Welcome to Flavortown. Population: 900,000.
If Tyler Woodbridge and more than 30,000 others have their way, then Columbus, Ohio could be renamed as “Flavortown” — the phrase coined by celebrity chef/restaurateur Guy Fieri, who was born in Columbus.
Woodbridge recently launched the Change.org petition, as Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther announced the Christopher Columbus statue outside City Hall would be removed. Other similar statues in Columbus are also in the process of being taken down.
Christopher Columbus’ controversial legacy has been under fire recently. The famous explorer, who ushered European colonization of the Americas, also led mass genocide of America’s native inhabitants.
“For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness. That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past,” Ginther said in a statement, according to WTTE.
Will Guy Fieri take Christopher Columbus’ place? Probably not — “anyone can sign the petition, regardless of where they live,” Food & Wine magazine reported. Woodbridge himself no longer lives in Flavortown — er, Columbus — though he grew up there.
“Even though it’s my favorite city, I was always a bit ashamed of the name,” Woodbridge told CNN.
Woodbridge noted Fieri’s charitable work, which includes raising more than $20 million for restaurant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and officiating more than 100 LGBTQ weddings.
“That kind of optimism and charitable work embodies more of what Columbus, Ohio, is about rather than the tarnished legacy of Christopher Columbus,” Woodbridge said.
According to his petition, the “Flavortown” name is also apt because Columbus, Ohio has been a “melting pot” of diverse cultures and nationalities, and the name would honor the city’s “proud heritage as a culinary crossroads and one of the nation’s largest test markets for the food industry.”
As of Sunday afternoon, the petition had more than 17,000 signatures. That number has ballooned to exceed 30,000 as of Monday afternoon.
How (and why) did Fieri coin the term “Flavortown”? In a 2019 interview with The Wrap, Fieri explained it was a “run at the mouth.”
“I just say things,” he continued. “Ten-plus years ago, I’m there in a diner, and I said to the guy — he made a pizza, I think — ‘That looks like a manhole cover in Flavortown.’ Because of how big it is.”
Fieri hasn’t publicly commented on the petition yet. But whatever happens, he’ll always be the unofficial mayor of Flavortown.