge. Knowledge is power, and my dad continually gave me a ton of knowledge. We did a lot of critical thinking when I was a kid and I think that critical thinking is one of the most important tools that I have. It gives me the chance to evaluate things from so many different perspectives before I make a decision. It’s something we should teach more in schools. I can’t say enough about how big of an impact my dad had on me.
Dan: What life lessons have you shared with your children?
Guy: We spend a lot of time talking about life lessons, both the good and bad, and the ups and downs. I try to pull from all of the lessons that my dad taught me. One of the big ones we talk a lot about is that it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it. There’s great things that are going to happen to you, how are you going to handle it? And, then bad things can happen to you, how are you going to handle it?
Don’t just take the knee-jerk reaction to what goes on. Instead, take the 360 view of what’s taking place before making a comment, reaction, and movement. One of the best things about the road trip was taking the time, having the conversations, having the interaction, and the dialogue. We can’t have enough time talking with our kids and sharing experiences and also listening to theirs. Communication is the key.
Dan: What is your best piece of career advice?
Guy: My best piece of career advice is to surround yourself with great people. When you get in the vortex of things going on, you need people that are standing on the inside, outside, and all around you that can give you perspective. You need to have people you can really count on, that you can believe in, that have balance, experience, awareness and the same values. Without question, surrounding yourself with great people is one of the most critical aspects to my success or anyone’s success. You’ve heard all the bad stories about people that have been swindled out of their money, or have made bad career decisions, and that usually has to do with the people around them. So, surround yourself with great people.