THE TOUR DE FIERI
Guy Fieri was coming. Face dangerously close to purple, eyes beady but bulging, and hair violently spiked, he lumbered down a narrow corridor out of the back entrance of Tex Wasabi’s where we—me, Marcus, Emil, Daesong, and Sander—were standing stupidly, all stupidly wearing matching Guy Fieri T-shirts that we’d stupidly bought an hour earlier at another one of his restaurants.
He started yelling: “Hey! Hey! Who the f*ck is out here trying to take pictures of me?”
We froze in abject terror but every single part of me wanted him to punch one of us in the face because holy sh*t, could you imagine coming back with that story?
“Haha, I’m just kidding, guys. What’s up? Heard you were all big fans,” he said as he bro-hugged all of us one by one.
I always assume that people on TV are tiny, because most people on TV are tiny. And when you look at Guy Fieri on screen, he has the blocky, limbless dimensions of someone who would be tiny. He’s massive.
He’s only about six feet tall, but every single one of his features is twice the size it should be. His head, his hands, his two-toned goatee—every part of him dwarfs every part of you.
Guy asked us what we were doing, and what the deal was with the matching shirts, and why we spent 20 minutes arguing with a bouncer, and then another bouncer, and then a manager, and then his personal assistant to try and bait him out of his first-born son’s birthday party.
So we told him about the trip. We told him about the Tour de Fieri.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
The concept was simple: Three of us hop in a car, drive 500 miles up to Santa Rosa to meet up with the other two, eat and drink at three Guy Fieri–owned restaurants in one night, then drive 500 miles back within 24 hours. The reasons we were doing it were confusing, or, more accurately, completely nonexistent.
I wish I could say it was something cool, like we were all chasing Guy Fieri’s legacy of cars and male bonding through a bro-y road trip, or that it was like Julie & Julia but with more dark liquor and we all figured out our lives through getting f*cked up and eating tuna wonton tacos. But we were just bored. We were in college, it was summer, and we all had jobs that we only had to show up at twice a week.
More importantly, we already had a name for the trip. So we had to do it.
Sander and I ate egg foo yung that he stole off someone’s doorstep on the drive up to Santa Barbara to pick up Emil, then we swung by Popeye’s and continued up to Santa Rosa to meet up with Marcus and Daesong. The car smelled like fried chicken and gravy the whole trip, which seemed fitting.
We didn’t roll into Santa Rosa until 5:30 p.m., and we didn’t leave Marcus’s apartment for another hour because we thought it was necessary to aggressively pregame. We had all just turned 21, which meant that it was necessary to aggressively pregame everything. Wedding? Pregame. Midterm? Pregame. Funeral? Bro…gotta pregame for that. It’s what Gam-Gam would have wanted.
So we drank. We drank a lot. We drank whiskey and beer and gin and then hopped in a cab to the first stop.
The plan was to go to Johnny Garlic’s in Windsor for appetizers, Johnny Garlic’s in Santa Rosa for entrées, and then Tex Wasabi’s—Guy Fieri’s one-time pride and joy—for after-dinner drinks and dessert. Guy has since cut ties with every single restaurant we visited that night. At least we have our memories.
THE GAS STATION BURGER
MAKES 4 BURGERS
You guys fuck with that show Chopped? Man, I hope you’re reading this while that show’s still around because it’s the single best thing Food Network’s done since Sandra Lee’s Kwanzaa cake. (YouTube it right now. The clip is only 2:45; this recipe can wait.) Four completely unknown contestants, all jacked up on promise and producers telling them to be all jacked up, run into a studio kitchen and they all get a basket filled with four random ingredients—razor clams, spicy red cheese sticks (legally they can’t say Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), fermented yak penis, and baby kale, for instance—and they all do a cooking battle against each other and there’s an ominous clock and then they get more baskets and then the judges just f*cking mercilessly shred them for undercooking their yak penis but then they find out one of the contestants’ mom died or something and then the sympathetic music plays and the judges are all like, “Awwwww.”
But the single best part is that when one episode ends and a champion is crowned, the next episode starts without you ever noticing. So you can just pass a whole day watching these strangers cook sh*t from a mystery box and then, without you noticing it, you end up alone in a gas station creating your own mystery box because TV and reality have become inseparable and you walk out with Flamin’ Hot Funyuns and cherry cola and I HAVE TO MAKE A BURGER AND MAINLINE FOOD NETWORK RIGHT THE FUCK NOW.
1 (20-ounce) bottle cherry cola
¼ cup ketchup
2 chipotles in adobo, minced
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cumin
¼ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
8 strips thick-cut bacon
1 pound 80/20 ground beef
4 slices sharp cheddar
4 brioche buns
1 bag Flamin’ Hot Funyuns
1 - Start out by making some sweet, sweet, diabetic cherry cola BBQ sauce. Empty those 20 ounces of soda into a medium saucepot and throw it on high heat. You want the soda to come to a boil and reduce down by about three quarters. It should take about 12 minutes. Then add the ketchup, minced chipotles, paprika, cumin, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Stir, drop to medium, and continue to reduce for another 2 minutes, or until it looks like BBQ sauce.
2 - Heat a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Place the bacon strips in the pan. Fry them in their own fat until they’re looking all nice and crispy-like. Drain on paper towels.
3 - Form the ground beef into 1/4-pound patties and season liberally with salt. Ideally, you’d grill these over charcoal, but feel free to just throw them in a pan. It doesn’t really matter. Nothing really matters. We all die in the end. But first, burgers! Sear the burger patties over as high a heat as you can figure out how to make, then melt a slice of cheddar over each one.
4 - Toast them buns. Schmear some cherry cola BBQ sauce on the bottom bun, throw on a burger, then some bacon, then a hefty layer of those onion ring proxies. Then—and this is imperative—absolutely drown that sh*t in more cherry cola BBQ sauce. Smash the burger down with your fist so it fits in your mouth. Eat with beer. And then eat again with more beer.