From a 6-foot-tall margarita machine rolled out on stage behind a black curtain to audience volunteers trying to inch cookies from their foreheads into their mouths with facial movements, Guy Fieri’s Food Show delivers a whole lot more than cooking. In fact, cooking seemed to be beside the point Tuesday night at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center.
Striding back and forth across the stage, the television super-star chef told funny stories, bantered with his crew, hurled T-shirts into the waving arms before him, and pumped the crowd into repeated frenzies. A loud, thumping music mix that bounced from “Sweet Home Alabama” to “That’s the Way I Like It” and many points in between set the tone for what Fieri called a “Foodapalooza.”
Australia-based flair bartender Hayden “Woody” Wood opened the 21/2-hour show by making candy-apple martinis, his mum’s Stomping Punch, and talked a few folks into gyrating publicly while learning how to shake and muddle cocktails. He signed off with a carnival-worthy performance of pouring from and flipping bottles simultaneously like a juggler.
“This ain’t your mama’s cooking show,” declared Fieri from the start, and he meant it. By 10 p.m., he had demonstrated only one dish, a Sangria Shrimp that he “plated” in a foot-tall martini glass.
He told the tale of frying turkey for the first time on a Thanksgiving morning, a fiasco that ended up with the pot of oil boiling over, a lawn on fire and a blackened turkey that rolled out against the fence.
North Charleston was the first stop on a 16-city, 25-day road tour for the chef, star of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” and other Food Network shows as well as NBC’s hit game show “Minute to Win It.
He invited six students from Wando High School culinary ProStart competition team to work during the show. They were tasked with food prep, some cooking, cleanup and whatever else was asked. The team recently placed fourth out of 41 teams in a national ProStart contest. Fieri is a longtime supporter of the teen culinary education program.
Before the show, Fieri met with the students and gave them a personal tour of his bus and outlined the night ahead.
“Now it’s time to put the rubber to the road,” he said. “You are the roadies to the rock show. You are the go-to people.” Fieri said he wanted to hear at least one thing each one learned from the show after it was over. “And I don’t want some candy answer,” he warned.
None of the students admitted to having any jitters, but all said they were excited. Some planned to ask Fieri to autograph their skullcaps.
“I got a haircut,” quipped junior Gavin Perry, 16. He, like the others, was decked out in a crisp, white chef’s jacket, baggy checked pants and black clogs.
“Í think it’s a great opportunity for myself and the team,” said senior and captain Jillian Reilly. “He’s funny and crazy.”
Fieri is big on parents and kids in the kitchen together, starting with own sons Hunter, 14, and Ryder, 5, but extends his passion to families everywhere. As he mentioned during the show, Fieri helped draft a Senate resolution in California declaring every Sunday a “Cooking With Kids Day.” He also launched a Cooking With Kids Foundation last summer.
“It’s not about me making history,” he said last week in an interview with The Post and Courier. “It’s about turning this boat around. We believed that processed food, faster food, convenience foods were going to take care of us, as long as we got the caloric intake, as long as we gained the energy source. Well, fine. We found out that’s not working. We have childhood diabetes, childhood obesity going on. Kids haven’t changed, the food’s changed. We have to get real food.”
Fieri’s star began rising when, as a California restaurateur, he won season two of “The Next Food Network Star” in 2006.