Celebrity Chef on Campus

Guy Fieri spices up campus dining

Guy Fieri on campusHundreds of Montclair State students cheered on celebrity chef Guy Fieri as he dished up his famous Big Bite Burgers with Donkey Sauce and Vegas Fries at the grand opening of his first campus restaurant in the country, aptly named GFOC (Guy Fieri on Campus).

“I’m totally psyched about Guy Fieri on Campus, especially since I was personally involved in developing these recipes,” Fieri said during his October visit to the University. “I’m serving the stuff I love to eat and cook, and I’m sure there isn’t anything else quite like it.”

The stuff Fieri loves to cook has gained him a loyal following on his Food Network shows Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Tailgate Warriors where he doesn’t mind having fun with food and fans.

GFOC is an example of how campus dining has changed. Gone are the days of mystery meat and secret sauce. “Students nowadays expect great food,” Fieri says. “You are the innovators—you’re setting the standard,” he adds, praising the University and its dining services provider, Sodexo, for giving him a unique opportunity to try something new.

The first of a planned chain of nationwide, casual campus restaurants from Fieri, GFOC serves up his signature Asian- and Mexican-inspired dishes that go down easy with hungry students. GFOC—along with a new Dunkin’ Donuts and a SubConnection sandwich shop—has made Blanton Hall’s new food court a popular campus hub. “We eat here all the time,” says student Mike Nolan.  “It’s awesome!”

Breaking culinary ground

When Fieri spent the day at the University, ’70s classic rock blared while he worked in the kitchen with team members, sampled the food and served up advice to the staff. “I had ‘proud father’ moments seeing the effort that’s being made,” he confesses.

Fieri’s history with casual dining restaurants goes back to 1996, when he launched his own Italian food chain, Johnny Garlic’s, in Santa Rosa, Calif. In 2003, he and business partner Steve Gruber debuted the first Tex Wasabi’s restaurant, with a menu that featured an unlikely culinary marriage of Southern barbecue and California Sushi.

While Fieri stands out in any crowd with his spiky platinum hair and numerous tattoos, it was his culinary chops that propelled him to television stardom. He first hit the small screen in 2006, after winning the second season of The Next Food Network Star. After his success with Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Tailgate Warriors, the star hosted NBC’s primetime game show, Minute to Win It.

Guy Fieri on campusWhat’s cooking at GFOC?

Fieri’s foray onto college campuses finds a willing and eager audience among students. His popular and famous crispy Vegas Fries were inspired by his own college days at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and are tossed in Buffalo sauce and served with a side of blue cheese.

“Guy Fieri on Campus was designed to create a fun and relaxing spot for students to enjoy great food while letting their hair down or, in this case, spiking it up,” says Tom Post, president of Sodexo Education-Campus.

“Food trends are continuously evolving,” says Dora Lim, general manager of Dining Services.

Fieri, who sported a red Montclair State sweatshirt while on campus, was thrilled to meet his student fans, 300 of whom lined up to have him sign copies of his cookbook.

“Students are leading the food revolution. They’re amazing fans of the Food Network and helped propel my career,” he says. “So the opportunity to be so close to them and to be associated with such cool people at such a cool university is great.”