The Real Reason Guy Fieri Felt He Needed To Do Restaurant Reboot - Exclusive

Guy Fieri's "Restaurant Reboot" premiered June 12, attracting 4 million viewers to its massive celebration of the American restaurant industry, during which Fieri awarded $300,000 in grant money to 11 deserving restauranteurs (via PR Newswire). The live stream was simulcast across all of Fieri's social channels (including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Twitch, and LiveXLive) and featured celebrity appearances by José Andrés, Shaquille O'Neal, Marcus Samuelsson, Cat Cora, Buddy Valastro, Diplo, and many more. But the low-key reason many viewers actually tuned in was to watch the adorable banter between Fieri and his co-host, Antonia Lofaso, who happens to be quite a force herself. 

During an exclusive interview with Mashed, chef Lofaso shared how "Reboot" came together as well as details on the making of "Restaurant Hustle 2020: All on the Line," Fieri's documentary that followed her and three other restauranteurs as they worked through the COVID-19 pandemic. Fieri and Lofaso are longtime friends as well as colleagues. In fact, it was a moment in that friendship that may have helped inspire "Restaurant Reboot." 

Guy Fieri managed to see "15 steps ahead"

Antonia Lofaso has been a cooking competition contender enough times to understand that when you become a chef, expecting the unexpected is in the job description. That didn't prevent Lofaso from finding herself caught off-guard, nevertheless, when Guy Fieri FaceTimed her as she was bagging groceries for home deliveries in her restaurant Scopa in the spring of 2020. Due to the restrictions placed on restaurants to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19, in that moment, Lofaso was contemplating having to lay off about 500 of her staffers in the next week. "I picked up the phone and I saw his face and heard his voice. He's like, 'Sister, what's going on?' [and] I just started crying," Lofaso told Mashed. 

When Fieri asked Lofaso if she was okay, she responded honestly: "I am not okay ... This is bananas. I don't know what's going to happen." But allowing her vulnerability to peek through may have helped plant the seed that eventually grew into Fieri's powerful pandemic restaurant documentary, "Restaurant Hustle." And that emotional moment was but the first of many as Lofaso put her trust in Fieri, allowing his documentary cameras to follow her around as she made the not-for-novices pandemic pivot. But Fieri was already seeing "15 steps ahead," as Lofaso observed. And that played a significant role in the genesis of "Restaurant Reboot."

For Guy Fieri, there was still more work to be done

Guy Fieri got to work producing "Restaurant Hustle," then helped raise $21.5 million for restaurant workers in need of financial relief, and otherwise busied himself advocating on behalf of the restaurant industry (via Restaurant Relief Fund). "We were all doing 'Restaurant Hustle,'" Lofaso explained to Mashed, referring to herself, and chefs Christian Petroni, Marcus Samuelsson, and Maneet Chauhan, who also participated in the documentary. "And Guy was like, 'I still want to keep going, raise $25 million. I'm going to do 'Restaurant Reboot.'"

It seems like the more that Fieri did for the restaurant industry in the wake of the pandemic, he felt called to do even more. So it was back to the drawing board for Fieri, getting all the sponsors to donate more money to help restauranteurs not merely survive but to rebuild and thrive. And for 11 deserving restauranteurs, that ended up being more than $25,000 each. That is "no small sum of money," as Lofaso observed. "It was just incredible to be a part of it. Incredible."

If you haven't yet seen "Restaurant Hustle 2020: All On The Line," you can stream it now on Food Network. To check out LendingTree's "Restaurant Reboot" with Guy Fieri, you can stream it on GuysRestaurantReboot.com.