Celebrity chef Guy Fieri visits 3 Ashland restaurants

Guy Fieri, the celebrity star of “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives” on the Food Network passed through Ashland Thursday. At 10:30 a.m. he tweeted, “1st stop on the family road trip to Yellowstone – Emigrant lake in Ashland, Oregon. Used to come here as a kid. Awesome to have Hunter and Ryder here to check it out! #familyroadtrip,” with a photo of bicycles attached to the rear of an RV.

It’s impossible to keep a secret in a small town, and within minutes folks were retweeting and commenting, posting to Facebook about Fieri’s visit. Fieri’s film team was spotted at Agave, Sammich and Blue Toba and locals crowded the windows looking on.

Fieri’s first stop was at Agave, whose manager, Roland Wise, declined to comment because of Food Network’s confidentiality requirements, saying only, “Our heads are still spinning.” Agave’s Facebook page stated, “Hiya folks — Agave will be reopening today, Thursday June 7th 4 p.m. And thanks so much for your love and support, and patience, over the last few days. We are so excited, and cannot wait to share our great news, in person, with each and every one of you.’”

Fieri’s famed red 1968 Camaro convertible with its “FLVRTWN” license plate was at Sammich by 11 a.m. Sammich chef Melissa McMillan first met Fieri when she competed on FootNetwork’s “Guy’s Grocery Games” and said Sammich is the reason he came to Ashland. “I know customers wrote him, but he wanted to see my restaurant,” McMillan said. “That guy is a well-oiled machine. He knows what the f*** is up — he gets out the van and within 4 minutes, he’s already filming. The guy’s a pro.”

Christopher Hart, Sammich’s manager, was at the grill when the TV crews arrived. “They filled up the whole inside with cameras and lights,” Hart said. “We stayed open through the whole thing so I was back there cooking for everybody. It was fun!” Hart remembers making the Timmy Mac, I-talian and pastrami sandwiches which may have been for Fieri to taste, or for the locals stopping in for a Sammich special.

Hart learned that Sammich was tentatively in the running for “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” a couple of weeks ago and was sworn to secrecy, though he did tell his family about the possibility and his daughter was at the filming. Sammich posted a photo of the restaurant’s staff standing in front of Fieri’s red convertible and has changed their Facebook masthead to the Timmy Mac.

Nobody’s talking about TV cameras at Fieri’s third Ashland stop, but Blue Toba’s Facebook page noted a two-day, special event closure. Blue Toba, known for authentic and cooked-from-scratch Indonesian food, is a tiny space and one wonders just how seven or eight people and the TV equipment all fit into the restaurant. Chef Birong admits to knowing who Guy Fieri is but doesn’t say too much more.

“I watch the show religiously,” Birong says. “My wife always tells me, ‘You like the show, why don’t you send an email telling him to come see you?’ but I never did.” On June 4 though, Portland’s Diane K. 5-star Yelp review titled, “Approved by this Indonesian!” might have helped to clinch the deal, and put Blue Toba on Fieri’s shortlist.

“I warned him (Chef Birong) that my mom makes good rendang and he didn’t hesitate to let me order it. And he’s definitely the real deal,” Diane K. wrote. “Rendang is very flavorful, tender and has just the right spice.” Burgers aren’t the only foods showcased on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,” and while Chef Birong’s not saying, he might have prepared Rendang yesterday for Guy Fieri.

Jaspers Café Gourmet Burgers was in the running until they found out they weren’t just two days ago. “We almost made it,” Jaspers’ manager, Shelley Ledezma said. “We were just excited about it and didn’t get it and they kept it hush hush.”

Emigrant Lake campground host Pam Yeomen tweeted in response to Guy Fieri’s first posting on Wednesday, “We were glad to have you as our guests. Come back when the water slide is open for the kids.”

Sammich chef and owner McMillan says that Fieri’s family roadtrip to the Yellowstone would pass through Portland and then Spokane, filming in between vacation stops. She believes the Ashland, Oregon, episode of “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” will air in August or September.

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