How The Grill Dads Became Food Network Stars - Exclusive

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Longtime friends Mark Anderson and Ryan Fey created their brand — The Grill Dads — when their frequent backyard barbecues with friends at Fey's Los Angeles home became one of the most popular events in town. They considered opening a restaurant but were dissuaded by Anderson's father who said that it would be a foolhardy venture. Anderson and Fey were both in advertising at the time, creating content for clients for 20 years, so they branched out for themselves using their skills. "We decided to do The Grill Dads to scratch our creative itch for creating content," Fey told Mashed in an exclusive interview. "We premeditatedly created The Grill Dads out of the idea that we wanted to make some [intellectual property], do something with it potentially."

The duo soon pieced together a pilot for a cooking show called, "The Search for California Barbecue," which quickly got funded on Indiegogo. Their plan was to create a business model they would pitch to the California Visitors Bureau with the hope they could repay their investors. "We had no intention of keeping people's money to make a pilot," Fey said. "It was proof of concept." On a whim, Anderson sent an email to Food Network executive and show host Marc Summers and attached a trailer for their proposed show. To Anderson's shock, Summers called him 10 minutes later. "Are you chefs? Are you actors?" Summers inquired. "This is the best cold submission I've ever had." Summers made the introductions to Guy Fieri and producer Brian Lando, and they launched The Grill Dads on Fieri's show "Guy's Big Project," a competition show which Anderson and Fey won. "It went from a hobby to a real thing."

The Grill Dads didn't want to do Guy Fieri's show initially

The Grill Dads were resistant to appearing on a reality show at first. "Trust me, no one wants to look at us on reality television. We got faces for radio. Just ask our parents," Fey quipped. Neither wanted to deal with young production assistants knocking on their doors before dawn with a shopping list and GPS coordinates of where they're supposed to go, either. "We're old, and we're cynical," Anderson joked. But Anderson's wife thought otherwise. She was confident that they would win "Guy's Big Project" because the two are endearing and self-deprecating. "It's hard to hate on good dads," she told them, as Anderson recalled to Mashed, adding that she said, "You idiots need to get a camera on you." Anderson and Fey were still nervous about how they would be edited and, after seeking advice from a winner of Next Food Network Star, they made a pact to just be themselves on camera. They had a great time, as it turns out, and appreciated the hard work by the crew and soon they all became friends. 

After their big win on "Guy's Big Project," Fieri and Lando teamed as co-executive producers for Anderson and Fey's first show "The Grill Dads" and then their follow-up "Comfort Food Tour." Fieri recognized Anderson and Fey's business savvy, creativity, and openness to work with the team to help define the style and content of "The Grill Dads." As they recalled Fieri saying, "You guys get it ... Go make a show." The first episode of "The Grill Dads" aired on the same night they were crowned winners on "Guy's Big Project," and Anderson and Fey expected Food Network would promote their show. But when they learned that Food Network executives had zero dollars budgeted for the show's publicity, Anderson and Fey realized they would have to market the show themselves. In the end, The Grill Dads were given the opportunity of a lifetime, and they ran with it.

The Grill Dads cookbook "The Best Grilling Book Ever Written By Two Idiots" is available on Amazon. Follow The Grill Dads on Instagram and Facebook.