SANTA ROSA -- As the start of the second season of homegrown celebrity chef and restaurateur Guy Fieri's cable television show Guy's Grocery Games nears, "Flavortown Market" now has a Santa Rosa address.
Mr. Fieri's favorite catchphrase on his television programs is "one-way ticket to Flavortown!" In the first season of the reality show on Food Network, "Flavortown Market" was a real California store, Fields Market in West Hills.
Earlier this year, the show moved to a set built in a south Santa Rosa industrial park. An affiliate of the show's producers leased 24,000 square feet in Industry West Commerce Center off Todd Road in January and within two weeks transformed the space into a 15,500-square-foot supermarket set for the series, according to Food Network and real estate sources. Producing the show is Beverly Hills-based Relativity Television.
In an interview for Food Network, Mr. Fieri said the newly built set offers a more widely "eclectic" and international mix of products and a better layout than what's found in the real world.
"The aisles are wider, the lighting is better, so it makes it easier for the chefs to shop and see what’s on the shelves," he told the network. "Going along with the shelves, the culinary team has stocked and set them up so they’re far more shopper-friendly. There are a lot of great markets around the country, but I wish Flavortown Market really existed."
Each episode of Guy's Grocery Games pits four chefs against each other to prepare dishes with ingredients pulled from the shelves of a grocery store. They are thrown "real-world" curve balls such as sticking to a budget, substituting out-of-stock ingredients and shopping just before a store closes.[poll id="118"]
Fields Market in San Fernando Valley has a selection of 25,000 fresh, boxed, canned, deli, bakery products. The new set also "carries" 20,000 products. While the aisle racks, checkout lanes, refrigerator and freezer cabinets and wood-grain vinyl flooring are real, the walls are painted plywood panels anchored to the warehouse walls.
Food Network noted that an actual grocery store can take up to two years to build.
The arrival of "Flavortown Market" in Santa Rosa appears to be the first major television production based in the North Bay, according to Ben Stone, executive director of Sonoma County Economic Development Board, which talked with the production team initially. The region has a number of film and advertisement productions come through, and there has been talk about setting up significant television production facilities for programs focusing on wine and food.
"We’re seeing the rise of the creative economy," he said. "It's the fusion of art with technology and business. ... This is a real indicator of what's happening."
Mr. Stone noted that this move of production to Santa Rosa is another, major giveback by Mr. Fieri to the local community.
Sources close to the series production said that the shift was largely due to scheduling conflicts and that Mr. Fieri wanted to be closer to his family and Santa Rosa-based businesses. Outside of a core production team, Mr. Fieri pushed for including local talent, the sources said.
Mr. Fieri started his career in food by co-opening Johnny Garlic's restaurant in Santa Rosa with Steve Gruber in 1996. Winning a Food Network competition launched Mr. Fieri into the national spotlight. He now hosts or appears on several Food Network shows and has his own line of packaged foods and kitchen gear. His restaurant business now includes several locations of Johnny Garlic's, Tex Wasabi, Guy's Burger Joint and Guy's American Burger and Bar.