Guy Fieri, host of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and mayor of Flavortown, is focusing his time in lockdown on charity. The celebrity chef has partnered with the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Fund to launch a relief for restaurant workers, from dishwashers to sous chefs, who have been laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent restaurant shutdowns.
So far, the relief fund has been a smashing success. Fieri has already raised $8.3 million by sending video requests for donations to corporations like UberEats, Cargill, and PepsiCo, according to a report from Food & Wine. His goal is to raise $100 million.
The relief effort will offer $500 grants to restaurant workers, many of whom, Fieri acknowledges “can’t collect unemployment, who live paycheck to paycheck.” Fieri owns at least 17 restaurants, most of which are presumably closed because of the pandemic. It’s not exactly clear if his own employees will be eligible for the grant or if he’s supporting them in another, more direct way.
With his current funds, Fieri will be able to award 16,600 $500 checks. Any small amount of money helps. The grant could purchase two weeks’ worth of groceries (at least for families without many kids), or provide a computer to a student now thrust into distance learning. However, it’s also worth noting that $500 won’t even cover the cost of one month’s rent in most places.
Despite being the punchline of many jokes, Fieri has always had a charitable streak. He started the Cooking with Kids nonprofit organization in 2010, cooked barbecue for first responders during the California wildfires, and recently sent a hopeful message to high school students, telling them to “be in the mind-space to realize you’re in a historical moment.” And of course, there’s all the advertising he’s brought to small businesses on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.
Fieri also opened up to Food & Wine about the challenges his own livelihood faces in the wake of the pandemic. He’s already canceled trips to Albuquerque and Hawaii, and made the painful decision to call restaurant owners directly to let them know no camera crew would be appearing on their doorstep anytime soon — probably at a time when smaller operations could use the exposure. He’s currently working on finding a way to film Diner, Drive-Ins, and Dives via Zoom.