Guy Fieri's son Hunter proposed to Tara Bernstein, a professional pickleball player and social media creator, on Thanksgiving Day this year
The eldest son of Guy Fieri is engaged to Tara Bernstein, a professional pickleball player who doubles as a social media content creator both on and off the court.
When speaking with PEOPLE exclusively about their love story in their first-ever interview since their engagement on Thanksgiving Day this year, Hunter praised Tara for her "drive" and "ambition" in her career.
An athlete in her own right, Tara's worked in professional sports for a decade. The Queens native has worked with the New York Mets as a producer and digital creator for over eight years, prior to becoming a sponsored pickleball athlete in 2022.
That February, she met Hunter. Since their "random" encounter, their initial friendship evolved into a romantic relationship. Less than one year after meeting, the rising chef and athlete got engaged. Now, they're planning a wedding together.
"Hunter is very down to earth and genuine and kind," she tells PEOPLE exclusively. "I think he has such a sweet heart and soul that whatever he does in life, I knew he was just so grounded."
Read on for everything to know about Tara Bernstein, Hunter Fieri's fiancée.
She was born and raised in Queens, New York
Tara Bernstein is a native of New York, born and raised in Queens. She grew up in Glen Oaks and went to Bayside High School before continuing her education at Pace University to play softball and pursue a degree in communications.
Prior to graduating in 2018, Tara — who thrived as a student athlete, securing an NCAA Championship win while studying sports broadcasting — secured a number of internships, citing her work with the New York Mets as one of the jobs she's "so forever grateful for."
"Originally, I wasn't really expecting to get it because I was a college student playing in the same season as the job," she tells PEOPLE exclusively. "But I really was eager to just get that experience. When they hired me, I felt so grateful because growing up as a Met fan... it was a full circle moment."
She's a professional pickleball player
Growing up an athlete and playing sports her entire life, Tara felt a "void" when she graduated college and her time as a student athlete came to an end. "I was missing competing in something," she tells PEOPLE.
"I wasn't pursuing softball professionally. That wasn't something that was on my path," Tara adds. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic made it hard for athletes in general to gather and compete.
So keeping in her bubble at the time, Tara recalled the question her dad asked her, inviting her to play pickleball with him one day. Though "a little skeptical at first," she took him up on the offer and "genuinely had so much fun."
Having worked in production with a personal interest in content creation, Tara started to post about pickleball on her Instagram account. "One thing about me is when I like something or when I love something, I stand firmly by it and I will promote it all day, every day if it aligns with who I am as a person," she shares.
Ultimately, Tara caught the attention of Franklin Sports, a leading sporting goods brand that signed her as an athlete and a creator in 2022. "It just started from then," she says.
As a sponsored Franklin Pickleball Athlete, influencer and advocate for women in sports, Tara is "making a livelihood" with the sport. "It's such a beautiful, all-inclusive sport that anyone could play," she says of pickleball. "It's my passion."
Not only does Tara travel globablly for tournaments, but she partners with different brands and organizes various events centered around pickleball. Plus, she's been a consistent participant and invited-guest at celebrity-focused philanthropic sporting events and charitable endeavors.
Among the initiatives Tara supports is the PitCCh In Foundation, co-founded by New York Yankee CC Sabathia. She's also conducted interviews with Drew Brees, Eli Manning and Rob Gronkowski at celebrity matches.
She also works in production for the New York Mets
Since her first job with the pro sports organization as an intern in the entertainment department in 2016, Tara continues her work for the New York Mets in production during the season as a producer and digital creator for the team’s social media platforms.
In addition to her work with the NY Mets and her various gigs as a pro pickleball athlete, Tara maintains her own personal brand as a social media creator and has partnered with a number of brands including Celsius, Ferrari, The US Open, among others.
She and Hunter Fieri first met at the 2022 Super Bowl
Tara first met Hunter at the 2022 Super Bowl in Arizona. The athlete was invited to the game to host an activation with Franklin Sports, while the rising chef was helping his dad host Guy Fieri's Flavortown Tailgate outside of the stadium.
Eventually, Tara wound up at the record-breaking tailgate of 10,000-plus people and found herself dancing on stage at the event. To capture the moment, she asked the person behind her to record a video of herself amid the fun.
"We're all dancing, having a great time," Tara recalls to PEOPLE. "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."
As the game went on, Tara realized her phone was low on battery so she went to a nearby concession stand to charge her phone. "I ended up plugging my phone in and staying there for literally an entire half of the game," she says.
Coincidentally, Hunter also got up to get food. "We were hungry. We had a long day of working," Hunter remembers. "We ended up seeing Tara again" out of everyone in the stadium," he marvels, noting how it was completely "random."
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.
She and Hunter Fieri got engaged on Thanksgiving Day
About a week and a half after the Super Bowl, Tara and Hunter 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."
She's on an episode of Guy's Ranch Kitchen
Tara surprised Hunter during an episode of Guy's Ranch Kitchen, which premiered in December 2023 on the Food Network. This was the first time she appeared on one of the family's TV shows.
Ironically, Tara — who doesn't consider herself "a foodie person" — had "no idea" who Guy or his family were prior to meeting Hunter at the Super Bowl in 2022, nor was she aware of his celebrity status prior.
"I had no idea that they even had any shows, who they were," she admits to PEOPLE. "It was actually embarrassing." In fact, she hadn't seen an episode of one of their shows until after they got engaged!
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."
She has Guy Fieri's seal of approval
“[She has] good values and is just a really great person so I couldn't be happier for Hunter,” the Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives star said about his son's girlfriend prior to their engagement. “This is a big deal. To see him this happy and also to see him have a partner that is as driven as he is, it's perfect.”
Guy says that Tara fits in well with his tight-knit family, and even takes them on for some friendly competition. “She's a pickleball machine. She plays one-against-two, and beats everybody,” he said.
Tara opened up to PEOPLE in December about Guy, while referencing the "sweet, sweet words" he said about her. "He's been incredible to me," she says. "Guy is the perfect example of knowing family is his backbone."
The athlete adds, "I'm just incredibly grateful to now have our families together and be a part of the family because he is such a genuine, kind human being."
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