Guy Fieri
Flavortown has a nice ring to it, right? (Illustration by Ellen Budell, Benedictine College)

Move Over Christopher: Guy Fieri Should Be Columbus, Ohio’s New Namesake

An online petition has gained thousands of signatures in support of recognizing the Food Network sensation, instead of the Italian colonizer that sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

Thoughts x
Guy Fieri

An online petition has gained thousands of signatures in support of recognizing the Food Network sensation, instead of the Italian colonizer that sailed the ocean blue in 1492.

A series of statue removals and historical reckonings have swept through the United States in recent months. One figure at the top of the list is Christopher Columbus. With his statues across the U.S., Americans celebrate the Italian navigator for “discovering America.” Schools neglected to mention, however, that he also brutally murdered natives and cut their tongues out. Of course, in the woke landscape of 2020, most people no longer want to place Columbus on a pedestal. Hence, the citizens of Columbus, Ohio, want to also rename their state’s capital to honor someone new: chef-lebrity Guy Fieri.

This idea may seem far-fetched, but it’s really not. For many in the U.S., Fieri is a household name. He is so recognizable that when the minor league baseball team Rocky Mountains Vibes released a new s’more mascot donning sunglasses and flaming blond hair, the internet believed it was inspired by Guy Fieri. Despite the confusion, frosted tips and flame-covered shirts immediately elicited images of Fieri for most.

Growing up, I remember seeing his show “Drive-ins, Dine-ins, and Dives” on The Food Network. Initially, his on-the-road show was meant to be a one-season special, but his search for the most delicious cuisines hooked viewers. Every trip with him was one to “Flavortown,” and as he showcased restaurants fitting the theme of the week, the food preparation and consumption made viewers’ mouths water.

Now, for those unfamiliar with Fieri, Flavortown sounds like a ‘60s hallucination or a mirage conjured up after days in a desert with no food or water. Well, that’s not too far off.

For me, Flavortown is where all your tastebuds’ needs are not just fulfilled but exceeded. There’s no unseasoned chicken or mystery meat. Nay, the word inedible isn’t even in the vocabulary of those in Flavortown.

If the concept is still unclear, here is a vivid walkthrough from First We Feast: “Flavortown is King Fieri’s fiefdom, where the rivers flow thick with gravy and fast-casual salad chains are chased away by violent meatstick-wielding mobs. Some say Flavortown doesn’t really exist, that it’s more of an idea that lives in our hearts. But let me assure you, like heaven, Flavortown is for real. To get there, all you need is a bucket of trans fats, a childlike sense of wonderment, and a whole lot of bath salts.”

As many have attested, Flavortown would be a place you take a gravy boat to, but never leave.

Given all the fun antics of Fieri, why not rename a major city after him? There’s an active petition with thousands of signatures supporting the idea on Change.org. The page’s description offers more insight into the concept: “The new name is twofold. For one, it honors Central Ohio’s proud heritage as a culinary crossroads and one of the nation’s largest test markets for the food industry. Secondly, chef-lebrity Guy Fieri was born in Columbus, so naming the city in honor of him (he’s such a good dude, really) would be superior to its current nomenclature.”

Even Bud Light liked this concept, expressing that if the city changed its name, the company would give out free drinks to the residents of Flavortown, Ohio.

Of course, Flavortown embodies the culinary history of Ohio. Dating back to the pioneers of Lewis and Clark’s time, settlers from different backgrounds brought their culinary know-how to the table. In fact, Ohio’s official state food is tomato juice, since Paragon tomatoes were first invented and grown there. Plus, Fieri himself is a Food Network veteran, having started off as the winner of Season 2 of “Food Network Star.” Since then, he has had more than 10 shows on the network all while running three restaurants in New York City and Las Vegas.

Moreover, in comparison to Columbus the navigator, Flavortown only has a positive message. Fieri’s show is instrumental in helping many small businesses. Since its start in 2007, he has zoomed across the country and put the spotlight on these holes in the wall, allowing them to attract more customers. These sites then join the ever-growing Flavortown that the U.S. has to offer.

To loyal Food Network fans, Fieri is an expert on finding the best food. Hence, people flock to the locations that he raves about on the show. For instance, one business, Donatelli’s, was actually on the verge of closing shop. Once Fieri went to the Minnesota-based restaurant with his camera crew, tons of new customers came to eat there. Until the pandemic, Donatelli’s was still thriving and attributed their success to Fieri.

Fieri is also an LQBTQ+ advocate. When his sister married her female partner, Fieri celebrated that and the lifting of the same-sex marriage ban by officiating 101 same-sex weddings in Florida. His choice of Florida was also a big deal considering the Florida attorney general, Pam Bondi, vehemently fought against gay marriage.

He drew inspiration from the Disney movie “101 Dalmatians,” saying “We have our own Cruella De Vil, Pam Bondi. She was determined that she was going to prevent equality from coming to Florida.” This is just the kind of accepting attitude that some residents of Columbus, Ohio, are hoping will replace the prejudice of Christopher Columbus.

At the end of the day, Fieri is a far more likable character than Columbus. Though this petition could just be a joke, I believe it is something to actually consider and implement. Columbus embodies an American pattern of misinformation and cover-up. Up until recent years, the public viewed the explorer as a hero, despite the villainous actions he took. He embodies the concept of exploitation, imperialism and simply stealing and murdering others. Commemorative statues and city names should not reward his cruel actions.

Even if it sounds ridiculous to rename a city after a catchphrase from a 2000s-era cooking show, it brings no harm. Keeping Columbus as the city’s name only further harms Native Americans and allows injustice to continue. It shows that despite all the protests for equality, we as Americans aren’t actually seriously willing to correct our past mistakes.

Personally, I would rather have a culinary king donned in outlandish clothing and spewing catchphrases like “Bomb-dot-com tasty” uniting people than a man who murdered innocent people.

Plus, we all already have Fieri’s approval. “I don’t know all the details, I’m not behind this, I’m not the one instigating this,” Fieri said. “Am I flattered? Yes. Do I think that there’s a lot going on and a lot of decisions that need to be made before this happens? Yes. If anything like this were to really come about, of course, I would be there.”

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