Controversial Things Everyone Just Ignores About Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay has been a Food Network star since his first television appearance in 1994. Since then, he has opened several restaurants, written cookbooks, and hosted several different cooking shows, becoming an icon in the culinary world and beyond. He was even the first chef to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

But like Newton's third law, Flay's fame has been met with equal and opposite failures, mostly at the expense of other people both within his inner-circle and outside of it. Despite the rumors that circle this celebrity chef, Flay has managed to maintain a public image that's as charming as it is humble — a phenomenon that's actually completely dumbfounding considering many of the accusations, which range from labor violations to sexual misconduct. We took a look at some of the most famous controversies surrounding America's favorite culinary master, all of which have quietly disappeared without hardly a trace while Flay sauntered down the red carpet and collected inordinate sums of money.

Bobby Flay's Iron Chef incident

In 2000, Bobby Flay made a name for himself thanks to his Iron Chef battle against Japanese chef Masaharu Morimoto and the obnoxious victory dance it inspired. Upon assuming his imminent triumph, Flay stepped onto the counter, stomping on the cutting board lying there and throwing his arms in the air, the crowd quite simply "raising the roof," at his encouragement.

When the camera cut to Morimoto, he denounced Flay and his antics, telling the Food Network and the world that Bobby Flay was "not a chef." 

"Cutting boards and knives are sacred to us," he said, implying that Flay's casual disrespect for a chef's most integral tools made him an imposter in the kitchen. Despite Morimoto's cutting words and his clear disdain for Flay's arrogant behavior, Flay and his fans have since moved past the incident, and over the last 20 years, he's managed to inflate not only his success, but his ego as well.

Bobby Flay's three marriages (and three divorces)

Bobby Flay seems to be quite the ladies' man, but so far he has not been able to sustain a marriage for very long. After his first marriage in 1991 to fellow chef Debra Ponzek ended after just two years, he met and married Kate Connelly, with whom he had his only child, Sophie. Soon after Flay and Connelly split up, Flay went on a blind date with Stephanie March, an actress on Law and Order: SVU. The couple married in 2005, and ten years later, filed a divorce that proved to be Flay's ugliest and most public one yet. 

Look, no one should blame the man for trying, but after three marriages and three divorces, we can't help but begin to question the common denominator here — particularly when the accusations against him include forgetting an anniversary, demanding a prenup, publicly degrading his wife for her purported breast implants, cutting off her share of their finances, and much, much more. 

Bobby Flay's alleged affair with an employee

When Bobby Flay and Stephanie March separated in 2015, rumors were flying. One of those rumors alleged that Flay was having an affair with Elyse Tirrell, a restaurant hostess-turned-personal assistant. Perhaps before the food media's #MeToo reckoning, many of the industry's gatekeepers felt this relationship deserved no further investigation. But alas, a couple whose power dynamic is so obviously and extremely unequal should be cause for concern for the people involved and the people who stood idly by and watched it happen. 

The fact that the actress and writer Maia Madison told Page Six at the time that Tirrell was slated to "become the Monica Lewinsky of the food world" says everything you need to know about the fraught power structures that existed within the relationship and its voyeurs. And yet, thanks to an industry that had not yet come to terms with its perpetuation of harmful, and often gendered, power dynamics, Flay was able to sail through these allegations without so much as a question about the role he played in them.

Bobby Flay ditched his wife in the hospital

Bobby Flay's divorce saga would not be complete without mention of one of his most egregious misdeeds: back when Flay and Stephanie March were still together, March's appendix burst and she was sent to the hospital for treatment. Flay, on the other hand, reported for work as usual. It is hard to understand how a famous celebrity chef could not pull a string or two in order to leave work for a day to care for his sick wife — that seems like an understandable leave-of-absence even if Flay were an employee, not an employer.

Perhaps Flay thought he was being generous when he offered to send his assistant (we're hoping it wasn't the same assistant with whom he may have had an affair, but who knows!) in his place, but March certainly did not take it that way. According to TMZ, she was "livid" about her husband's neglect in her time of need — and rightly so!

Bobby Flay once sued someone over an uncomfortable couch

Perhaps one crests the peak of the American Dream and tips into the rich jerk territory upon his first absolutely bonkers lawsuit. For Bobby Flay, this milestone was reached in 2017, when he sued Jamie Stern Designs over a couch. The sofa, despite its $19,000 price tag, was "intolerably uncomfortable to sit on for any extended period of time," according to the official complaint filed by the New York County Clerk office.

It is, quite frankly, painful to imagine anyone taking legal action because they bought a bad couch, but Flay's celebrity status makes it all the more excruciating. How Flay managed to spend such an absurd amount of money on a couch he hadn't even taken for a test drive — especially considering his apparent pickiness when it comes to sofas — is inconceivable in itself. To then file a lawsuit that contains the phrase, "defendant agreed to manufacture a leather sectional sofa for plaintiff's residence in New York City (the 'sofa')" is reason enough to cancel Flay immediately. 

Bobby Flay got someone fired over a million-dollar Hamptons house

In 2009, it was Bobby Flay who was sued. Flay was accused of playing a role in the wrongful termination of a real estate agent who sold him and his then-wife Stephanie March land for a vacation home in the Hamptons. Alexander Peters sold the $1.485 million property to the couple, and later he offered to "share some of the history" of the land with them, including the location of some ancient Montaukett grave sites. "I'm sure you wouldn't want to disturb" the ancient relics, Peters suggested. Following this email, Flay complained to Peters' real estate agency, and Peters was fired shortly thereafter, leading to the lawsuit. 

It remains unclear whether or not Flay actually heeded his real estate agent's suggestion. He and March had planned on using the Long Island land to build a self-proclaimed "green" house, but the details of what exactly constitutes as such were not well documented. Regardless of exactly how conscientious the couple actually was, their Hamptons home is still the reason a man lost his job.

Bobby Flay violated labor laws

Perhaps Bobby Flay's most shameful litigious encounter is the time he was sued for labor violations in 2009. Bold Food LLC, Flay's company that oversees restaurants such as MesaGrill and Bar Americain, is listed as the defendant in this Manhattan-based lawsuit. It is accused of several labor infractions such as the mismanagement of employee tips and failure to properly reimburse for overtime. One of the former employees who filed the suit also claimed that Bar Americain fired him after he questioned the way the company gave out tips.

Justin Swartz, one of the attorneys in the case, succinctly summed up the situation when he stated that his clients "have worked for Mr. Flay's company for years, helping him achieve tremendous fame and success." But while Flay was becoming a media sensation, his restaurants "disregarded the most basic of [the employees'] workplace rights." These kinds of labor abuses are far too common in the restaurant industry, but Flay's status as the Food Network's golden boy makes the whole situation sting a little extra for the hospitality workers who are forced to sit back and watch as Flay makes money off their labor.

Bobby Flay left Iron Chef in a blaze of arrogance

Bobby Flay made headlines for the 2017 Iron Chef stunt, in which he ripped open his chef jacket to reveal a T-shirt that announced, rather unequivocally, that this would be his "LAST IRON CHEF BATTLE EVER." Studio fans and producers alike were shocked by the move. Flay had been a star of the competition show for 17 years at the time of this scandal, and he later told People that he had no intention of leaving his Food Network "family." 

But soon after the ordeal, Flay announced that he would be quitting Iron Chef after all. In an interview at the 2018 South Beach Wine and Food Festival, he admitted that the competitions were physically exhausting, "but, even moreso, they [were] exhausting emotionally." 

"At some point I was like, 'I've been doing this for a long time and I want to go out on a high note,'" Flay said. But what may have been a high note for him was less so for the show's producers, who were forced to perform some serious damage control while the cameras kept rolling. To make matters worse, Flay responded arrogantly when the camera crew anxiously told him his surprise announcement could not be cut out of the shot: "I know," he said, brushing off their concern.

Throwdown with Bobby Flay is pretty unfair

Throwdown With Bobby Flay: a Food Network show that pits emerging chefs against renowned celebrity and Iron Chef champion Bobby Flay. The game's contestants are reeled in with the promise of a Food Network cameo, and then Flay saunters on set, shattering their dreams of glory and making clear the following hours will be spent fighting to defend what little standings they have. 

While there's nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, Flay's reputation in the food world, and the lack thereof of his guests, makes the premise of Throwdown unfair to begin with. While Flay and the show's producers give guest chefs airtime and the exposure being on a popular television network brings, Flay often makes a show out of beating these chefs at their own game, challenging them to cook-offs using their own specialty dishes — only to prove that Flay can do it better. 

Perhaps no episode portrays this quite as well as the chowder competition in season one, featuring Brooklyn-based chef Ben Sargent. In an interview, Sargent said the experience was "awful." "I was crying. It was the most disappointing thing in the world."

Many say that Bobby Flay can be a real jerk

If you Google "Bobby Flay," you will find an Urban Dictionary entry that defines everyone's favorite celebrity chef as "the biggest jerk ever." The maybe-untrustworthy internet resource then goes on to back up its claim: "He makes home town cooks lose on his show to make himself look better. if he loses its just funny." 

Flay is often portrayed as the Food Network's most wholesome star, but those outside the celebrity world have criticized his arrogance. "I think that Bobby is one of those people that if you are his friend, he has your back forever and he will stand up for you," Giada De Laurentiis said of Flay. What she doesn't say is what Flay acts like with people who are not friends but mere acquaintances or strangers. Perhaps Flay is loyal to his fellow celebrity chefs, but even his well-renowned television show seems to suggest that his kindness is only extended to a select few.

Bobby Flay's wealth only makes him look greedy

In 2017, the Gazette Review estimated Bobby Flay's annual salary to fall somewhere around $2 million (that's $20,000 a week, for those of you who'd like to compare your annual income to his weekly one). According to Money Inc, those paychecks have amounted to a net worth of $30 million. With that kind of money, it seems a little absurd that Flay has been the subject of so many controversies, many of which involved ridiculous lawsuits in which Flay sought more money, often from the pockets of individuals with far less fame. 

Flay's wealth may not necessarily guarantee he is as big a jerk as many claim he is, but it does make it far more difficult to overlook the self-importance he frequently displays. He may be a good chef, but anyone with a kitchen as ostentatious as his should spend less time creating problems for himself and those around him and more time actually cooking in it.