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Why Gen Z Loves Guy Fieri, Food Network’s Meme King

His style may be ironically cool, but the Mayor of Flavortown is earnestly adored. Happy birthday to a true legend.

Guy Fieri is the definition of a multihyphenate artist. He’s a charismatic TV show personality, a celebrated “Dude Food” chef and a hypebeast style icon. Today, though, Fieri is the birthday boy. The host of the long-running hit Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives is 52.

Surprisingly, this Gen Xer has a rabid young fanbase — not just his two Gen Z sons. In an election year, there’s no one young people are backing more than the Mayor of Flavortown — well, besides Bernie Sanders. (The chef and the Vermont senator actually have a lot in common. They’re both grassroots community organizers with a penchant for unique haircuts.)

“Guy is literally the most unproblematic fave,” raves fan Katie Bristol, 23. He’s helping small businesses get exposure through shows like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and Guy’s Family Road Trip. He cooked meals for thousands of victims, firefighters and first responders during the California wildfires in 2018. He also officiated 101 gay weddings at a mass ceremony in 2015. “Guy is hard-working, positive and humble. I find that inspiring,” Bristol says.

Fieri is just as famous for his cooking shows as he is a signature style. For decades, he’s rocked frosted tips, flame shirts and a two-tone goatee. His 2002-era style — oversized, extremely campy clothes — is trendy once again. It’s not unlike Gen Z pop star Billie Eilish’s wardrobe.

His look has become a staple Halloween costume and sorority Bid Day theme. Nunzio Russo, a student at Binghamton University in New York, went as Guy Fieri for a Halloween party last year. The costume — a sheer T-shirt with flames, cheap black sunglasses to mimic Oakleys and spiky fake hair worn with a visor — was a hit. Russo tells MEL, “I’m honestly not sure why everyone randomly loved the costume. I honestly feel like Twitter memes about Guy made it popular.”

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Welcome to it

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My guyy

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Oh she FIRE

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In 2012, the New York Times issued an extremely critical review of Fieri’s New York City restaurant Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, lamenting his oppressively American style and bland, overloaded and unappealing food. The restaurant shut down in 2018. But such is the power of Fieri: He took the roasting in stride.

He’s beloved online for this easygoing, unbothered persona boosted by wild style. The man (or the staffer running his social media accounts) has quickly become a meme king.

With a birthday on January 22nd, Fieri is a classic Aquarian. He’s big on personality, community and creativity. Only an Aquarius could manage all those solo road trips across the country —  just Fieri, the great outdoors and self-reflection (plus, a huge camera crew). “I love how true he stays to his brand. He’s not trying to be anyone else other than himself and uses that to make other people smile and laugh. How could ya not love the guy?” Avery Wrenn, 24, says.

So let’s wish our camp icon a fiery birthday. For many of us in our teens and early 20s, Guy is our online dad. We grew up watching him religiously on the Food Network, reveling in his unwavering energy, matched only in chaos by his shirts. His fashion may be ironically cool, but Fieri himself is earnestly adored. When I ask Jacquelyn, 14, about Fieri, she addresses him directly: “Thank you for having such a positive impact in life, making me interested in the art of food — and making me smile.”