TV chef Guy Fieri is feeding over 5,000 people a day to help his community recover from the worst wildfire in California history. Since the firefighters and evacuees lined up, they've been ready with lunch and dinner. The group has even sent some of the 23,000 meals served to date directly to the front line firefighters. After Fieri was evacuated from his Santa Rosa home, he and his team set up a makeshift outdoor kitchen (including huge smoker grills) to feed thousands of evacuees. Fieri has been a Santa Rosa resident since the 1990s, where he has raised his family in addition to owning restaurants and filming Food Network shows.
Despite his attempt to give back to the community he loves, his mobile operation was met with negative commenters. People on social media called it a publicity stunt and condoned his choice of using a smoker as inconsiderate to fire victims. Fieri responded to critics by telling the local PBS affiliate KQED that this "...isn't a PR stunt. You don't see my banners up. I'm not promoting anything. I'm just here cooking. This is feeding people. People need help, and I'm here to help. That's it."
The bleached-hair celebrity isn't the only one trying to give back. He teamed up with other local chefs and restaurant owners all over Sonoma County. The group has joined Operation BBQ Relief, a nonprofit formed in 2011 after a tornado devastated Joplin, Missouri. This is the nonprofit's group's first visit to California, but they have cooked meals in 23 states for 44 disasters.
Luckily for Fieri, his home was spared by the fires, but the close-by Coffey Park neighborhood was devastated by the spreading destruction. Fieri is shocked by the devastation, but is warmed by how the community is coming together.
I have to say, the menu sounds pretty killer - according to NBC San Diego, they've been serving pork loin with mushroom gravy and pineapple apple teriyaki sauce, alongside braised cabbage and apples, Brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and baked beans. Yum!
Operation BBQ Relief has had an incredibly busy summer. The next time you consider giving back, especially to organizations that are transparent about donations and help, this team of first responders is wildly deserving and fairly under-reported in all of the natural disasters we've seen.