The Untold Truth Of Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay, the longtime Food Network personality, has starred in dozens of shows on since the mid-1990s, Flay's Food Network bio reveals his culinary career began when he landed a job at the famous New York restaurant Joe Allen at age 17. His kitchen abilities so impressed the restaurant's namesake that Joe Allen himself paid Flay's tuition so he could attend the French Culinary Institute. After graduating in 1984, Flay eventually became executive chef at Miracle Grill in New York City's East Village, a gig that landed him on the radar of a deep-pocketed restaurateur who presented the chef, then 25, with the chance to open his own restaurant. That restaurant, Mesa Grill, opened its doors in 1991 and put Flay on the map. 

Flay's star was on the rise just as the fledgling Food Network launched. Flay made his first appearance on the network in 1994 and proved to have a gift for television, going on to become a staple on the network for decades.

While he remains one of Food Network's most popular personalities, there's much his fans may not know about this multitalented, multifaceted celebrity chef. Keep reading to discover the untold truth of Bobby Flay. 

Bobby Flay started cooking with an Easy-Bake Oven

When he was eight or nine years old, Bobby Flay asked his parents for an Easy-Bake Oven as a Christmas present. "My father was like, 'How about a baseball mitt?'" Flay jokingly recalled in an interview with Today. "I couldn't believe you could bake a cake with a lightbulb, and I had to see it for myself," he quipped. Although his parents may have been confused at his request, he did receive the toy oven.

You could say that Christmas present set Flay on a path toward his culinary career, but it also made him the perfect ally for young activist McKenna Pope. In 2012, 13-year-old Pope launched a headline-grabbing petition calling for Hasbro, maker of the Easy-Bake Oven, to alter the toy's feminine pink-and-purple color scheme to something less gender-specific. 

According to Time, Flay became the first of many chefs to speak out on Pope's behalf, with his PR firm Bullfrog + Baum posting a video featuring some of the country's top chefs urging Hasbro to address her concerns. As USA Today reported, the company ultimately heeded her request and invited Pope to its headquarters to get a firsthand glimpse of the new gender-neutral Easy-Bake ovens in silver, blue, or black.

Bobby Flay first worked in a kitchen because he had "nothing else to do that day"

Becoming a chef wasn't so much something that Bobby Flay aspired to, but sort of fell into. Speaking with The Wall Street Journal, Flay admitted that as a teenager he "had no interest in doing any school work whatsoever." When he ultimately dropped out of high school at 17, his father strongly suggested he find gainful employment. According to Money Inc., his early gigs included working at a pizza place and scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins before he landed a temporary job as a busboy at New York City eatery Joe Allen, where his dad was a part-owner.

Flay was only meant to fill in for the regular bus boy who was away for two weeks, but upon his return, the restaurant's chef asked Flay if he wanted to try working in the kitchen. "I said, 'Sure.' It was because I had nothing else to do that day," Flay told WSJ, admitting things could very easily have turned out differently had his social life been more active that day. 

"If I had plans with friends, I probably would have said no," Flay joked. "I wasn't desperate to work in the kitchen."

Bobby Flay's cat is nearly as famous as he is

Bobby Flay was raised in a cat-loving household. Growing up as an only child, he told CBS Sunday Morning, the family cats "were as close to my brothers as I had." When he moved out of his parents' house at age 19, Flay went through "a 30-year drought without a cat in my home life" until welcoming an adorable Maine Coon named Nacho into his home.

Nacho exhibits many "canine traits," such as playing fetch and following Flay around his home from room to room and Flay admitted his beloved pet has made him "a softer and more understanding person." He explained, "The world has a way of giving you what you need, and sometimes a new best friend shows up when you need him the most."

Meanwhile, Nacho has become something of a celebrity in his own right — and even has his own Instagram account. While Flay boasts 1.4 million followers on Instagram as of this writing, Nacho has an impressive 200,000 followers. In fact, Nacho's account links to a hilarious video in which Flay whips up a batch of Super Bowl nachos, which the hungry feline digs into with gusto. 

Bobby Flay married and divorced multiple times

Bobby Flay is clearly a multitalented guy, yet one thing the thrice-divorced celebrity chef has yet to master is marriage. Flay's first union to fellow chef Debra Ponzek was short-lived; they married in 1991 and divorced in 1993. Flay subsequently met Food Network host Kate Connelly when he appeared on the show Robin Leach Talking Food, reported The New York Times. They wed in 1995 welcomed daughter Sophie in 1996 before splitting up in 1998.

Flay found love again with actress Stephanie March, best known for her role in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. The couple wed in 2005, but sadly, the longest of Flay's three marriages came to a screeching halt in 2015, when TMZ reported they had separated.

The divorce proved to be a nasty one. In court documents obtained by In Touch Weekly, March accused Flay of cheating on her with three different women, including his assistant Elyse Tirrell and Mad Men actress January Jones. At the time, Flay refused to comment to the media, with his rep telling Us Weekly he would "continue to refrain from responding to the continued efforts by certain parties to spread rumors and innuendo." In July 2015, the exes issued a statement to Us Weekly announcing they had "come to an amicable divorce settlement."

Bobby Flay shared grilling tips with President Obama

In 2013, Bobby Flay received the rare honor of being invited to cook for not one but two world leaders. The chef was asked to prepare a meal for U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Speaking about the experience with Politico, Flay admitted he was honored to be part of the "historic moment," adding, "I was just pinching myself that I was there."

With some guidance from the State Department to "show off the best of American culture and cuisine," Flay devised what he described as "an all-American meal." The dignitaries in attendance were served "New Mexican lobster tamales with green chile" along with Porterhouse steaks accompanied by "potatoes with Point Reyes blue cheese." Dessert, he added, consisted of "individual cherry pies — how do you get more American than that? — with a bourbon, vanilla, and fresh mint ice cream."

This wasn't the only time Flay spent time with Obama, though. Back in 2009, the celebrity chef joined the president to grill steaks on the White House lawn and offered the president some key grilling advice. "Guys that don't grill, they wanna start flipping and turning," Flay told Obama. "You want to flip [the steak] once ... you want to let the grill do its job." 

Bobby Flay has starred in a ton of TV shows

Bobby Flay's transition from the kitchen to the television studio has been a story of expanding success. As TV Guide's list of Flay's credits indicate, the celeb chef has appeared in no fewer than 25 different TV series or specials, usually as host. Flay's most notable shows for the Food Network have focused on his grilling skills, including Hot Off the Grill with Bobby Flay, Boy Meets Grilland Bobby Flay's Barbecue Addiction. Other hits include culinary competition series Throwdown with Bobby Flay and Beat Bobby Flay, along with his recurring role on Iron Chef America.

When Flay inked a new deal with the Food Network in 2018, Variety reported he was the network's longest-running active personality, having made his first appearance way back in the mid '90s. The three-year deal included his series Beat Bobby Flay along with a new series, The Flay List, co-hosted with his daughter Sophie. In addition, the contract also encompassed developing new projects for the network via his production company, Rock Shrimp Productions

"Bobby Flay is a culinary superstar in every regard, and we are thrilled to be able to continue this extraordinary and productive partnership," Food Network president Courtney White shared in a statement to Variety.

Bobby Flay has won more Iron Chef competitions than anybody else

In 2018, Bobby Flay shocked viewers — and, reportedly, his bosses at the Food Network — when he announced he was retiring from the Iron Chef franchise in the midst of taping an episode of Iron Chef Showdown. During what would be his final episode, he removed his chef's jacket to reveal a t-shirt beneath, imprinted with the message "This is my last Iron Chef battle ever."

According to Vanity Fair, the reason he decided to bail on one of his most successful on-air roles was simple: Iron Chef America requires a lot of behind-the-scenes effort, and since the show isn't produced by his production company, he doesn't share in the profits of its success.

According to The Recipe's ranking of all the various Iron Chef America chefs to compete, Bobby Flay made his exit with the knowledge that he'd competed — and won — more than any other chef to appear on the show. According to the website's stats, Flay took part in 61 Iron Chef matches, winning 43 times and tying twice.

Bobby Flay was the first chef to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Bobby Flay made Tinseltown history in 2015 when he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — marking the first time that a chef had ever received the vaunted honor. According to People, the ceremony was attended by Flay's mom Dorothy, his daughter Sophia, and her mother, Flay's second ex-wife, Kate Connelly. Fellow chef Michael Symon and then-Food Network president Brooke Johnson were also in attendance.

"I just want to make sure that everybody understands — because I know there's been a little confusion — I am not getting this star for my cameos in Entourage," Flay joked in his speech. "I know there's a little debate about that, but honestly, to be the first chef to get a star is really, truly an amazing milestone."

The ceremony was not without controversy, though. At the time, Flay's contentious divorce from Stephanie March was in full swing, with her allegations of his infidelity making headlines. As People reported, in the midst of the festivities a plane could be seen flying overhead pulling a banner emblazoned with the word "CHEATER." Flay reportedly didn't see it.

Bobby Flay's kitchen skills have brought him millions

As a high-school dropout with no ambitions of becoming a chef until he inadvertently wound up working in a restaurant kitchen, Bobby Flay is a true American success story. According to Money Inc., his various business ventures over the years, including successful restaurants and his television production company, have provided him with a net worth estimated at $30 million.

Since opening his first restaurant, New York City's Mesa Grill, in 2004, Flay has built a culinary empire that encompasses more than 20 eateries. As Delish noted, these restaurants range from his nationwide Bobby's Burger Palace chain to his upscale NYC eatery Gato.

Other sources of revenue include public speaking fees and royalties from numerous cookbooks, including such titles as Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes and Bobby at Home. Then there's his lucrative television empire, much of which comes through his Rock Shrimp Productions company. Not only does Rock Shrimp produce several Flay-starring shows, but is also responsible for such series as Simply Laura, Kelsey's Essentials, Boss Nails and the horse-racing series All In: The Road to the Classic.

The one thing Bobby Flay will never do while dining out

When Bobby Flay goes out to enjoy a meal at a restaurant that isn't one of his own, there is one thing he has promised to never do. "I won't send food back to the chef. Never," he divulged in an interview with PopSugar

On the flip side, he explained that he has no problem whatsoever if diners at one of his eateries send back a dish if it's not to their satisfaction. "It happens in all my restaurants for one reason or the other," he added. "I want my customers to be happy, and I will try to the end of the world to make them happy. That's it."

He also divulged that when he goes out to eat, there's one thing in particular he tends to order, and explained the unusual reason why. "I don't easily have crushed ice at home, so if I can get oysters or anything else served on ice, that's what I go for," he revealed. As for the one thing he'll never order, he singled out cod. "It just doesn't taste like anything," he said, "so I don't bother."

Bobby Flay has a list of "dream dinner party" guests

If Bobby Flay could enjoy a meal with a particular celebrity, who would it be? He answered that question in a 2009 interview with Delish, offering an instant response. "Hands down, Muhammad Ali," he said of the famed heavyweight boxing champion, who passed away in 2016.

Noting that the athlete was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky, Flay explained he would create a Southern-themed menu that would focus on "ingredients from that region." With that in mind, Flay said he would serve "bourbon-glazed pork chops, cheesy grits, buttermilk biscuits, and whatever else the Champ wanted."'

Ali was also on the guest list of Flay's "dream dinner party," he revealed in a 2005 interview with Rachael Ray Every Day. In addition to Ali, other dream guests, dead or alive, would include former U.S. president Bill Clinton, iconic Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe, U2 frontman Bono, and New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen. "That would be a fun conversation because we'd cover so many topics," Flay said. "Of course, I'd want you to come, too," he told Rachael Ray.

The best burger Bobby Flay has ever eaten wasn't one of his

Bobby Flay is known for his juicy, sumptuous burgers, which have been enjoyed by numerous customers of his Bobby's Burger Palace restaurant chain. Yet when asked about the best burger he'd ever tasted, Flay admitted that it didn't originate from one of his kitchens.

It was when he was in New Mexico filming Food Network series Food Nation that he ordered a green chile cheeseburger from Santa Fe restaurant La Casa Sena. "That burger really stuck with me, so much, in fact, that I revamped it for Mesa Grill's lunch menu," Flay told Delish while promoting his Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries & Shakes cookbook.

Flay further revealed that the flavor profile of that particular burger also inspired a burger on the menu at Bobby's Burger Palace, the Santa Fe Burger. He shared the recipe he created with the Food Network, with the burger including a mix of ground beef and ground turkey, along with an entire poblano chile. 

Bobby Flay is seriously into horse racing

While it's obvious that food is the driving force in Bobby Flay's life, both personally and professionally, it's not his only passion. As it happens, the Boy Meets Grill host is also a massive devotee of horse racing. A profile for Thoroughbred Daily News focused on Flay's involvement in the sport, noting that he had established himself as an owner and breeder of championship thoroughbreds, having "put together a boutique stable that includes some of the best bloodlines in the stud book."

According to the profile, Flay first became interested in horse racing when fellow restaurateur Arthur Seelbinder offered him the opportunity to invest in some yearlings. As his interest in horses grew, Flay evolved from passive investor to ultimately buying and breeding his own thoroughbreds.

To say that he's developed a knack for it is an understatement. In 2016, he purchased a 25 percent interest in a thoroughbred named Creator just five days before the horse won the 2016 Belmont Stakes. And, according to Associated Press, a horse he owned outright, More Than Real, won the 2010 Breeders' Cup, with Flay taking home $500,000 of the $1 million purse.

The one recipe Bobby Flay has never been able to master

When it comes to grilling meat or competing in an Iron Chef competition, Bobby Flay is as formidable as they come. Baking, however, has never been his forte. As he admitted to Delish, he's out of his element when tasked with creating "anything with butter, flour, sugar and eggs." Admittedly, he's "the most impatient pastry chef ever."

He recalled an episode of Food Network's Throwdown that saw him compete with a professional pastry chef to create a wedding cake. While his opponent's cake was "spectacular," he described his own finished product as, "uh, very country-style. It was very uneven, but it tasted really good."

In fact, Flay cited German chocolate cake as the one recipe that he's never managed to get right. "It's got a lot of my favorite flavors — chocolate, coconut, pecans — and I always have a hard time getting the layers right, like what they look like," he confessed. "You can always tell my cake is homemade. It's very rustic."