Forget the Hangover – I Survived the Guy Fieri Road Show

Statue of Bunk Johnson Harra's New OrleansWith Food Network Star set to begin its seventh season in just a few hours I am home recovering from my trek over to New Orleans to take in the Guy Fieri Road Show at Harrah’s Casino.  It was an epic adventure to say the least.  Hold your hats because here we go:

First a little geography.  I live in Mobile, AL which is give or take 185 miles due east of New Orleans on Interstate 10, roughly a two hour drive.  The first hour and forty-five minutes was a torrent of seriously technical food conversation between myself and my comrade (i.e. road dawg) Garrick a chef/instructor at a local culinary school.

Chef Garrick and I first met a few months ago in Dauphin Island, AL at a fund raiser for Gulf Oil Spill recovery with Food Network’s Alton Brown as master of ceremonies (HERE).  A month later we were both at another Oil Spill event this time MC’d by one Guy Fieri (HERE).

So anyway, we’re about 15 minutes from Canal Street when my right rear tire blows.  With just 35 minutes until the media meet & greet starts we get to change a tire on I-10, downtown New Orleans – 90 degrees, 90% humidity.  A nightmare right?

We are in the emergency lane 2 minutes when a Louisiana Stranded Motorists Truck pulls up behind us.  Garrick and I now know how our moms and girlfriends have felt every time we opened a stubborn jar lid for them.  That’s putting those casino dollars to good use.

Road-dude has the tire switched out in nothing flat.  We hop back in the cruiser with just enough time to park and get to the meet and greet.  Except the car won’t start.  Apparently when the tire blew it damaged something with the fuel delivery system and the engine can’t get enough gas to turnover.  Road-dude Canal St. in New Orleansagain steps up to the plate but this time even the Mighty Casey strikes out.  She’s dead in the water.  So Road-dude kindly drops us off at Canal St. just a few blocks from Harrah’s Casino – too late for the party but in plenty of time for Guy’s show.

We don’t know how we’re getting home from New Orleans but we’re damned sure going to catch Guy’s Food-a-palooza.  About 20 minutes into the show two ladies come in late and take the open chairs next to us.  One lady in particular catches my eye.  She is quite pretty, with quite lovely curly caramel colored hair and also quite familiar.

I start running through the anthology of pretty women I have seen in my 43 years.  School?  Maybe.  She kind of looks like . . .  nah.  Maybe we worked together at a restaurant.  Is she an actress or model?  I’m usually better at this but I am just a bit distracted by music, a steady stream of alcohol and a nagging inner voice screaming “How the F do you plan on getting home?”

Seriously is that?  No way.

After a very entertaining warm-up act by Woody the Australian flare bartender (that dude can chuck a bottle around, fo sho) they take a few minutes to clean the stage up from the booze-slingin’ and I’m thinking, I should talk to the cute lady, maybe I can figure out where I know her from.  But I’m too late; the show starts.

Guy Fieri at a recent event in Gulf Shores, ALAC/DC blares through the house speakers as first “Panini” Pete Blohme takes the stage, then Rich “Gorilla” Bacchi and finally the Guy himself.  Senor Fieri soon notices that there are a few empty seats right in front and offers them to anyone in the back with the nads to claw their way forward.  The two ladies bolt.  Just as they are taking their new seats at the stage’s edge Guy announces that Susie Fogelson, Food Network Star judge and the network’s Senior Vice President of Marketing has just joined the crowd.

Talk about blowing a golden opportunity.

The show goes on.  They cook, they joke and everyone drinks especially when  another Triple D chef joins them, Stretch from Grinders in Kansas City.  Stretch, donning his Sgt. Pepper best, helps Guy make a 25 gallon cocktail in a giant homemade frozen margarita maker that used two trash compactor motors to crush the ice.  The margarita was tasty, thank you.

Halfway through the show I get a call from my niece who lives just an hour away in Bay St. Louis, MS.  They are on their way and as luck would have it they’ll arrive about the same time the show is scheduled to be over.  Things are looking up.

After the show Chef Garrick and I make our way towards the stage.  The chance to visit again with Guy and Panini Pete is welcome but I want to track down Susie and give her the elevator pitch I should have given her when she was sitting right next to me.  But to no avail as she is quickly whisked backstage.  I’m wearing my VIP pass so I’m certain I could go back stage as well but my niece and her husband are somewhere in the casino.

As it turns out they are standing just outside the theater where the autograph seekers are lined-up to get their brand new Guy Fieri Food Cookbooks signed.  I can’t help but remark to my nephew-in-law that “all this is for a chef.”  My niece and her hubby are a very popular musical act on the Gulf Coast called Heather and the Monkey King.  The Monkey King knows I walked away from a ho-hum music career to be a chef.  He, too, appreciates the irony.

New Orleans Roast Beef Po BoyThe four of us walked around until we found a place to grub out, the Jimani, before heading to Bay St. Louis for the night.  BTW, I had a roast beef po boy – a New Orleans standard – my first non-alcoholic meal of the day.  Heather and the Monkey King had already planned to go to Mobile the next day so all was well.  Don’t worry, City of New Orleans, I’ll be back to get the car on Monday.  Until then, thanks for yet another adventure.  I’ve never been bored in the Big Easy.

I want to thank the National Pork Board for not only sponsoring the Road Show but also for inviting Chef Garrick and myself over to partake. I also want to thank the amazing hospitality of the people of Louisiana for doing everything they could to try and help us out. I also want to thank Stretch and Panini Pete for trying to find us a ride back to Mobile had my niece not showed up. Great guys all.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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