Iron Chef Jose Garces On What It's Like Competing Against Bobby Flay - Exclusive

Chef Jose Garces has plenty of experience cooking on TV. He has competed on (and has won) shows like "Unique Eats" and "Iron Chef America," among others. As such, Garces knows the challenges that come with the territory of cooking on camera, as he divulged during a recent exclusive Mashed interview. "In a competitive [cooking] format, there's a lot of camera men and camera ladies kind of hovering around. There's a lot of cables. You're trying to move pretty quickly. ... You're also dealing with flames, sharp knives, a lot of moving parts. So physically it can be a little bit dangerous. I would say that those are some of the biggest challenges."

The overall hardest part about TV cooking, though, for Garces, is the internal struggle. "The hardest part was the internal pressure that I put on myself. For me, during those years [on TV], I realized that I was cooking Latin food mostly, and it was for a huge national audience, and I just felt like the weight of that responsibility of carrying the culture forward. Each battle to me was like, 'Here I come carrying the like Latin torch,' and the chef on the other side would obviously want to win and take me down. So the hardest part was I think more mental than it was physical. Just kind of carrying that with me on a regular basis."

Fortunately, Garces tended to hold his own just fine in televised cooking competitions, even when he faced one of the most formidable culinary competitors out there: Chef Bobby Flay.

Chef Garces on winning (and losing) in competitions with Bobby Flay

As Chef Jose Garces recalled in an interview with Mashed, he went head-to-head against Chef Bobby Flay with a pretty unusual ingredient at the center of the competition. "So Bobby, I beat in 'Battle Melon' during 'Iron Chef America' in 2007. [We had] several different melon types, different varieties: Crenshaw melon, a few different honeydews, some different types of watermelon. And it's a challenging ingredient."

Garces dug deep into his repertoire of culinary know-how and tricks to come up with the right twists to put on the unexpected foodstuffs. As he said, "I think, during that time, we were still very much into molecular gastronomy and using avant-garde techniques, and so we applied some of those techniques to our cooking and luckily we came out victorious."

Beating Bobby Flay was a highlight of Garces' early career, but it was hardly the last time the two chefs would face off. "Bobby's a hell of a cook," Garces admitted. "I think throughout my career on 'Iron Chef,' I battled Bobby a few other times, and he got the best of me on some other battles as well. He's no slouch. He's really tough to beat, but I certainly enjoyed beating him during that time."

If he was going to challenge Flay again, Garces replied he'd try to take down the star chef with some spice. "Well, he's known for his Southwestern bold flavors, but he's expanded his cuisine over time. I think we both cook Spanish food," Garces said. "So I'd like to take him on in a Battle España. Let's see who can throw down the best Spanish food."

Follow Chef Garces at his website to learn about his restaurants, charitable work, and collaborations, like a recent partnership with Casa Verde on a new plant-based food line.