The Surprising Age When Bobby Flay Became A Head Chef

Celebrity chef, cookbook author, restaurateur, and Food Network personality Bobby Flay has had a long and storied career in the food industry, starting when he was just a kid. Perhaps as a sign of his future calling in the kitchen, a young Bobby Flay asked for (and received) an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas when he was just eight or nine years old, as he told Today in an interview. Then when he was in sixth grade, Flay got a job delivering pizzas after school though he didn't do any actual cooking, according to this Instagram post.

Flay's first real job in the kitchen didn't happen until a few years later, when he got a job at restaurant Joe Allen. His father may have been a part owner of the popular restaurant in New York, but Flay's first job there was the less-than-glamorous role of temporary busboy, which turned into a role in the kitchen. Flay so impressed owner Joe Allen with his potential and talent that Allen offered to pay his tuition to the French Culinary Institute, according to his Food Network biography. After graduating in 1984, Flay was hired on as a sous-chef for the newly opened Brighton Grill, and it was there that Flay became a head chef at a shockingly young age (via Guideposts).

Bobby Flay became a head chef when he was 20 years old

Within two weeks of opening, the head chef of Brighton Grill was fired, and Flay was promoted to head chef. He was just 20 years old. Flay stayed in the role for a year, even though he knew he was in over his head, reports Insider. Flay also knew he had much more to learn about being a chef, and he left the head chef position at Brighton Grill to take a job at Jonathan Waxman's restaurant Bud and Jams — it was here that Flay was introduced to southwestern cuisine, something that would help define his career down the line (via Wide Open Eats).

Even though there was a bit of luck involved, it's still an incredibly impressive feat to be named a head chef at 20 years old. Even the legendary Joël Robuchon, who earned 31 Michelin stars and ran more than 20 restaurants over his five-decade career didn't become a head chef until he was 29, 14 years after his first job in the culinary field as a pastry chef apprentice, according to Michelin Guide. Gordon Ramsay, one of the most famous chefs in the world today, became a head chef when he was 26. Ramsay has made it known his desire to have a cook-off against Flay. Although the winner of that potential cook-off is anyone's guess, Flay already has Ramsay beat when it comes to who became a head chef first.