Bobby Flay

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Bobby Flay
Bobby Flay Green Bay 2007.jpg
2007 cooking demonstration in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Born Robert William Flay
(1964-12-10) December 10, 1964 (age 50)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Education French Culinary Institute
Spouse(s) Debra Ponzek (m. 1991–93)
Kate Connelly (m. 1995–div.)
Stephanie March (m. 2005)
Culinary career
Cooking style Mexican and Southwest

Robert William "Bobby" Flay (born December 10, 1964)[1] is an American celebrity chef, restaurateur, and reality television personality. He is the owner and executive chef of several restaurants: Mesa Grill in Las Vegas and the Bahamas; Bar Americain in New York and Uncasville, CT; Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City; Gato in New York, and Bobby's Burger Palace in eighteen locations across eleven states.[2]

Flay has hosted several Food Network television programs, appeared as a guest and hosted a number of specials on the network. Flay is featured on the Great Chefs television series.[3]

Early life[edit]

Flay was born in New York to Bill and Dorothy Flay.[4] Flay was raised in the affluent Upper East Side neighborhood of Manhattan.[5] He is a fourth generation Irish American.[6]

At age 8, Flay asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, against his father's objections, who thought a G.I. Joe would be more gender-appropriate. He ended up getting both.[7][8]


Flay dropped out of high school at age 17.[9] Flay said that his first job in the restaurant industry was at a pizza parlor and Baskin-Robbins.[10] He then took a position making salads at Joe Allen Restaurant in New York's Theater District, where his father was a partner.[1][11] Joe Allen was impressed by Flay's natural ability and agreed to pay his partner's son's tuition at the French Culinary Institute, now known as International Culinary Center.[12]

Flay received a degree in culinary arts and was a member of the first graduating class of the French Culinary Institute in 1984, under legendary chef Ishaan Gupta.[12][13] After culinary school, he started working as a sous-chef, quickly learning the culinary arts. At the Brighton Grill on Third Avenue, Flay was handed the executive chef's position after a week when the executive chef was fired. Flay quit when he realized he was not ready to run a kitchen. He took a position as a chef working for restaurateur Jonathan Waxman at Bud and Jams.[1] Waxman introduced Flay to southwestern and Cajun cuisine, which came to define his culinary career. Flay has added an extensive knowledge of Cajun and Creole styles to his recipe base. Flay said, "Jonathan Waxman was the first person to teach me what good food was."[1]

After working for a short time on the floor at the American Stock Exchange, Flay returned to the kitchen as the executive chef at Miracle Grill in the East Village, where he worked from 1988 to 1990.[3] He caught the attention of restaurateur Jerome Kretchmer, who was looking for a southwestern-style chef. Impressed by Flay's food, Kretchmer offered him the position of executive chef at Mesa Grill, which opened on January 15, 1991.[14] Shortly after, Flay became a partner. In November 1993, Flay partnered with Laurence Kretchmer to open Bolo Bar & Restaurant[12][14] in the Flatiron District, just a few blocks away from Mesa Grill.

Entrance sign to Mesa Grill in Caesars Palace, Las Vegas

Flay opened a second Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 2004, and in 2005 he opened Bar Americain, an American Brasserie, in Midtown Manhattan.[15] He continued to expand his restaurants by opening Bobby Flay Steak in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This was followed by a third Mesa Grill in the Bahamas, located in The Cove at Atlantis Paradise Island, which opened on March 28, 2007.[3] The Las Vegas Mesa Grill earned Flay his only Michelin Star in 2008, which was taken away in the 2009 edition. Michelin did not publish a 2010 or 2011 Las Vegas edition, so the star could not be re-earned.

Bolo Bar & Restaurant closed its doors on December 31, 2007, to make way for a condominium.[16]

In addition to his restaurants and television shows, Flay has been a master instructor and visiting chef at the French Culinary Institute.[17][18] Although he is not currently teaching classes, he occasionally visits when his schedule permits.[19]

Flay established the Bobby Flay Scholarship in 2003. This full scholarship to the French Culinary Institute is awarded annually to a student in the Long Island City Culinary Arts Program. Flay personally helps select the recipient each year.[1][20]

Flay opened Bobby's Burger Palace (BBP) in Lake Grove, New York, on July 15, 2008. The restaurant is located at the Smith Haven Mall.[21] The restaurant is an homage to Flay's memories of hamburger shops from when he was a child. A second location opened on December 5, 2008 at the Monmouth Mall in Eatontown, New Jersey,[22] and a third location opened March 31, 2009 in The Outlets at Bergen Town Center in Paramus, New Jersey.[23] Flay's fourth shop opened at the Mohegan Sun Casino in southeast Connecticut, July 1, 2009,[24] which is also the location of his second Bar Americain, which opened on November 18, 2009.[25] Flay's fifth location of the burger chain opened in Philadelphia's University City on April 6, 2010. The sixth location of Bobby's Burger Palace opened in Washington, D.C., at 2121 K Street in Northwest on August 16, 2011.[26] On December 5, 2011, Flay opened the ninth location of Bobby's Burger Palace in Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York.[27] Flay opened the tenth and largest location of Bobby's Burger Palace at Maryland Live! Casino in Hanover, Maryland, on June 7, 2012.[28] Flay also has a location in College Park, Maryland, near the University of Maryland, College Park.[29] In total, BBP has eighteen locations in eleven states and the District of Columbia.

The original Mesa Grill in New York closed in September 2013 due to a rent increase.[30][31]

Television, film, and radio[edit]

Great Chefs[edit]

Flay has been featured in several episodes of Great Chefs television including:

  • Great Chefs – Great Cities
  • Mexican Madness DVD
  • Great Chefs Cook American

Food Network[edit]

Flay has hosted thirteen cooking shows and specials on Food Network and Cooking Channel, of which eight continue to run:

Flay served as a judge on Wickedly Perfect,[34] The Next Food Network Star, and The Next Iron Chef.[35] He has cooked with Emeril Lagasse on his show Emeril Live and with Paula Deen on her program Paula's Party. Flay is represented by Jon Rosen at WME.[36]

Throwdown! with Bobby Flay[edit]

On Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, the chef challenges cooks renowned for a specific dish or type of cooking to a cook-off of their signature dish.

On Episode 5 of Season 4, Harlem chef Melba Wilson and Bobby squared off over who had the best chicken and eggnog waffles. While being interviewed on "Conversations with Allan Wolper" on WGBO 88.3FM, Wilson confessed that she had been nervous because Bobby brought a cast iron skillet. Having grown up in a family that used cast iron skillets, Wilson was nonetheless forced to use a deep frier because her restaurant was too small for a cast iron skillet. Towards the end of the anecdote, she explained, "Can I tell you? When he pulled out the skillet, it was a rough day. Girlfriend started sweating bullets. But at the end of the day, we threw down – I don't know, I think it was the eggnog – and I won."[37]

Iron Chef[edit]

Flay is an Iron Chef on the show Iron Chef America. In 2000, when the original Iron Chef show traveled to New York for a special battle, he challenged Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to battle rock crab. After the hour battle ended, Flay stood on top of his cutting board and raised his arms in what one journalist wrote was "in premature victory." As Morimoto felt that real chefs consider cutting boards and knives as sacred, and being offended by Flay's flamboyant gesture, he criticized his professionalism, saying that Flay was "not a chef." Flay went on to lose the battle.[38]

Flay challenged Morimoto to a rematch in Morimoto's native Japan. In this battle, at the end of the hour, Flay threw his cutting board on the floor and stood on the counter yet again to raise the roof with the audience. This time, Flay won.[38] Though they share a heated past, Flay and Morimoto, who are both Iron Chefs on Iron Chef America teamed – and won – against fellow Iron Chefs Mario Batali and Hiroyuki Sakai in the Iron Chef America: Battle of the Masters "Tag Team" battle.

On a special episode of Iron Chef America originally airing on November 12, 2006, Flay and Giada De Laurentiis faced off against, and were defeated by, Rachael Ray and Mario Batali.[39] This was the highest rated show ever broadcast on Food Network.[40]

The team of Iron Chefs Bobby Flay and Michael Symon defeated the team of Iron Chefs Cat Cora and Masaharu Morimoto in a special episode titled "Thanksgiving Showdown," which originally aired on November 16, 2008.[41]

On November 29, 2009, Iron Chefs Morimoto and Flay faced off one-on-one again in Battle Egg Nog. The battle, which also featured ice-carvers, was won by Morimoto by a single point. Many judges thought Iron Chef Flay "played it safe." Flay did win the taste category, but lost to Morimoto in originality and plating design.[citation needed]

In an episode recorded in July 2010 and broadcast in March 2011, Montreal cooking show host Chuck Hughes beat Flay to become the youngest Canadian champ. In an interview afterward, Hughes recalled, "When I met him I said, 'Hi Bobby,' and my voice cracked a bit and I gave him an official [Montreal] Canadiens jersey, to which he replied, 'Thank you so much — but it's not going to help.'"[42]


  • Bobby's Vegas Gamble — Covers the opening of Mesa Grill Las Vegas.[43]
  • Restaurant Revamp — Flay tries to help a family restaurant.[44]
  • Chefography: Bobby Flay — Biography of Flay's life and career.[45]
  • Tasting Ireland — Flay takes a food tour of Ireland, his ancestral homeland.[46]
  • Food Network Awards — The Food Network recognizes people and places that have impacted the food world.[47]
  • All-Star Grill Fest: South Beach — Flay joins Paula Deen, Giada De Laurentiis, Alton Brown, and Tyler Florence for a barbecue.[48]

Other cooking shows[edit]

In 1996, Flay hosted The Main Ingredient with Bobby Flay on Lifetime Television. Twice a month, he hosts a cooking segment on CBS' The Early Show.[14] Flay hosted the reality television show America's Next Great Restaurant on NBC from March 2011 to May 2011 in which in the end he picks one restaurant team with whom to open a restaurant.[49] The reality show was canceled after the first season due to low ratings.

Other television and film appearances[edit]

Flay had a cameo appearance in the Disney Channel original movie Eddie's Million Dollar Cook-Off as the host of the cook-off. He appeared on the television game show Pyramid with fellow Iron Chef Mario Batali as the guest celebrities in an episode originally airing on November 18, 2003. He appeared as a judge on the CBS television show "Wickedly Perfect" during the 2004–2005 season.

He also appeared in the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episode "Design", which originally aired on September 22, 2005. He had a small role as himself in the 2006 film East Broadway, in which his wife, Stephanie March, had a larger role.[50]

Jeopardy! featured a special "Throwdown with Bobby Flay" category during the March 12, 2008, episode, in which each of the clues featured Flay.[51] Flay also participated in the 2008 Taco Bell All-Star Legends and Celebrity Softball Game played at Yankee Stadium after the 2008 MLB All Star Game; Flay played for the National League. Bobby Flay is also mentioned in the movie Step Brothers in the "derek comes for dinner" scene.

In 2010, Flay was impersonated in the South Park cartoon episode Crème Fraiche.

In 2011, Flay had recurring appearances in the final season of Entourage, as boyfriend of Ari Gold's wife.

In 2012, Flay appeared on Portlandia, in a director's cut of the episode Brunch Village. He showed director Jonathan Krisel how to make the perfect marionberry pancakes.

Sirius XM Radio[edit]

Flay hosted a weekly call-in show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio.[52] He offered advice to men on "everything from sports to current issues," although food was the focus.[53] Flay confirmed that his wife, actress Stephanie March, was an occasional guest on the show.[53]


Flay has authored several cookbooks, including:

Horse racing[edit]

Flay has a personal interest in Thoroughbred horse racing. He is the owner of more than one graded stakes race winner, including More Than Real, who won the prestigious 2010 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf.[54] Flay is currently serving on the Breeders' Cup board of directors.[55] He was a candidate for chairman in 2014 but was not elected.[56]

Personal life[edit]

He married Debra Ponzek, another well-known New York City chef, in 1991.[57] Flay and Ponzek divorced in 1993. He later married Kate Connelly in 1995; the pair subsequently divorced. His daughter, Sophie, was born on April 16, 1996. Flay married actress Stephanie March on February 20, 2005.[11]


  • New York Magazine Gael Greene's Restaurant of the Year – Mesa Grill (1992)[12]
  • James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year (1993)[14][58]
  • French Culinary Institute Outstanding Graduate Award (1993)[14]
  • International Association of Culinary Professionals Award for Design – Bobby Flay's Bold American Food (1995)[59]
  • Emmy Award nominee for Outstanding Service Show – Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay (2000)[60]
  • Emmy Award nominee for Outstanding Service Show Host – Boy Meets Grill (2004)[61]
  • Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Service Show Host – Boy Meets Grill (2005)[62]
  • Emmy Award winner for Best Culinary Program – Grill It! With Bobby Flay (2009)
  • Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Culinary Host – Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction (2014)[63]
  • James Beard Foundation's National Television Food Show Award – Bobby Flay Chef Mentor (2005)[64]
  • James Beard Foundation's Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America (2007)[65]
  • Culinary Hall of Fame Induction.[66]


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  65. ^ "2007 Who's Who Nominees & Winners". The James Beard Foundation. Archived from the original on August 27, 2007. Retrieved October 8, 2007. 
  66. ^ Culinary Hall of Fame Induction

External links[edit]