Guy Fieri is everywhere. Literally. In the last few years, the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives host has cemented himself as a seemingly ubiquitous restaurateur, a darling of old-school cable TV and trendy TikToks alike, and a beloved internet meme for Gen Z. It’s almost impossible to escape the Guy Fieri Cinematic Universe.

Fieri’s dominance on social media is obvious, from DDD parody videos to reaction POVs on TikTok. Plus, his iconic image has inspired dorm decor, annual Halloween costumes, obscure handmade rugs, and even tribute tattoos. And if you, like me, never would have imagined Guy Fieri being sexy, his influence on bachelorette parties, corsets, and even pole dances may suggest otherwise.

Unlike some celebrities who have been deemed “out of touch” or overly-glamorous; Guy Fieri is approachable and relatable, regardless of age. Though it’s not everyday that you see someone with frosted tips driving a red Corvette, Fieri’s kind, vibrant demeanor alongside his penchant for over-the-top dishes (and fashion) made him an icon in the eyes of Gen Z. We spoke to eight twenty-somethings foodies to find out why Zoomers are so obsessed with a TV host whose show aired before some of us were even born.

“His image isn’t pretentious,” said Lauren Dozier, the Social Media Manager at Spoon University. “Guy Fieri is the everyman.”

Guy Fieri’s origin story:

A Food Network staple since 2006, Fieri won the second season of The Next Food Network Star, a competition where the winner earns their own TV show on the network. Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives aired in 2006 alongside Guy’s Big Bite, and since then, Fieri has gone on to host Guy’s Grocery Games, Minute to Win It, Tournament of Champions, Rachel vs. Guy Celebrity and Kids Cook-Offs, as well as a whole slew of spin-off shows and guest appearances.

Since then, Fieri’s platform — which now includes TV shows, restaurants, a collection of designer cookware, and even a line of food for Carnival Cruises — has made him a household name.

“My parents and grandparents watch Guy on Food Network,” said 20-year-old Morgan Frazee, a junior at Seton Hall University. “His adult sense of humor makes him appealing and relatable to them, and they enjoy watching his shows. But the fact that he’s become a meme has made him popular amongst younger generations.”

Many of the Gen Z’ers I interviewed recalled Guy Fieri being a prominent figure in their memories beginning as early as four years old. 20-year-old college junior Dominic Kozlowski from Seton Hall University said that his earliest memories of Guy Fieri include his mom being disgusted whenever Fieri takes a massive bite on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and gets the food all over his beard.

This sentiment also rang true for 20-year-old Aidan Stenson, a third-year student at University of Chicago, who immediately recalled Fieri’s technique for eating a hamburger as his first memory of the television star. “It’s two hands on the burger, upside down,” Stenson said. “It’s very animalistic and a little weird how he leans over.”

Aside from his culinary chops, Fieri’s encouraging attitudes towards the restaurant owners he visited alongside his radiant personality cemented his legacy as the Mayor of Flavortown. Stenson dubbed Fieri “uniquely post-modern,” given that DDD idolizes the regulars that have been visiting restaurants upwards of two decades while Fieri energetically showcases their favorite haunts.

“There’s no one that vibrant, lively, or ironic as him in such a specific food niche,” said 22-year-old Mollie Guerrero, a University of Central Florida graduate, who grew up watching Guy Fieri on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

One common thread amongst Gen-Z’ers who were interviewed is growing up watching DDD with their family — kids, parents, and grandparents alike. Even I remember visiting restaurants such as Jax at the Tracks in California, Pine State Biscuits in Oregon, and The Ritz Diner in New Jersey with my family, solely because Guy Fieri endorsed them on TV. (Though I will admit the food wasn’t always that great.)

It’s called fashion, look it up.

But Guy Fieri’s personal appearance may be more recognizable than his resume and television credits. His style is everything that millennials have come to hate over the years. And yet, his trademark gaudy flame patterns, chunky rings, and backwards sunglasses have inspired a whole wave of Fieri-core fashion.

“His flame shirt is literally burned into my brain,” said Stenson, who has been watching Triple-D since he was eight years old.

While some of these Fieri’s chosen trends were acceptable in the late 1990s and early 2000s (think Justin Timberlake and *NSYNC), styles like oversized denim jeans and frosted tips haven’t been cool for the last two decades — so why are they cool now to the coolest generation yet?

For one thing, Gen Z seems to embrace trends millennials renounced, almost out of spite. Crocs are thriving, Shrek is a staple of internet culture, and middle parts are in. Even Dozier, who told Spoon that she is “firmly a millennial,” sees “Guy Fieri-core” content on her TikTok For You Page — including Kim K’s Fieri-esque Balenciaga ensemble, which the internet star wore in April.

“He's a borderline actual anime character brought to life with his zest for life and food and the sheer amount of gel in his hair, making him the perfect target for memehood,” said 21-year-old Eloise Belanderes, a junior at San Diego State University.

How do you do, fellow kids?

That’s just the thing about Fieri, though: not only does he know he’s funny, he’s in on the joke. When it comes to Gen Z, Fieri is a mastermind. He knows what makes Gen Z laugh, from pop culture icons on The Office and Euphoria to TikTok trends such as “Things that just make sense.” He knows what is relevant to us, yet he also has the charming naivety of most Gen X and Boomer-aged parents when it comes to what’s trendy.

Guy Fieri almost gives off Mrs. George vibes — so desperate to be cool that, as an outsider, you can’t help but laugh. Unlike Regina’s out-of-touch mom in the cult-classic Mean Girls, Fieri embraces his quirks and laughs with Gen Z before they can laugh at him.

Fieri is arguably a pop culture icon, which has only been exacerbated by his recent foray into TikTok (Gen Z comprises nearly half of the app’s users). "I'm here. I've made it. Everything is beautiful and nothing hurts," one fan said of their journey to Flavortown following Fieri’s TikTok debut. "My TikTok prayers have been answered," another commented.

Fieri quickly followed up his first video with another of him flying an airplane to the song “Breaking Free” from High School Musical, a favorite amongst Gen Z, who grew up with the Disney Channel Original Movie. "We're soarin', flyin', rollin' out to Flavortown," Fieri captioned the short video.

Even though he doesn’t specifically follow Fieri or the Food Network on social media, Stenson argues that he feels in touch with both the star and his adventures on Triple D.

“There is some sort of cosmic connection to Guy that is greater than an explicit social media follow,” Stenson said. “He’s just so sincere, and I really think that carries him through. People wish they had his charisma.”

Beyond the frosted tips:

Ultimately, The Fieri Effect transcends the internet. There’s no doubt that his success can be attributed to his boisterous (“but not overbearing,” says Guerrero) personality, as well as his attitude toward small local restaurants. Fieri may be a big-time celebrity chef who rules as the Mayor of Flavortown, but at heart, he's really a small-town guy who wants to support small businesses — including snack stands run by Los Angeles kids — and the "entrepreneurial spirit."

As Stenson points out, Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is a paradox. From his meme-ability to the subject of his own television show, Fieri is a master of self-conscious irony. Additionally, Guy can’t be tied down to one place or one cuisine.

“It’s a show about the ultimate local spot or hidden gem, that’s broadcast to the masses of America,” the UChicago junior said. “It’s very alluring…the fantasy that anyone can travel anywhere, eat anything, head out on a cross-country road trip and be greeted with good food and a smile.”

In addition to his idealistic television personality. Fieri has a tendency to be relatively quiet in his everyday life, which is desirable given the turmoil of modern America’s social and political climate.

“Guy Fieri is one of those guys whose unproblematic-ish nature has granted him immortality in the eyes of the meme world,” Belanderes said. “He brings back an aura of childlike wonder and bewilderment into my TV/social media diet that most other creators, celebrities, and personalities can't quite reach yet because of the way he's simply been part of so many of our memories and childhoods.”

Additionally, Guy Fieri has yet to be involved in any major scandals, unlike some major network chefs or food influencers, according to BuzzFeed News. His lack of problematic commentary or content aligns with Gen Z, who tend to be focused on social issues and equity.

“Guy Fieri’s politics and personal opinions are concealed, but he owns everything else,” Stenson said when discussing the host’s boisterous persona. “His fashion and personality beg for someone to mock him, but it just bounces right off him.”

Not only does his confidence radiate on television, Fieri’s kind spirit and welcoming attitude toward featured chefs and restaurateurs on the show does not go unnoticed. “You expect him to be a chef and a critic, but he never has a mean thing to say about anything, or any of the food he tries on his shows,” Frazee, a junior at Seton Hall, said.

On Triple D, Fieri visits all sorts of restaurants, including retro diners, open markets, cozy cafes, food trucks, and international eateries, bringing his personality, sense of humor, and iconic fashion sense with him. The fact that Fieri isn’t a cookie cutter chef allows others to see bits of themselves in him.

“Food Network was the go-to cable channel in my house,” Guerrero said. “And I remember thinking ‘how can someone this cool be in the food industry?’ I thought that professional people had to be poised, but Guy’s hair, clothes, humor and personality make him so inclusive, regardless of age.”

Fieri’s nice-guy persona isn’t just limited to the restaurants featured on Triple-D when the cameras are rolling, though. With both the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires, Fieri and his team fed more than 5,000 evacuees daily. In the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Guy Fieri also partnered with the National Restaurant Association to help more than 43,000 restaurant workers who suffered financially during that time. Together, they raised more than $21.5 million for the Restaurant Employee Relief Fund.

“I like Guy Fieri because of his work to help the homeless, as well as standing up for the helpless,” said Erin Jackson, a senior at the University of Notre Dame. Jackson, 22, wrote a letter to Guy Fieri when she was 12 years old – and Guy responded. “I really admire that he took the time to write back to a kid who idolized him.”

23-year-old Lily Vrbka, who graduated from Sonoma State University, also reminisced about the “amazing” food and drinks at Tex Wasabi restaurant, which was founded by Fieri in 1999, in Santa Rosa, CA. The 23-year-old also said she admires how he officiated more than 100 same-sex weddings following the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015. In fact, Fieri even agreed to officiate Twilight actress Kristen Stewart’s pending nuptials after seeing her November 2021 interview on The Today Show.

“Not only is his aesthetic f–king iconic,” Vrbka said, “he is an ALLY!”

Stenson said that he identifies with the Food Network star and suggested that everybody wants to identify with Guy’s happy and care-free side.

“There’s no strife on Triple-D,” he said. “Don’t care about gas prices, drive the Camaro anyway.”

As Guerrero put it, “Guy Fieri is a forever thing.”