Guy Fieri wanted to host Food Network’s “Tournament of Champions” to showcase a roster of “super-chefs” that he admires. But the competition (premiering at 8 p.m. Wednesday) isn’t filled exclusively with love.
What was the most enjoyable part of the show? “Watching my brothers and sisters go through hell,” Fieri joked to USA TODAY. “It’s really great to watch the judges.”
He calls those judges, including celebrity chefs Marcus Samuelsson and Jonathan Waxman, “the heavy-hitters.” They’re tasting dishes from 16 chefs, who compete head-to-head in a bracket-style tournament. A cash prize, a title and bragging rights are on the line in what Fieri dubbed “Munch Madness.”
“We brought anybody and everybody to collaborate to make this happen,” he says, noting that the new show shares camera and culinary crews from his other series, “Guy’s Grocery Games” and “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.”
Fieri sports a championship-style diamond-encrusted ring with the initials “DDD,” given to him by “Diners” executive producer Frank Matson. The chef, his crew and his family all received one to mark the 400th episode. Last year, Fieri, 52, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, something he says he never thought possible. But between the loss of family and friends, including his sister Morgan and Chef Carl Ruiz, the wildfires in his Northern California neighborhood and the coronavirus outbreak, Fieri tries to stay grounded.
“We’re just a little piece of this; we don’t have all this great power that we think we do,” Fieri says of the fires. “I think when you get kind of humbled by that, it kind of changes your perspective a bit.”
The chef planned a follow-up to his 2016 series “Guy and Hunter’s European Vacation,” in which he and his son would travel and cook throughout Asia. The project is now on hold due to the coronavirus threat.
“We just got the call; they said, ‘Time out, let’s hold off a second. Let’s figure out what’s going on before you guys take off in May,’” he reveals. “It’s heartbreaking to think of the people that are suffering and the folks that are being quarantined, and not having answers.”
It seems especially disheartening for Fieri, who views food as “a great common denominator.” He semi-jokes that world summits should be catered by great chefs to help bridge misunderstandings.
“When you start to understand somebody’s food or you start to understand somebody’s culture, and why they eat the food,” he explains, “then you start to get a little more perspective on what they’re about.”
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