With his tattoos and bleached-blond panache, Food Network star Guy Fieri has become a fundraising must-have for food- and hunger-related causes.
His Triple Ten Closing Party Sunday night at City Winery will cap the third annual Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival, which began Thursday.
The $150-a-person event hosted by Fieri and featuring singer-songwriter Butch Walker sold out within days. Part of the festival’s proceeds will go to Share Our Strength, a Washington- based nonprofit that combats child hunger, and Food Bank for New York City, which distributes goods to about 1,000 food- assistance programs citywide.
The 950 tickets for Fieri’s cooking demonstrations at the New School’s Tishman Auditorium in Manhattan on Saturday and Sunday also sold out within days.
“My demos are just a little wild,” said Fieri, 42, who will show attendees how to whip up a plate of duck fried rice and blackened sesame salmon with noodle salad. “When the crowds show up, they’re amped and they’re pumped.”
Fieri traces his charitable work to a childhood encounter with a homeless man in California, where he grew up. “I was just devastated,” said Fieri, whose Food Network show is called “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.” He also hosts “Guy’s Big Bite” on the channel and the quirky talent show “Minute to Win It” on NBC.
This year, he is launching his Guy Fieri Foundation for Inspiration and Imagination to motivate children to reach their goals through cooking and other activities.
Seminars and demonstrations at the Wine & Food Festival this week will be conducted by Fieri’s fellow Food Network stars such as Giada De Laurentiis, Alton Brown, Bobby Flay and Masaharu Morimoto, and are all sold out.
“They’ve put together the ultimate rock arena for chefs,” Fieri said.
While living in Ferndale in northern California, Fieri started his culinary career at age 10, selling pretzels from a three-wheel bicycle cart he built with his father called “The Awesome Pretzel.”
Although some fans have pegged him as an aficionado of burgers, barbecue and fried foods, he grew up on a macrobiotic diet and got his first taste of European cuisine as a high- school exchange student in Chantilly, France.
“Probably the thing I enjoy the least is fried foods,” said Fieri. “I was eating sushi when I was 8 years old.”
After graduating from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with a degree in hospitality management, he launched Johnny Garlic’s, an Italian-influenced pasta grill in California’s Sonoma County with his business partner, Steve Gruber.
He followed up with Tex Wasabi’s, a sushi-southern barbecue fusion restaurant that serves up unique dishes such as a Tootsie Roll (a tempura-battered roll with smoked salmon and chili powder) and New York steak with wasabi butter.
“Who said that I had to be stuck in one style of cuisine?” Fieri said. “There are no boundaries.”
The Food Network’s New York Food and Wine Festival continues through Sunday. Information: http://www.nycwineandfoodfestival.com/2010/events.php?s=1
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