How Guy Fieri has become a food industry hero during the pandemic

"It's an understatement to say things aren't looking good, and we haven't faced the worst of it yet," Guy Fieri explained to Grub Street in regards to the restaurant industry in December 2020. However, Guy Fieri has put effort into mitigating the worst effects of the pandemic on the food industry. The most notable, for which he was lauded as "the Fundraiser of Flavortown" by Bloomberg, is his partnership with the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund (RERF).

According to RERF, with the help of Fieri, over $21.5 million was raised and distributed to over 43,000 restaurant workers in the form of $500 grants to pay rent, bills, childcare, and other necessities. To many, $500 may sound small, but between the prolonged lockdowns and the wranglings over unemployment benefits, the grants proved a lifesaver to those who received them. For example, amongst the testimonials given by recipients, Alice H. from Kentucky says "THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH! You have no idea what this means to me in this time right now. This is truly a light at the end of a long dark tunnel I have been in during this process."

In addition to RERF, Guy Fieri has also partnered with Barstool Fund, an initiative started by Barstool Sports' founder Dave Portnoy. Explaining his support to Fox News, Fieri said, "When you start looking at them [small businesses] falling off, they don't have the finances to make it through a month or two months and if they did, that's gone by now." During COVID, then, every initiative is needed.

Guy Fieri is giving a voice to the restaurant industry's struggles

In addition to his money-raising efforts, Guy Fieri has also directed and produced a documentary on Food Network called Restaurant Hustle 2020: All On The Line that premiered on December 27, 2020 (via CNN). The documentary examined the changes that four restaurant owners — Antonia Lofaso, Christian Petroni, Maneet Chauhan, and Marcus Samuelsson — were forced to implement due to the pandemic.

Instead of an indulgence in tragedy, the point of the film was to be uplifting. Chef Chauhan explained to CNN: "[Executive producer Guy Fieri] said that this would be a great inspiration for others in the industry who are going through the same pain. And even if it comes to nothing, your kids, when they are older, they will see the obstacles that came along your way and how you guys overcame it." The documentary includes some wrenching scenes, but it also focuses on how these businesses meet the challenges of the pandemic. Fieri describes these restaurants to Food Network as "the heart and soul of their communities."

The documentary serves as a 2020 bookend for Fieri's coverage of the industry during COVID. As Food & Wine covered in April, Fieri recorded three special episodes of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives: Takeout in which he remotely checked in on four previously appearing chefs to see how they were navigating the virus.