How A Last-Minute Decision On Guy Fieri's Tournament Of Champions Is Helping Restaurants

While talking to The Chicago Tribune earlier this March, Guy Fieri detailed how in the hours closing in before the shooting of the latest season of Tournament of Champions, he called Courtney White, president of Food Network, with an idea. "I said, 'Listen, we've got restaurants that are going out of business. We got chefs that have restaurants that are going out of business. We have chefs that are friends with restaurants that are hurting,'" he recounted, then added what he thought could be of help.

The idea they came upon was to donate $10,000 to a restaurant selected by the winner of each round during the Tournament of Champions run. The piece continues, noting that this decision is in keeping with Fieri's reputation of becoming something of a food industry hero during the pandemic. Reportedly, he and the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation have managed to raise over $25 million to assist restaurant workers whose livelihoods have been wrecked along with the industry.  

Praise is tempered with some critique

While Guy Fieri has certainly contributed to some restaurants getting by during the pandemic, his choice to create Flavortown Kitchen, the ghost kitchen brand that prepares his recipes for delivery, has received some push back in Connecticut.

In a piece shared by MSN from Hartford Courant, Tyler Anderson, a well known local chef, allowed that Fieri has done a lot for the industry, but "These 'pop up ghost kitchen' restaurants take business away from local restaurants who need it more than ever right now." While the idea is that a ghost brand could help local restaurants by providing them a delivery app name they could work behind, the piece does note that a lot of the kitchens that do operate as ghost kitchens for Flavortown Kitchen and Mariah's Cookies belong to Earl Enterprises, which was founded by Robert Earl, who also owns Virtual Dining Concept, which helped create Flavortown Kitchen and Mariah's Cookies. So, local kitchens are not the backbone of the operation, but a competitor to subsume. 

"People are using their celebrity to take advantage of a situation, do a short-term play, quick-cash money grab and then get out," Anderson continued, and even though it is a short-term operation, that short-term operation is occurring at a time when restaurants really do not need the added competition. 

This, however, does not necessarily detract from Fieri's efforts to push the Food Network to donate to restaurants, which is a laudable idea.