Valley food blogger Joanie Simon is about to make her Food Network debut – with Guy Fieri in tow, no less. But she’s not chowing down with the ebullient host at a drive-in, diner or dive. Instead, Fieri has her scurrying through the aisles of a grocery store.
Simon will appear on an episode of Guy’s Grocery Games, airing this Sunday, August 13, at 6 p.m. ET. For the uninitiated, the show features four chefs competing against each other in a grocery store set stocked with premium ingredients. In every 30-minute episode, each contestant shops for and prepares a dish, which is then judged. The last chef standing at the end gets two minutes to shop for items on a list, and wins a grand prize of $20,000 if he or she can find them all.
PHOENIX recently caught up with Simon, whose episode was shot last November, to talk about the stress of live food competition and whether Guy is really as wacky as he seems on TV.
This show sounds like Chopped crossed with Supermarket Sweep.
One hundred percent. That’s exactly how I’d describe it.
I take it you’re sworn to secrecy about the outcome of your episode?
Correct. I signed a non-disclosure agreement.
Well, what can you tell us about the show?
It takes place in a grocery store, but it’s not technically a functioning grocery store. But it’s got a fully stocked produce department, and the best of the best products on the shelves. This is in Santa Rosa, California. They do partner with a lot of local food banks and charities. It’s pristine produce. I can tell you that this particular episode involved cheese. Cheese jokes, and a lot of cheese comedy. A lot of cheesy behavior.
OK, then, what’s your favorite cheese, whether it’s connected to the show or not?
Choosing a favorite cheese is too hard, but I was just liking some havarti about 10 minutes before you called. Super melty, buttery. I don’t think havarti gets enough credit.
So they really only give you 30 minutes to shop and to cook? What was that like?
Daunting. Guy says you’re going to make blah blah blah, and you have a split second to decide what you’re going to do… And usually Guy, being the kooky, wacky guy he is, throws in some kind of a twist… The rest of [the contestants] were all restaurant chefs. On the show, they called me a “Recipe Development Chef.” I’ve worked for Hickman’s, Shamrock Farms and Lodge Cast-Iron. So in terms of speed and timing and thinking on your feet, it’s not necessarily my thing. But it turns out once you’re in the situation, it’s totally do-able, and a half-hour is a lot longer than it seems.
But what we really want to know, of course, is… what’s Guy Fieri like? Insufferable?
He’s not insufferable at all! He’s very much what you see on TV, but he’s not quite as over-the-top. But he’s very upbeat, high energy. I’ve done a lot of cooking on local TV, morning shows and stuff, but always live. This was shot over a three-day period, and it was interesting to me to see somebody who could just step into that personality whenever the cameras rolled.
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