Photo by Harper Smith/NBC
Every now and then The Food Network finds a celebrity chef capable of breaking past the kitchen walls and becoming a main stream star. But for every Rachel Ray there’s a Melissa D’Arabian. Their latest explosive personality is Guy Fieri. The season two winner of The Next Food Network Star not only hosts his own series Diners, Drive-ins and Dives on the chow channel, he is now the face of NBC’s hit game show Minute to Win It.
In a recent conference call interview, we spoke with Guy about the show’s special holiday episodes, how he handles the emotional highs and lows alongside the contestants and celebrity guest Joe Jonas.
Catch Minute to Win It Tuesdays at 8 p.m. EST/7 p.m. Central on NBC.
And if you think you have what it takes to compete, visit the show’s Facebook page to learn more about the December 11 auditions in Los Angeles, New York and Miami.
Q: Were the holiday episodes as much fun for you to host as it looked?
GUY: Yes. I'm going to tell you something. And again, I mean I'm a chef…. I'm a restaurant owner. Matter of fact we're shooting Diners, Drive-ins and Dives right now in my restaurant in North California.
But I got to tell you something… I mean just on the straight up, straight up, when I went into the studio, I thought, “Okay, as always. What can they do that it's going to be anymore outrageous? I mean come on. This is already outrageous enough… People playing simple games, household items, 60 seconds… So we come rolling in… There's bonus challenges where they complete the challenge, not only get the money but they get another life or they get ten extra seconds or they win prizes.
The money goes up to three million. I mean come on. Playing for a million is enough but get a shot to play the three million. So there was all these other components that they were adding on to it plus just the energy. I mean I don’t know about you but I'm big on holidays especially with having my two kids.
So there were all these different factors that were going on. Yes dude, it was way over the top… I said to my producers when we got done, I said, "Listen. You’re going to take the Christmas trees away, you better put something in their place because they just fit so well." Just that has a really warm feeling about it. I think it'll be great. They're going to be airing the show December 4, 7 and the 21st.
And I don't know about you guys but during the holidays sitting around with the kids, get a fire going, watch some TV especially family comedy TV like this, I think it's really a nice addition to the holidays this year.
Q: Now what can you tell us about some of the holiday theme challenges that we'll see?
GUY: This has always kind of been my surprise of Minute To Win It… when we really first did the show, I thought, “Okay, wow, 48 shows, 50 shows or… 50 games. I thought there's no way they can come up with more. I mean this is [going to be] it. If you tell me we're doing 50, we'll live on.
Well we've come back and do some more shows and they got another 50. So just when I think that they've gone the gamut of games and challenges that they can come up with, they come up with new stuff.
So the challenges that you're going to see, some of them are completely new using wrapping paper tubes and ornaments to some are some of our favorites. Face the cookie but using some holiday cookies. So there's some variations to some of the old favorites and there's definitely some new ones.
Q: And will the action be even more frantic because of the $3 million prize?
GUY: Well as soon as you up the ante no matter what… it just makes more anticipation. Plus… when you're playing for getting gifts for you family, there's always other feelings and energies that are coming about why do we want to do this. What are we going to do with the money? What do we need with the money? Who can we surprise this Christmas with the money? Oh, that changes things considerably.
Q: There’s a marriage proposal that's going to happen on one of the episodes. How did that happen?
GUY: Yes. The proposal, and again, people come to us with the craziest ideas. Tell us when they get interviewed for the show, they say, “This is where we're at in our lives and this is what we want to do. And if I can get to this amount of money, do you guys think you would help me make this happen?”
And I think that the proposal just became something that people are going through a life changing experience. You know, I say it's not a game show. It's a life changing show. And so here they are going into national television and competing for huge money and they've set some goals in front of themselves.
Now whether or not that is what helps them actually get over the hump or what… but it does happen. It's very emotional and definitely something you guys are going to enjoy.
Q: What do you like about Minute to Win It compared to the other shows you've hosted in the past?
GUY: I love the question because as a person and people that know me personally know that I'm a very sensitive guy, very about family, very about my friends, very about helping people. And that's the biggest charge that I get from this.
It gets to help people. Everyday people… you don't have to be a Rhodes scholar. You don't have to be a world-class athlete… just an everyday person. You like challenge. You like game. You like playing the stuff.
And that is a lot of people. When you play in the office I can bounce this pencil across the room. I can, you know. And to give everyday people a shot at what I like to call ridiculous amounts of money and to be the dude that does that and to get paid for it, I mean honestly it's like being in the line at the mini mart when somebody buys a lottery ticket and wins a million bucks and you're standing there with them.
I mean you get to experience that joy and that excitement and that thrill. But in the same respects to that, we live some lows. I mean I've been on the floor with them and they're going after big money and they're putting it all on the line and they lose it and there's tears and there's heartbreak and there's disappointment and there's loss and you got to be the shoulder to cry on.
So like I say all the time, I live some high highs and some low lows. And I wouldn't trade it for anything. It's a wonderful experience and I'm really happy to see what its done for people.
Q: But how do you feel when a person is eliminated?
GUY: I was explaining to my son the other day. He lost something. He wanted to blame the dog. I said, "You ever heard that thing my dog ate the homework?" You want to blame somebody. You want to grab a reason… something happened. You know what. It just happened. You know, it didn't go down.
And the great thing that I tell all the contestants before they ever come on the show, I said, "Walk away from here with whatever money but make sure you walk away from here with an experience and a good memory." And I've had some players that have been on the cusp of massive money and have lost.
And I have to pull them aside after the show and say, "Listen. You did win some money. But how would you have felt to cash out early, take the money, have two lives left and never tried. Would it be worth that money? Would it be worth it to think back about that and go should I have, should I have… 'You get one shot. You going to play it or not?'"
So it's tough. It's tough. But you know what; I think the majority of folks walk away with an appreciation and a positive experience… There's been holding a few tears back before. I mean… they're phenomenal people that just didn't get the break.
Q: You're kind of in between the physical challenge and the audience right there with the contestants. How do you handle that in your head during the play?
GUY: Well, I will tell you if there's been one thing I've had… to have someone remind me on is you can't coach them. You can't tell them what's going to happen.
I love when the audience will yell something that's kind of like a reviewing factor to what's going on. That… kind of gives the contestant a little insight… “What do you mean I can't yell at my kid's little league game?” I got to tell them. Run. Run. You know.
You can't do it. And you can't tell them where it is… so it's kind of being a neutral party to the situation. I give as much encouragement and support as I can before they start. And I give them the high five or the shoulder to cry on when it's over.
But no, you nailed that one. And… it is a tough… because here's the thing. It could be misinterpreted. I could give really the advice bout one technique and one method and way that team before about how to bounce the ping-pong ball or whatever. And then on somebody else I give a little technique and they blow it… So to really keep it all neutral, it's best to just let them perform in their best efforts and go from there. But it's tough.
Q: And you've had Joe Jonas and other celebrities on. Are there any of your celebrity friends you'd like to challenge and bring onto the show?
GUY: Yes. You know, I throw it out to them and I feel for [them] because I know if I was… in this position and one of my buddies called me and said, "Hey, why don't you come do this?" I mean I got to give it up to [Kevin]. He came out… matter of fact, I saw it and I didn't know. I didn't have any insight that there was going to be like some special considerations. No. He got the exact same computer draw on goals that every other contestant gets. This dude had just practiced, focused… and what I call good [boomer].
So I'm not putting into my buddy…. I said, "Everybody knows that it's a great opportunity to raise a lot of money for charity?”… I think next year, 2011 you'll see a lot more celebrities come on because everybody's got that gaming side to them. That challenge basketball or football or whatever sport that they do.
But… I'm going to let them go at their own pace. I don't want to put it out there because… then there's an even bigger line drawn in the sand.
Q: This is a very fun show to watch.
GUY: Well, thank you. And you know what, that to me is the biggest reward especially when people come up to me and say, "There's so many things on TV. I need to watch this with my kids. My kids dig it." I'm a young dad, a young family and I dig it. Because I mean I've got two boys. Hunter's 14, Ryder's 5 and I love that I can watch… the man typically could go home and watch my show.
But I watch if the boys watch. And I watch and I get into it. I forget what happens with that stuff. And they can get it. Hunter really gets it because he understands the money. Ryder gets it because he's got the ping-pong balls and is playing there on the living room floor.
So it's neat that there's something going on in prime time especially some holiday shows they're going to be on the 4th, the 7th and the 21st. I think it'll be neat. I think it'll be a nice little spend for the holidays.
Q: Minute to Win It seems to be evolving and there are some similarities between Minute to Win It and Deal or No Deal.
GUY: Well, I take that as a compliment that it has similarities to Deal or No Deal because that show is incredibly successful and you got to give it to Howie on that. He's been doing this type of presentation stuff though… thank you for the compliment.
I'm sorry. To say that we're developed in the same vein or that it's taking that - I mean I don't really know enough about Deal or No Deal to say that it is or it isn't. I mean I think that when you're developing compelling game show type events you want to know who the contestant is. You want to you want to put the gauntlet out there. You want to put the challenge out in front of them.
I really say I can speak for everybody on our team, and it's a big group of people to pull of Minute To Win It, that we all want them to win. We want somebody to win the million bucks. I mean I don't want - I want it to happen just so I can start telling people, "Yes, somebody won the million. Quit." Because that's the number one question. "Hey, yes, that game show. Has anybody won the million yet?"
So I don't think it's being purposely held from folks to not win it and we've definitely had some people get really close. There's a lot that goes on in human nature. You get a bunch of money in front of you, you've just made it there, maybe the steam isn't coming out in the end in the way it was… at 250 grand. You get to a half million dollars in front of anybody, I don't know that I could take that jump.
So, there's a lot of challenges and a lot of people that who are still [to come in] the show. I want to see it happen and I know that everybody on the show that's developed the show wants to see it happen. And will it evolve? Well we saw some stuff on the holiday shows that I really hope come to the next season in 2011, I would love to see an extra life, more seconds or less seconds.
I'd like to see some of those transitions take place. But it's so evolved… But I think the show just continues to improve. You know, it's something that hasn't been done. And it continues to grow to be a better show.
But I think in 2011 we got to see somebody win. I just think people are practicing good. I mean they're becoming better than the challenges. And that has actually improved that. Then my game guys has come to me and said, "You know, this used to be a game that was really different and people have sound — these niches and styles or these methods to be better at the game." And I've even seen it and I don't have the statistical data to say it.
But I've seen where that one used to be a real [hinge] that used to be a real questionable game and people just walking all over it. So I think that's what we'll see.
Q: Do you have any ideas to throw in there to add on where contestants could actually get closer to getting the million?
GUY: Oh I do. And of course I'm always spouting off about them. What we should have? They should be able to see the blueprint. One blueprint they should be able to see it… Make your decision before they go.
I always thought that. It's kind of like remember… what was the show? Who Wants to be a Millionaire? You got the lifeline and stuff. I always wonder if… the contestant pull somebody out of the audience? You think you're good at the balloon game? Come play it for me.
There's all kinds of those crazy ideas about what I'd like to see, ways that I think that we could add some more flair and wildness and possibility to it. I think letting them see a blueprint ahead of time would be a really cool one. And I think letting them throw a blueprint out. So if they get a blueprint, something comes up for them and they can pull the card and say, you know what, we could like when you go to bed.
If you're playing video slot machine and you push it and it gives you the cards and you have the choice of either picking a few of the cards or just re-dealing. So if they could just re-deal. So they give me a different blueprint. I don't like that one. I hate that one. Give me a re-deal. Couple of those things, I'd love to see it.
We have a blast making it and it really does a lot for people. Takes the mom and pop joints and puts them on the front page.