Bobby Flay Just Debunked This Common Misconception About His Career

When Eater reported on Alton Brown's comment on Anthony Bourdain's cooking back in 2015, some probably felt vindicated. After Bourdain called out Food Network TV chefs, Brown asked, "When was the last time you saw Anthony Bourdain actually cook anything? I've spent 14 years cooking my own food on television and I've never seen him cook a meal." Celebrity chefs appear as celebrities first and chefs second, living a life of television removed from the grind and grime of daily kitchen work.

Bobby Flay, however, resents that accusation. In the latest episode of his podcast "Always Hungry," Bobby began the subject of restaurant reviews by putting such a claim to rest: "I get that all the time because I'm on television a lot, that I'm not in my restaurants. The bottom line is I'm in my restaurants all the time. An insane amount of time. Maybe more than some chefs who are not on television." 

"Oh, constantly," his daughter Sophie Flay agreed, before Bobby continued explaining that it is because he loves being in them, not because he feels like he has to be there. "It's the most joyous place to me," he concluded. Sophie then chimed in, describing how she could never comprehend the energy he has to meet a schedule that can include a day of filming three episodes of "Beat Bobby Flay" and then going to the restaurant all night. "You're always in your restaurant," she exclaimed. That, he argues, is why his establishments have had longevity.

Debunking the debunking

While it is easy to accept the truth that Bobby Flay does go into his restaurants as much as he can, a simple glance at his portfolio of restaurants on his website complicates matters a bit. Bobby has three types of restaurants. There is Amalfi, Bobby's Burgers, and Bobby Flay Steak. Even if we do not include the currently closed Gato or any of his other ventures, Bobby runs into the metaphysical issue of literally not being able to be in all of his kitchens. This is not to besmirch his cooking or the quality of his restaurants. Rather, this notes that like other television chefs, Bobby's brand is larger than his well-honed culinary abilities.

In a 2013 piece for HuffPost, writer Joe Satran dubbed chefs like Bobby Flay, who owned 13 restaurants at the time, "Emperor Chefs." Satran continues by outlining the franchising method used by restaurants that operate under the name of a celebrity. For the more successful of these, the restauranteur operates more as a manager than a cook. The ones who emphasize their chef credentials first tend to have difficulty setting up multiple restaurants with different ideas that might not work, instead of following an entrepreneurial recipe.

Toward the end of the piece, Satran enters a meeting of one restaurant group to listen in on topics that sound like almost any other corporate enterprise. So, while Bobby does sweat in his kitchen, his bigger role is set in the board room building empires.