The Truth About Bobby Flay's First Restaurant

Long before Bobby Flay started throwing down, he was the boy wonder of the NYC restaurant scene who opened the Mesa Grill at the age of just 26 years old. As Flay told the Wall Street Journal, he dropped out of high school at 17 with no particular dreams of working in a restaurant, but a temporary gig as a busboy turned into a kitchen job which in turn led to his studying at the French Culinary Institute. At that point, a career in the food industry was pretty much a done deal for young Flay.

He learned about Southwestern flavors from 80s super-chef Jonathan Waxman, and these soon became his go-to palette. This, in turn, led to an invite from restaurateur Jerry Kretchmer, who had just returned from a visit to the Southwest. Kretchmer visited the region, according to Flay, "probably because he wants to be a cowboy." Upon returning to NYC, he decided to open a Southwestern restaurant, and heard that young Bobby Flay was the best chef for the job. Rather than just asking Flay to come work for him, however, Kretchmer actually invited him into a restaurant-owning partnership. When Flay was asked if he'd had to come up with any money to finance his share of the deal, he said no, all he was asked to bring was his "sweat equity."

The Mesa Grill lasted 22 years

Opened in 1991, Flay's first Mesa Grill stayed open until 2013 (via Flay's website) – a pretty good run, considering how competitive the NYC restaurant scene is. Mesa Grill was a hit from the get-go, named Best New Restaurant by New York magazine in 1992 (via Bobby Flay). Within 2 years, Flay opened his second NYC restaurant, the now-closed BOLO, and the Mesa Grill itself spawned a few offshoots. The last of these, the Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, shut down just a few months ago. Not on account of Flay having lost any of his luster, however, it's just that the former Iron Chef has moved on to his latest obsession: Italian food. This spring will see the opening of Caesars Palace's newest restaurant, Amalfi by Bobby Flay (via Eater Las Vegas).

While Flay's passion for Southwestern cuisine endured, however, the original Mesa Grill set the standard by which all other Southwestern restaurants have since been judged and introduced the world to such dishes as goat cheese queso fundido, blue corn smoked shrimp tacos, chipotle-glazed rib eye (via Yelp), and of course his signature shrimp and roasted garlic tamales. While this restaurant may be long gone, meaning you can no longer taste these creations cooked by a chef who'd trained under (or at least met) Flay, you can still get your oven mitts on a copy of Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook to see if your DIY versions could possibly beat Bobby Flay