"Life is a road trip," says celebrity chef and Food Network television personality Guy Fieri. "It's a continuous process where the destination can be secondary. It's fun and educational and is a great way to learn about your country." After years of hosting his popular "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" food-focused travel tour, Fieri's latest endeavor is "Guy's Grocery Games"—a supermarket cooking challenge where contestants create meals with limited money and ingredients. Also, Fieri and his team of celebrity cooks will go against Rachael Ray and her crew in the third season of "Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off."
Q. If you could have an ultimate food-based vacation, where would you go?
I love Italian food and could have a great time hitting all of Italy. I'd want to eat in Milan and Florence. I'd want to try the different sausages in Germany and then head to Norway to sample their cuisine. I'd also want to travel around Asia, because there are so many countries there with such diversity in food. I can eat some form of Asian food any time of the day. It's one of my favorite things in the world. I started eating sushi when I was seven years old. When my parents wanted me to try some new food that I had no interest in—no matter what kind of food it was—they'd bribe me by putting soy sauce on it, and then I'd eat it. I knew how to use a bamboo steamer before I knew how to make manicotti. I really need to visit a few Asian countries!
Q. What kind of trips did you take as a child?
My parents took us on lots of trips and adventures. We took a lot of family vacations. When I was five and my sister was one, we drove to Mexico in a green Ford Econoline with no air conditioning. When I was in sixth grade, we drove cross country to St. Louis. I remember that it was extremely hot and there were lightning bugs, which I had never seen before. We also went to the Grand Canyon and stayed at a campground where they had a swimming pool and a game room. On those family trips, I remember running around and meeting new kids and driving down the highway and asking our parents, "Are we there yet?"
Q. Do you try to give your own children those kinds of travel experiences?
A. We do. We're very driven that way. We took a big trip to Yosemite last year. We're into dirt bikes and off-road vehicles. We have an RV. We've also taken them to places like Antigua, Hawaii and Mexico. Traveling is one of the best ways for kids to learn about the world. My son, Hunter, and I are going to go backpack for a month off the grid around Europe after he graduates from high school, although now I'm thinking about scrapping that and going to Asia with him instead.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you're on the road?
A. As much as people think I'm eccentric, with these tattoos, spiky blond hair, hot rods and loud voice, I'm not an extravagant person. I live in just the second house I've owned for the past 18 years. I don't really splurge on the road. But when I'm really bored and a have a lot of time on my hands with no work to do, then I'll go out on a limb and rent a movie at the hotel room. That's living large for me! (Laughs) But I still look at the bill and think, "$16.99? You could buy that movie and keep it for that price!" And 95 percent of the time, work is paying for it. But it seems so wasteful. Now, my kids are completely different. They want to stay in the room and do nothing but order room service.
Q. Where is your go-to vacation spot?
A. Mexico. Maybe it's because my parents took me there when I was young or maybe just ’cause it's spectacular. I love Mexico! I love the people and I love the culture and the food and the weather and the really good tequila. I can't think of anything I don't like about Mexico.
Q. Where are your favorite road-trip destinations?
I love road trips, but I've got some weird requirements. I like to drive anywhere around town within an hour. But if the trip is going to be more than an hour, I've got to drive five hours or more. I hate three-hour drives. I just can't get into my rhythm.
Q. What kind of food do you look for when you're on the road?
I might stop at In-N-Out Burger on occasion but, in general, I won't eat fast food. I'm not saying that fast food doesn't have its place or that you shouldn't eat a fried-chicken sandwich. I'm saying try to go invest in the mom-and-pop joints and support local businesses. We often bring sack lunches in the car just in case.
Eat Where Guy Eats
Guy Fieri fans have created FlavortownUSA.com, a web community which documents the diners, drive-ins and dives frequented by Guy Fieri, but perhaps the best part of the site is the "Tell Guy Fieri" section where locals nominate their favorite restaurants. The website offers a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of dive restaurants and local favorites—clueing us all in on the down-home types of establishments that Fieri loves.