It’s official; starting Monday, Guy Fieri takes New York. After overseeing five restaurants in California and spending two years as the face of the Food Network, the celebrity chef opens Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, his first New York restaurant in the heart of the city: Times Square. His new joint has around 500 seats, three levels, and will feature the food that helped make the frost-tipped chef famous. I pulled Fieri away from grilling up pizzas at his son’s birthday party in order to chat on the phone with the chef about his New York debut.
What took you so long to get to New York?
I am a California guy. I came to New York before, but I had never spent a long time there. It’s an amazing place with such a strong collection of restaurants. To be honest, not being from the East Coast, you kind of go play ball where you know how to play ball. But the more times I was in New York, the more I looked at it and thought, “Wow, I would sure like to do a restaurant here.” But I didn’t have any roots in the city. Then I met Jon Bloostein, who owns Heartland Brewery. Someone came to me and said Jon was interested in doing a restaurant with me and suddenly we were off running.
Why did you decide now was the time?
You have to do it when it’s the right time, and I wanted make sure I got the right connections, the right partner, and the right energy.
So, you and Bloostein have become quite the pair…
Jon is a mastermind; the dude has got it ten-fold. Jon is so creative, and he goes at everything with such a drive and such a passion. I love seeing someone who runs that hard.
Why Times Square?
Being in Times Square and being around all these types of people—it’s the heartbeat of the city.
Do you feel like the space suits you?
I lost my little sister to cancer a year and half ago and I have a tattoo on my arm for her. When you walk into the restaurant, by the side of the bar, they are doing a chalk mural of this tattoo of mine. There are a lot of pictures of my cars, and a lot of stuff about me. It’s funny the things you will see on the wall, like “love, peace and taco grease.” This is my hangout, this is my casa, this is my gig.
How do you think your restaurant will fit into the New York food scene?
I am trying to make something for everybody but still gives people a lot of culinary opportunities. It’s going to be great food in an eclectic environment. If you are looking for loud and wild, we got that. Quieter, or large tables, or watching the kitchen—we got that, too. We know we are going to have to deliver the real-deal food. We will have to stay focused, but I am confident that we really have sharp players. Two of my culinary guys from my team [in Los Angeles] are there full time. It’s going to be really fun
Will you have any special, signature dishes just for your New York restaurant?
The whole menu is the tough part. When we were designing it, there were 90 items, and then we had to pare down. Now, we got an eclectic mix of pastas, and not your traditional Italian linguine and clams. For example, we have Louisiana pasta with blackened chicken breast. We have spicy onion rings that we hand make, and sashimi tuna tacos in crispy wanton skins. Basically, it’s my style of doing food and it’s all fortified with my Guy Fieri style and flavors.
When people come to a restaurant like this, whether it’s because they are fans of mine, for the food, or just because they’re in New York, I want them to walk away thinking they are taking something back with them. We are also making some custom beers with some great names like the El Jefe. Jon made all these beers in the style we were looking for, and my tattoo artist made all the logos for the beer, like there is a keg that is in a gun. It’s just really cool
Does this new restaurant mean we will be seeing more of you here?
Like crazy. The TV thing is a blessed opportunity, but I am still a chef in a restaurant. I make it to New York once or twice a month, and now, even more. We might get an apartment since the restaurant will be my home base.