Hunter Fieri Talks About What It's Like To Be Guy's Son And The Prince Of Flavortown - Exclusive Interview

Hunter Fieri was just 10 years old when his father, the legendary Guy Fieri, won "Food Network Star," and in the years since has watched his dad's star power build a veritable Fieri food empire that includes the Food Network shows "Guy's Grocery Games," "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives," and "Guy's Family Road Trip," as well as several restaurants and a tequila brand co-launched with rockstar Sammy Hagar. During those years, Guy Fieri's oldest son himself has transformed, from tow-headed TV sidekick to an emerging culinary star of his own right; his Instagram bio self-proclaims that Hunter Fieri is "The Prince of Flavortown." (Note that his dad's nickname is a more humble, "The Mayor of Flavortown," per The Wrap.)

So has it really been like to grow up Fieri? In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Hunter shared what he's learned from his father, plus his ambitions for the future–which is getting a running start, thanks to a collaboration with the plant-based pasta brand ZENB and a mini-documentary, "What Plants Can Do."

Why Hunter Fieri is passionate about plant-based foods

Why did you decide to collaborate with ZENB? Are you passionate about plant-based foods?

No, we're [really into it] –- our family was really big into being plant-based. We're not totally plant-based, but we like to indulge ourselves in it and learn about it because it's such a misconception with these plant-based and going vegan, vegetarian. People think, "Oh, well it doesn't taste as good, vegetables don't taste good like that." It's all about how you cook it, right? And so, when [ZENB] reached out to me and said they wanted to do a little partnership, a little collab with that, and I was like, "Absolutely, this is awesome." I think when a new product come into the market like that, and it tastes awesome, why not show the world?

ZENB's pasta is made from yellow peas. What does that taste like?

That's the thing, is everyone's so skeptical too when a pasta comes out that I guess you could say is vegan, maybe not vegan, but it's plant-based. Everyone thinks, "Oh, it's not going to taste as good as wheat pasta." But it tastes, actually, delicious. I tried chickpea pasta and I've the lentil pasta sub –- it's not really my forte. But this 100% yellow pea pasta, I tell you what: If you put it next to a bowl of regular Barilla pasta and you try them both, you would not know the difference.

It tastes just like regular wheat-based pasta?

Yeah, I mean, maybe a high level chef would notice a little bit, but it's pretty prime.

Do you serve it with Italian sauce?

You can start with whatever you want. You could do pasta salad, I mean, you could do lasagna. They don't make lasagna noodles yet, but you could do lasagna. I mean, I'm making a dish today and I'm going the Cajun chicken route and you can do whatever you want. It's just pasta, so you can take it to a whole other level ... I will say that ZENB, they only offer their products online as of now. Hopefully, that'll change because I want to go to the supermarket and get some. Then, right now, they offer pasta and four different sauces, but there's more coming out so I'm excited to see what they got coming.

How Guy Fieri feels about plant-based foods

How does your dad Guy Fieri feel about this collaboration with ZENB and "What Plants Can Do," the mini-documentary that you hosted?

He found out about it –- his manager told him about it and I told him about it and gave him the whole rundown what was going on, and he loved it. In our family, my aunt, my dad's sister, she was super-vegetarian, kind of vegan, but super into plant-based, was very spiritual, very ... I don't want to say "hippie," but she is kind of a hippie! But that started a trend for my dad to get into this vegetarian style and this really healthy food style, and so when he found out about it he was super-stoked.

He's like, "It's awesome. I think you go after it. Remember when I taught you 'kill it?' But remember to ask questions and be smart and to follow through." But he loved it! He loved the idea of me getting out there and doing things myself, plus he loves the fact that I'm getting myself involved into plant-based products.

How does Guy Fieri balance his appreciation of more decadent diner food with this more healthy lifestyle?

Well, like I said, we're not fully plant-based, right? ... We like to go and have a lot of fun. We'll eat burgers and we'll do tacos and nachos, big trashcan nachos or onion rings, whatever. We will indulge ourselves in the worst foods possible that you can put in your body, but we also to eat salad, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts –- we're super-big on that. So, it's just like you eat some of this, you eat some of that. You have that, you have some good food, it will balance itself out, really. We don't plan it, it's just what we like to eat. Both rules.

Have you taught your dad anything about plant-based foods?

Have I taught my dad? It's pretty hard to teach him something! He's so intelligent on the culinary world and he has tried almost everything, he's learned about so much and he's constantly learning. So, me trying to teach him something would be like yeah, he's like, "I already knew that two years ago. You're fine." He was surprised to hear about the yellow peas. I told him about how ZENB takes the yellow peas and then use the entire peas, the whole peas, the outside shell and everything, so he was actually pretty curious about that. By the way, teaching him things is almost impossible. I can only teach him about his phone and electronic, that's about it.

Hunter talks about his relationship with his father

What's been your favorite experience being on food television shows with Guy Fieri?

Oh, man. That's a hard question. I mean, one, all of his shows that he does we use a lot of the same crew, a lot of the same camera guys, all same production companies, right? ... So we all get to hang out together all the time and it's like we're just hanging out with our buddies shooting the show, so that's fun. Triple D ["Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives"] is a great time. We eat amazing food, get to see some really, really neat places, but I honestly think that one of my favorite shows to shoot with him would be "Guy's Grocery Games," [doing] delivery during the pandemic. Because it's a competition, but it's also just messing with your friends and hanging out and having a good time just cooking awesome food. I mean really, there's non-stop laughter in that show. We laugh, we play around, we joke, but there's also a competition, so it's best of both worlds in that one, I guess.

What's the most unusual concoction that you recall somebody making on "Guy's Grocery Games?"

I think the last time we were in the studio and we [did] that show, I think there was two candy ingredients and they had -– I think it was gummy worms and cotton candy. Somebody made a sweet and sour sauce out of that and put it over chicken and it was bomb, but gummy worms and cotton candy should not go in a dinner, but it worked. Yeah, it was pretty good. There are some crazy whammies that he throws [in] there that [are] pretty brutal, but it's awesome.

What's the most important thing you've learned about food from your dad?

I mean, there's a lot of important things that I've learned and he's continued to teach me every day. One would be to really appreciate the food and understand where your food comes from, especially learning the different types of meats, or farm-to-table's a big thing ... We did a big trip to Europe when I graduated from high school in 2015 and we went out there and the whole point was to learn farm-to-table and to learn where the food comes from, and how ... different cultures [were] raised and came up to where they are now. I got to milk goats. I got to make Parmesan cheese, all this stuff. So, a lot of it really is he teaches me about the fact, where the food is from, and why it's important, and how it started, and the flavor it and the culture behind it. I think that was probably one of the most important things that I've been learning. There's still so much to learn!

There are reports that you are a better baker than your dad. Is that true?

Did you say a better baker? In the Fieri family, we're not really bakers! I can bake some cookies, and so can my dad. I don't know if I'm better than him, though. We don't bake, I think, ever. I think the last time I baked with him was maybe we made a pie. That's not our forte. Cookies is about the extent, cookies or maybe like some pumpkin bread or something like that. Otherwise, baking's not really around.

Why Hunter Fieri is The Prince of Flavortown

How did you get the nickname, "The Prince of Flavortown?"

It's a funny story. I don't know. As you know, my dad's the "Mayor of Flavortown," of course, and people call me "the Prince" here and there, so my boys started calling me the Prince and then I would see it on social media, "The Prince of Flavortown," and I'm like, "Okay, okay. Yeah." Then it got more and more, more and more folks started saying it and more fans started saying it. Then, one day when I was in Vegas, we were going get some lunch and I'm like, "You know what? Screw it I'm going to take them to Flavortown." I take it and I put it in my bio in Instagram and said, "I'm the Prince of Flavortown." We're taking it, we're running with this, no one's stopping me and now here we are!

So, you're starting out in your career as the "Prince of Flavortown." Do you hope to become "The King?" Is that your long-term career goal?

As of now, I'm really focusing on — there's a lot of work to be done television-wise and off television. We've got the tequila company and my dad's coming up with sandwiches, all this stuff, so he's bringing me into all these different aspects of his business to learn and to one day take it over. So, it is quite busy, but I really want to get my own TV show. I want to start ... I'm doing more of my own things. I'm trying to really involve myself in all the projects that I can be in, although becoming prince to the king, I don't know because my dad already doesn't like the Prince of Flavortown! He said that the Prince is actually over the Mayor, so he started calling me a Vice-Mayor. I'm like, "No, no, no. That's not sticking. I'm not the Vice-Mayor of Flavortown. The Prince is already there. It's too late." But yeah, he's not a fan.

Do you have any definite plans to have your own TV show, or is more of a long-term goal at this point?

It's still up in the air. I've been chatting with some of our buddies who are in production and we're looking at ways to do it. Right now it's just a busy schedule with my dad's stuff too, and with me trying to learn and build my career, and build my knowledge about all aspects of it. So, I'm really looking. We have some ideas that are written down and I'm continuing to develop those, but I think pretty soon we're going to start making some things happen.

Hunter Fieri talks about his favorite people, foods and cooking tools

If you could have anyone cook dinner for you, who would it be and why?

Hmm. You know how hard that question is? That's like asking me my favorite song. I can't, I mean ... Oh, there's so many choices and honestly, I'd love to have all our chef friends that are in TOC or Triple D, I mean, all of them would be awesome to have come cook for me. I couldn't even name them all. But one guy that I really miss, his name's Carl Ruiz, they call him "The Cuban." He passed away a couple of years ago. We all wear his wristband, but he was a phenomenal chef and one of the funniest guys you ever would have met. That would be awesome to go have a drink with him again because he was a legendary guy.

Do you have a favorite fast food restaurant?

I should say Chicken Guy!... It's my dad's restaurant is called Chicken Guy! and it's ... You can say it's fast casual. But the bomb, the bomb fried chicken sandwiches and all this, it's amazing. Bomb milkshakes. But honestly, I'm a sucker. I'm from California. In-N-Out [is] something I might go to. You can't beat it. For a fast food, if you're going to eat fast food, may as well enjoy it and may as well be delicious, but that's about as fast food as I can get, really.

Do you not eat fast food often?

No. It's after one, seeing where a lot of that stuff comes from and, two, just cooking yourself ... I can't do a lot of it. But In-N-Out, I'll make an exception about every once in a while.

Is there one ingredient that you couldn't live without?

Garlic. I love that garlic. Italians like garlic. That's just absolutely necessary. Got to have garlic.

Is there one kitchen tool you can't live without?

Well, besides a knife? I think a really good tool that a lot of people don't use a lot is a cast iron skillet. I think that is probably one of the best pieces of equipment you can have in your kitchen. A cast iron skillet you can do endless things with. That's just a simple answer on that one, but yeah. I think so.

Watch Hunter Fieri's mini documentary, "What Plants Can Do," and be sure to check out ZENB's yellow pea pasta products online.