That spikey bleached hair, that sunburnt face, and those signature sunglasses perched on the back of his head — oh yeah, Food Network star Guy Fieri is in town.
The Heavy Table went behind the scenes with the crew of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives on their last visit to Minnesota. The Minnesota tour included northern spots At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe, Duluth Grill, Gordy’s Hi-Hat, and Northern Waters Smokehaus. Twin Cities locations included The Blue Door Pub, Colossal Cafe, and Kramarczuk’s. Our behind-the-scenes look took place at the last two locations.
Earlier this year, The Heavy Table interviewed David Page, the show’s executive producer. Page described the filming process, which includes two full crews advance filming at each location for 2-3 days. Once Fieri arrives, the crew and Fieri spend a half day filming at each location (filming at two locations per day) to capture the cooking, interviewing, tasting, and diner scenes. These intense filming days with Fieri are exhausting — ingredients must be prepped and ready ahead of time and scripts are followed precisely to match the order of the previously recorded cooking sequences.
Despite this, there is no doubt that the crews have a lot of fun. From the moment Fieri stepped on location at Kramarczuk’s it was as if someone declared, “Let the games begin!” Fieri immediately began recalling stories from the previous evening’s revelry at Nye’s Polonaise. Nye’s stories were told throughout the day and Fieri would frequently break into a certain favorite polka song from the band.
Fieri downed a mysterious green drink that he later informed me was a juiced concoction of fruits and vegetables that one of the crew members makes each day (to provide essential vitamins and nutrients to counteract the day’s menu of diner food). Then, it was time to film.
Crew #1 outside Kramarczuk’s (left to right): Jeff Asell (Audio Engineer), Matt Giovinetti (Director of Photography), Guy Fieri (Host), Liz Pollock (Producer), Neil Martin (Production Assistant), Kerry Johnson (Production Assistant)
The show’s tight-knit team is essential to the success of filming. Says Fieri: “The crew is vital. To me, nothing is as important as… if I don’t have the crew there, then it doesn’t work. It’s tough for me when we bring in substitute people in there. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m not saying uncomfortable like it won’t work, but these are my friends. In a lot of ways I’m doing this to entertain them. Everybody carries their role and, for me, to have a crew there that I know…. otherwise it’s shoot — stop — okay, shoot again. There’s no way you can keep that kind of energy going. There’s no way that it can evolve if you don’t have inspiration to do it.”
The time spent taping the show could most quickly be summarized as “entertaining.” From practical jokes to funny voices and even some flying sausage (that managed to hit the camera man), the day is high energy, despite the task at hand. We ask Fieri about the practical jokes played on set.
“Oh, the jokes are… you have no clue. So the one that they’ve been getting me with… they’ve owned me on it. I always go into a restaurant and I typically go through all the refrigeration units there and walk through dry storage. I can sense a lot of what’s going on and get a lot of insights of what’s happening. Sometimes they hurry me up, cause maybe I’ve come in late and we need to hurry. We come to this place and we’re late and we come in and get right into cooking. This guy’s making mozzarella. So we’re making mozzarella and he says, ‘Hey, Guy, can you get some cream for me out of the fridge?’ And we’re right on camera and I’m like I’m like, ‘Why the hell would this guy want cream? Fine.’ So I reach back to the fridge and I open it up and there’s one of the line cooks, a little guy about this tall and he says, ‘Here you go!’ And it freaks me out! So they love to play this little surprise thing on me.”
“We have a variety of little games we play on each other,” he continues. “‘Hide the Meat’ is another one, where we take a piece of meat and hide it in someone’s gear bag. People have things ditched in their bag that they don’t know. So we’re in Miami and one my buddies, Cletus, is traveling with me. So I stashed some pig tails (we were at this Jamaican joint) in a couple bags and they caught on. So I ask Cletus to get my bag and put it in the car and make sure the door is locked because I don’t want them getting close to the pig tail. So Cletus and I have about another week of traveling between food shows. And we’re in line to get on the plane and I look at Cletus and say, ‘Cletus! Are you all right?’ He says, ‘Yeah, why? Dude, I don’t know I’ve been smelling it too.’ And I’m like, ‘I think they got you with the pig tails.’ He says, ‘No way, dude, I checked my luggage.’ They had gone into his bag, back in the back of the bag where there’s zipper and opened it and put into the bag six pig tails. There are all kinds of stories.”
After a morning of shooting at Kramarczuk’s we head to Colossal Cafe in South Minneapolis to meet up with the second production crew. And the fun continues…
Crew #2 outside Colossal Cafe (left to right): Anthony Rodriguez (Director of Photography), Mike Morris (Producer), Guy Fieri (Host), Mark Farrell (Production Assistant), David Canada (Audio Engineer)
It seems impossible to enjoy the food as much as Fieri does, bite after bite after bite, but he assures us that Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is the real deal. “It starts with the foundation of research and because of the research team, I don’t walk into any surprises. About 99.9 percent of them are on point. I mean, there’s a surprise of every once in a while.”
After a morning of eating cabbage rolls and other Kramarczuk’s favorites, it’s a wonder that Fieri has any room for what’s in store at Colossal Cafe. A dual play on words, this tiny cafe serves up huge portions like the pancakes with apples and brie and the meatloaf sandwich. Keeping up the energy by joking along with the owner and the crew, Fieri dives in for another couple hours of filming before he heads to Duluth that night.
The Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives episodes containing Northern Waters Smokehaus and Gordy’s Hi-Hat have aired and can be referenced here; view Gordy’s here and Northern Waters here. Air dates for other Minnesota locations, including Colossal Cafe and Kramarczuk’s, are to be announced. You can find more information about this at the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives site.