Guy Fieri is mostly known for hosting the show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. His signature look of spiked bleach-blond hair, a goatee, and a fiery button-up shirt make him easy to identify, and it also makes him easy to meme. These are typically lighthearted jabs about going to Fieri’s mythical Flavortown, but this past week, a different kind of post featuring the chef started making the social media rounds.
In the image, Fieri stands outside an unidentified restaurant, looking in through the window at a man sitting at a table with a plate piled high with food. The diner, who seems oblivious to Fieri’s presence, is labeled “Houston,” and his plate of food is identified as “Actual diversity and a great multicultural food scene.” Fieri, standing outside with a forlorn look on his face, stands in for Austin.
The meme does what all good memes do: it conveys an idea with just a few words and images. And this one in particular confirms what Austinites and Houstonians, or even anybody mildly familiar with the two cities, have known for a good while now: Austin, despite its self-anointed reputation as a liberal hub, has a severe lack of racial diversity, and all the while, Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. Austin’s increasing issue with diversity has been studied and written about with increasing scrutiny over the past few years, including in 2016, when Texas Monthly’s own Mike Hall explored the city’s transformation—brought on by the tech boom—from the easy, slacker haven into something else entirely.
Meanwhile, there’s Houston, which has been steadily maintaining an increasingly diverse population over the past few decades. Even Anthony Bourdain understood the importance of capturing the city’s multiculturalism in his Parts Unknown episode on Houston, highlighting an earned reputation that Austin still clings to.
More people outside of Texas are starting to understand that dynamic. Last year, the LA Times wrote about Houston’s evolution into the multicultural hub that it is now, but the piece included hints of surprise that one of the most diverse cities in the U.S. would be in Texas, and specifically Houston, nonetheless.
As with most internet memes, it’s difficult to trace it back to a creator. Without knowing the who behind the meme, it’s probably easy to suspect that a Houstonian slapped the words onto image, but I wouldn’t be surprised if an Austinite made it. As an Austinite who regularly visits family and friends in Houston, I can readily admit that Austin isn’t the city it aspires to be, and based on how frequently I saw this meme across my own social media circles, I’m not the only one. Instead of a diverse liberal haven, Austin is just Guy Fieri, standing outside of a restaurant, looking in. And we all know it.