The Emotional Moment That Happened Between Antonia Lofaso And Guy Fieri - Exclusive

Watching celebrity chefs interact on television, you might be inclined to think that not only do they all know everyone, but that they also have genuine affection for one another. Well guess what? You're basically spot on, and that goes double for the celebrity chefs you see joking amiably with one another on the Food Network. As chef and culinary competition judge Antonia Lofaso told Mashed during an exclusive interview (in which she discussed her time on "Restaurant Reboot," which she co-hosts with celebrity chef Guy Fieri), "All of us that are in ... the Food Network world are like a little family." And while she was referring, in part, to the fact that she, Fieri, Alex Guarnaschelli, and other stars do enjoy spending time together outside of work, what Lofaso was really getting at was that all that time spent together has served to cultivate an abiding closeness and understanding between them. 

Of course, that closeness and understanding is part of what makes the Food Network's programming so compelling. (Showing chefs, judges, and contestants interact in a considerate and respectful way can be a breath of fresh air for some viewers.) It's also why shows like Fieri's "Restaurant Reboot" are even possible, let alone successful. In fact, it was a single emotional moment that happened between Antonia Lofaso and Guy Fieri — a private moment between friends and colleagues — that may have, indeed, planted the seed that ultimately grew into both "Restaurant Hustle" and "Restaurant Reboot." 

It all started with a FaceTime call

Back in March 2020, before the harsh realities of what a pandemic-related lockdown really meant had become apparent to many, the restaurant industry was already reeling. Antonia Lofaso had to suddenly close one of her three L.A. restaurants and reduce hours for her staff. The chef was sitting in one of her other two restaurants, Scopa, bagging groceries. She and her remaining restaurant staff were putting together packages for people for whom leaving home for any reason, let alone going into a grocery store, would have presented too high a risk. In the midst of all of this chaos and uncertainty, Lofaso's phone rang. Who was it? 

It was Guy Fieri, that's who. He was FaceTiming her, which he sometimes likes to do with Lofaso (it's kind of an inside joke, Lofaso explained to Mashed, as Fieri knows how much she loves to video chat). According to Lofaso, she picked up the phone and promptly broke down in tears. "I saw his face and heard his voice. He's like, 'Sister, what's going on?' I just started crying," the chef shared. 

This emotional moment between Fieri and Lofaso led to a crucial pitch

It was a single, wordless moment between Lofaso and Fieri, restauranteur to restauranteur, but it was also an emotional one, friend to friend. The FaceTime conversation must have deeply affected Fieri based on what happened immediately after. By the next morning, Fieri set Lofaso a text to inform her he had set up a meeting with Courtney White, the head of Food Network. By that afternoon, the documentary "Restaurant Hustle," which ended up being a sort of prequel to "Restaurant Reboot," as Lofaso explained to Mashed, had been greenlit. 

"So, I think that when he saw me on FaceTime and I was crying," Lofaso explained, "it was like there was the thing where he'd be like, 'We should record this.'" Even when Lofaso expressed her natural reservation about starring in a documentary while so many restaurant workers were on furlough, Fieri knew it was the best decision she could make, including for her staff. "You don't understand how powerful this is going to be for the whole world to see this," Fieri told Lofaso. And once it was a "go," those reservations evaporated. "This [was] a part of history," the chef pointed out, and "Guy Fieri ... has figured out a way, I want to say, just to make sure that the general public knows what's going on ... and that people in the industry feel like they're supported." And that, as far as Lofaso is concerned, is "the biggest thing that's happened over the last year and a half" in the restaurant industry. "We all rallied behind each other in a way this year we've never seen before."

If you haven't yet seen "Restaurant Hustle 2020: All On The Line," you can catch it on Food Network. To see more of Antonia Lofaso, watch her co-hosting LendingTree's "Restaurant Reboot" with Guy Fieri, which is streaming on 20+ platforms, in addition to Guy's Facebook page and can be viewed at GuysRestaurantReboot.com.