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Guy Fieri's Son Hunter and Fiancée Tara Bernstein Share Their Love Story in First Interview Since Engagement (Exclusive)

"I feel like I've known her for a year after I met her for three hours," Hunter Fieri tells PEOPLE of Tara Bernstein, who he proposed to less than a year later

<p>Debbie Desoto</p> Guy Fieri

Debbie Desoto

Guy Fieri's Son Hunter and Fiancée Share Their Love Story After Getting Engaged

Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein's love story began with two things they enjoy most: food and sports.

Guy Fieri's son proposed to the professional pickleball player on Thanksgiving Day this year, announcing the news in a joint-Instagram post less than one year after they first met at a Super Bowl tailgate in February.

Generally keeping their personal lives "private" on their respective social media accounts, Hunter and Tara opened up to PEOPLE exclusively for the first time since the question was popped during an interview held at a location special to them both: on a pickleball court.

"It all goes back to the Super Bowl," Hunter, 27, begins to tell PEOPLE of how his relationship with Tara started. Hunter was at the 2023 NFL championship game because of Guy's Flavortown Tailgate, hosted outside State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

The Food Network star's event shattered the record for the largest tailgate ever, of which Tara was one of the 10,000-plus people in attendance. Unrelated, Tara, 26, was also brought to the Super Bowl because of her job as a pro pickleball athlete and social media content creator.

Related: Guy Fieri Approves of Son Hunter’s ‘Awesome’ Girlfriend: ‘This Is a Big Deal’ (Exclusive)

<p>Hunter Fieri/Instagram</p> Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein on the pickleball court

Hunter Fieri/Instagram

Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein on the pickleball court

"Last year, I signed a one-year deal with Franklin Sports and they had an activation at the convention center," she tells PEOPLE from the courts at CityPickle in New York City on Satuday. "So we were playing pickleball and teaching different athletes and celebrities," she explains, listing rapper Flavor Flav and New York Giants quarterback Matt Barkley as examples.

When the activation ended, Tara's friends asked if she wanted to stop by the tailgate before the game began. Unknowing that it was Guy's Flavortown Tailgate, she recalls saying, "Sure, why not? Let's do it!"

The fun-spirited, outgoing personality that Tara embodies drew her and her friend to the stage, ultimately winding up on it and dancing alongside the likes of Rob Gronkowski's brother, Gordie Jr., and other partygoers as Diplo, Chris Lucas of LOCASH and more performed at the event.

"We're all dancing, having a great time," Tara recalls. "I turned around and I'm like, 'Hey, can you take a video of me?' And it was Hunter." He agreed to record the video, which Tara says featured her simply "dancing" and "having fun" for one whole minute.

"That was literally it," she says with a laugh, adding that he gave her phone back and they went their separate ways, eventually entering the stadium to watch the Super Bowl with their respective groups. "We didn't exchange contact info, nothing."

Related: Guy Fieri's Son Ryder, 17, and His Girlfriend Pose for Prom Photos

<p>Arturo Holmes/Getty</p> Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein attend the world premiere of Good Burger 2

Arturo Holmes/Getty

Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein attend the world premiere of Good Burger 2

As the game went on, Tara realized her phone was low on battery. "I went to go get food and go to a concession stand to charge my phone," she explains. "I ended up plugging my phone in and staying there for literally an entire half of the game."

Coincidentally, Hunter also got up to get food. "We were hungry. We had a long day of working," Hunter says, before marveling, "We ended up seeing Tara again!"

Out of everyone in the entire stadium, Hunter says it was "super random" that they saw her again. "Literally by a ketchup and mustard stand, we're standing there and we're just chatting and we're just talking and hanging out," he recounts.

Hunter shares they "connected on a deep level really quickly" once they started chatting. "And next thing we know, the game's over. We missed the half time," Hunter says with a laugh. Guy also joined the two at the concession-stand chat, prompting fans to gather around.

Related: Guy Fieri’s Son Hunter Gushes Over His Pickleball Pro Girlfriend: ‘Truly Blessed’

<p>FRWD Social (Chanel Bell)</p> Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein

FRWD Social (Chanel Bell)

Hunter Fieri and Tara Bernstein

Meanwhile, Tara — who doesn't consider herself "a foodie person" — had "no idea" who Hunter's father was the whole time, nor was she aware of his celebrity status prior. "I had no idea that they even had any shows, who they were," she admits. "It was actually embarrassing."

For many, that could be hard to believe. Though Tara explains, "I grew up in a sports house playing sports my whole life. So for me, I never turned on the Food Network." It was refreshing for Hunter, however, who "found it pretty cool" that she didn't know of his family.

"I don't care if you know who [Guy] is or if you know who we are as a family, or if you don't. It's cool," says Hunter. "To me, that's really nice — because from right then and there, I knew she wasn't looking for something alternative."

<p>FRWD Social (Chanel Bell)</p> Tara Bernstein

FRWD Social (Chanel Bell)

Tara Bernstein

As the Super Bowl came to close and the Kansas City Chiefs clinched another victory, it was just the kickoff of Hunter and Tara's whirlwind romance. "I feel like I've known her for a year already after I met her for three hours," the rising chef tells PEOPLE.

Related: Guy Fieri's Son Hunter Is Engaged to Tara Bernstein: 'Welcome to the Family'

<p>Dustin Rota</p> Hunter Fieri proposes to Tara Bernstein

Dustin Rota

Hunter Fieri proposes to Tara Bernstein

About a week and a half after the Super Bowl, the two officially became boyfriend and girlfriend. A few months later, they went Instagram official. Nine months after first meeting, they got engaged at the Fieri's famed Ranch in Northern California. Now, they're planning a wedding.

"We both knew that we were going to marry each other. We just knew and we were just waiting for the timing of when I could do it," Hunter says, referencing their equally busy work schedules. "The only time I could [propose] was Thanksgiving."

So he did just that, rounded up both sides of the family and gathered near the beautiful pond bank in the Fieri's backyard. "I'm trying to hold back everything I have," Hunter recalls as he spoke to her on one knee in front of around 40 friends and family who watched from afar.

"I'm nervous and I'm so happy with emotions," he remembers of the proposal. "Yeah, it was definitely an emotional moment." Tara adds, "I was in tears after... It was just really, really beautiful."

Related: Hunter Fieri Opens Up About Being 'Guy Fieri's Son' and His First Solo Project

<p>Dustin Rota</p> Guy Fieri's son Hunter and fiancée Tara Bernstein pose with their families

Dustin Rota

Guy Fieri's son Hunter and fiancée Tara Bernstein pose with their families

Both Hunter and Tara credit the Super Bowl for connecting them — not only physically, but also emotionally.

"We were at the craziest sporting event all year, and the fact that we were able to hold the conversation and be so present, that really impressed me," reveals Tara. "Hunter is very down to earth and genuine and kind... I think he has such a sweet heart and soul."

Hunter adds, "When we sat there and talked, we talked about our drive and our ambition and how our family has raised us and taught us. [Tara] has so much drive, so much passion, so much energy... And that's what I look for in a person."

Though of their Super Bowl run-in, Tara's sure to note: "We weren't looking for anything. We weren't looking to find each other. It just happened."

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Read the original article on People.