Utah has its fair share of diners, drive-ins and dives, and the Food Network host Guy Fieri is in town this week discovering some of them.
Film crews were at Ruth's Diner, the Burger Bar in Roy, Moochie's Meatballs, Lone Star Taqueria, Blue Plate Diner, Red Iguana and Pat's Barbecue, shooting segments for Fieri's show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
As the name implies, the show highlights small, locally owned, sometimes funky or quirky restaurants across America.
"You guys are studded with these fantastic little eateries," said Fieri, taking a break in between filming at Blue Plate Diner Thursday morning. "I've never heard of Utah as being a destination for food, but I'd tell people to come for the skiing and stay for the food. When it comes to the mix of funky, eclectic places that we do, you guys are kicking some butt."
The vintage red Camaro convertible which Fieri is always shown cruising in at the beginning of his program was parked in front of the Blue Plate Diner Thursday morning. In the cramped kitchen, cooks scurried between the cameras and lights to fry eggs and plate up customer orders.
Meanwhile, restaurant owner John Bouzek was leaning over a hunk of raw beef with Fieri, whose sunglasses were wrapped around the back of his spiky, bleach-blond head of hair.
"That's how I keep from losing them," he said later. "I love sunglasses because I have a natural squint."
As the cameras rolled, Fieri and Bouzek sprinkled pickling spices on the meat. "So, who taught you how to make corned beef?" Fieri asked, to launch Bouzek into an explanation.
When Bouzek covered the meat with a layer of aluminum foil, Fieri began tapping on the foil with his index finger. "I'm just sending an S.O.S.," he quipped.
During a break, Bouzek admitted that he felt a little nervous about being on camera. "But it was great once we got going."
The filming in the kitchen didn't deter the buzz of regular customers out front. One of them was Elaine Jones of Salt Lake City, who met Fieri last year when she was a contestant on the Food Network's Ultimate Recipe Challenge and he was one of the emcees.
"I asked him how they pick the diners to be on the show, and he told me how to send it in on the Web site. So, I submitted this place, because we've been coming here for six or seven years."
Fieri said about 60 percent of the restaurants featured come from fan recommendations. Charisma, energy and quality of the food are all factors in the eateries chosen. The staff also tries to choose locations where they can hit several spots while they're in town.
Fieri said he was impressed with the diverse and eclectic cuisine he'd found in Utah.
"I'm from California, and I would put Lone Star Taqueria up against some of the best taquerias anywhere," he said. "Yesterday we shot up at a place in Roy, the Burger Bar, it was fantastic. They're not serving filet mignon, they're serving burgers, but they're doing it right."
Fieri visits hundreds of places across America, but he said that each is unique.
"It's kind of like most songs having a drum and a guitar, and a singer and a bass," he said. "It's the same instruments, but it's how you make the music when everyone is in the concert venue and jamming together it's the same instruments, but it's how you make the music that makes each song different. It's like the concert venue is filled and everybody is jamming together, and John (Bouzek) is like the lead singer. And me? Well, I'm leading the culinary mosh pit."
The crew was scheduled to wrap up its filming tonight at Pat's Barbecue.Air dates for the segments haven't been scheduled, said Lisa Krueger, the Food Network's public relations manager. But they probably won't be aired together in the same episode, she said. "More often than not, we lump things together by themes instead of geographic locations."