The pandemic's impact on the restaurant and bar industry has been devastating. But Guy Fieri wants to make sure people recognize how amazing it's been, too.
"Restaurant owners, chefs, workers, anybody in this business — we adapt and overcome. We have people who have learned how to make restaurants out in parking lots," the Food Network star told Yahoo Entertainment on Friday at the Encore Boston Harbor, where he appeared at the Guy Cooking with Best Buddies Celebrity Chef Food Festival. "The industry is ever-changing. People say, 'What do you think the state of the business is?' I think it's awesome. I think people are happy to be back, and the community is so happy to have the restaurants back. Restaurants are more than just a place to eat and drink. Restaurants are a community meeting place. [Restaurants are] a real cornerstone in communities and we would be very unhappy and very lost without them."
Still, Fieri believes there is room for improvement.
"What we haven't done well is, some people are forgetting how important the restaurant industry is. This is one of the number one employers of single parents, retirees, college students, high school students. There's just so many people who benefit from the industry," said Fieri. "People need to come back to their jobs. So hopefully that's going to be the next wave that's going to take place."
Friday's event kicked off the 22nd Annual Best Buddies Challenge: Hyannis Port, a bike ride that benefits Best Buddies International, a nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for friendship, employment, leadership development and inclusive living for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. A long-time supporter of the organization, it's one that’s close to Fieri's heart, inspired by his cousin and friend Dougie, who was on hand for the big event.
It was with family that Fieri spent the early days of the pandemic, at his home in northern California with his wife and two sons, Hunter, 25, and Ryder, 15. The family embraced the outdoors on their ranch in the wine country, logging and tending to their pack of over 500 goats. While Fieri clarified "it was so sad and scary, really scary" for much of the country at that time, he found it to be "probably the greatest time of my life."
"I've always been a busy person, and I work a lot," said Fieri. Being at home allowed him to team up with his sons to transform his beloved Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives into a new format, Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Takeout.
"We invented the show, triple D to-go," said Fieri. "Ryder had the Go-Pro [camera] on the sticks, Hunter was my co-host, and we called restaurants and said 'Hey, send us this dish you were working on, and we filmed it ourselves. Ryder was a cameraman. It was a very influential time for Ryder, spending that time with him."
That period was also when Fieri teamed up with the National Restaurant Association to establish the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund, which has since raised more than $21.5 million for restaurant workers throughout the country.
"When you have some free time, that's when we came up with the idea of raising all that money," said Fieri. "We try to find the silver lining in stuff that we can."