Guy Fieri in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Disasters

Food Network host gets raw behind the scenes

Guy Fieri in Diners, Drive-Ins, and Disasters
Photography by Craig Lassig; Guy Fieri by Associated Press

David Page stomps through his television production studio, gesturing toward abandoned cubicles, empty chairs, and dusty computers.

"We've had to lay people off," Page booms.

He tears past walls lined with advertisements for the Dari-Ette Drive-In, Rosie's Diner, and Pop's Greasy Spoon. The rotund producer storms into his office and spills onto his chair behind a desk plaque that reads, "Because I said so."

David Page sits in his Camaro, originally used on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
Craig Lassig
David Page sits in his Camaro, originally used on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives
David Page (middle) and Guy Fieri (right) at Disneyland
courtesy of David Page
David Page (middle) and Guy Fieri (right) at Disneyland

This Plymouth, Minnesota, office was the unassuming home of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, the Food Network's runaway hit. Each episode features three eateries introduced by spiky-haired, rock 'n' roll chef Guy Fieri, a smalltime restaurateur who rose with the show's popularity to become the face of food television.

Diners has become a cultural phenomenon. Fans make pilgrimages across the country to visit restaurants featured on the show, using a branded iPhone app, "Flavortown," as their guide. (One couple, Ben and Barb Stillwagon, has visited 250 restaurants from the series.) Two #1 New York Times bestselling books have been published based on the show.

The program was created by Page, who has produced 11 seasons, starting in 2006. The Food Network rewarded Page Productions by renewing its contract seven times, most recently last September, when the network commissioned seasons 12 through 14.

That's when it all went to hell.

Fieri stopped showing up for scheduled shoots. He canceled voiceover sessions. Page tried to herd his host, but Fieri wouldn't return the producer's calls.

Then Food Network officials told Page they were taking the reins from him. Page remembers general manager Bob Tuschman saying Fieri had "demanded" it.

This May, Page sued the network for breach of contract. In August, the Food Network answered with a counterclaim alleging it was Page who breached the contract by "mistreating staff and others working on the series."

Now Page is lashing out at Guy Fieri in a no-holds-barred brawl that threatens to swallow the hit show and its star.

"Guy will say whatever he needs to say to prop up his image of Guy as a really nice guy," Page says. "Everyone has to be part of Team Fieri. Team Fieri didn't feel any such reciprocal obligation."


PAGE'S RÉSUMÉ READS LIKE AN ODD FIT for the Food Network. Rather than working in kitchens, he cut his teeth as a bulldog investigative news reporter.

The son of a New England academic, Page was educated at a prep school but decided to attend Oklahoma State University because it had a good broadcasting program and he "didn't want to work so hard."

At college, Page co-hosted a radio show with his roommate, Charlie Hines, who remembers the time they spoofed the campus with a War of the Worlds-style hoax about drunken sorority sisters taking over the grounds. Their creativity extended to matters of the heart, as they tried to talk co-eds into spending the night by informing them a tornado was coming and their bathtub was the only safe place to ride out the storm.

"It was an urban myth," Hines explains.

Page may have been known for his wild antics, but Hines recognized David's "innate sense of journalism." After college, Page fulfilled that promise by taking a job at a TV station in Phoenix, where he developed a reputation as a "tenacious reporter" and a bit of a hothead.

"He certainly didn't suffer fools gladly," remembers KTAR news director Al Buch. "I can see where he might butt heads with people who want to gloss over facts and do things on the short."

Page produced investigative reports exposing Medicaid supplemental insurance fraud and unsafe railroads. In short order, his work earned him promotions to larger markets.

It was in Atlanta that Page's career took a major left turn. He had always been an on-air correspondent, but one day Atlanta ABC news director Andrew Fisher broke the news that Page wasn't telegenic enough to stay in front of the camera. It was a polite way of saying Page was too ugly.

"There's people that God intended to be on TV and people he didn't," Fisher told him. "In your case, he didn't."

In the mid-1980s, Page took a job as an overseas producer for NBC news, where he won an Emmy Award in 1989 for breaking news about the Romanian Revolution.

"If he ever stubbed his toe on a story, I'm not aware of it," says James Polk, a Pulitzer Prize-winner who worked with Page on stories about cocaine use in the Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse and money-laundering in Nevada banks. "I thought he was one of the best."

A decade later, Page won another Emmy as a senior producer on 20/20, for a piece on PTSD. But the segment almost got spiked over concerns of ABC's lawyers, recalls Michael Bicks, who worked with Page on the report.

"It was a complicated story," Bicks says. "Page's perseverance got it on the air."

Eventually, Page grew tired of the news grind. He struck out on his own, creating a production studio. The first major offering was a special about diners starring Al Roker. It bombed.

But when the Food Network later came calling, Page revived the idea.

"Yeah, I've got this show," Page remembers telling Food Network executive Christianna Reinhardt.

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