Bobby Flay is one of the most recognizable names in the food industry, but there are many interesting facts that even the most devout Food Network fans may not know about the chef.
Fans may be surprised to find out that Flay dropped out of high school and became a head chef by age 20. Since then, he has hosted over a dozen TV series, written 15 cookbooks, and has become a multimillionaire.
As Bobby Flay celebrates his 56th birthday on December 10, here are 17 facts you probably didn’t know about him.
When Flay was 8 years old, he asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas.
His parents agreed to get him the small kids’ oven but also got him a G.I. Joe action figure, according to Good Housekeeping.
In 2012, Flay came out in support of an online petition that asked Hasbro to make the Easy-Bake Oven more gender-neutral. He argued that the Easy-Bake Oven, which comes in the colors purple and pink, should be marketed as gender-neutral or available in colors that appeal to young boys as well.
After dropping out of high school at age 17, Flay began working as a busboy.
“I really had no interest in doing any school work whatsoever. My father, who is very much a scholarly guy, said: ‘Well, you’re going to have to get a job then,'” Flay told the Wall Street Journal.
After working in a pizza shop and at Baskin-Robbins, Flay began working at Joe Allen in New York City, where his father was a part-owner. He started as a busboy after the restaurant’s resident busboy needed two weeks off to care for his sick grandmother.
After the two weeks were up, the chef asked Flay if he wanted to work in the kitchen.
“I said, ‘Sure.’ It was because I had nothing else to do that day. If I had plans with friends, I probably would have said no. I wasn’t desperate to work in the kitchen,” Flay said.
Flay, then 18, impressed his boss at so much that he agreed to pay for Flay’s tuition at New York City’s French Culinary Institute, now the International Culinary Center.
“The person who owned the restaurant I was working in told me about it, and on the first day of school, he handed me a check for the admission. I was 18. It was the first time I had found something that really interested me,” Flay said in an interview with Tasting Table.
According to Page Six, Flay went back to school to receive his GED so he could attend. He graduated as one of the institute’s top students as part of the first graduating class.
Flay became a head chef at just 20 years old.
After graduating, Flay was hired as a sous-chef for a new restaurant. However, two weeks after the restaurant’s opening, the head chef was fired and Flay was promoted to head chef.
“I was 20 years old, and way over my head. I had to hire the cooks and do the menus. I did it for a year, but I thought, I need to know how to cook better,” Flay told WSJ.
He left to work under a chef at another restaurant.
Flay specializes in Mexican and Southwestern cooking styles but is also a barbecue aficionado.
Flay first learned how to cook spicy Southwestern food while working under restaurateur Jonathan Waxman.
“That was the first time I had seen Southwestern ingredients, like blue cornmeal and chile peppers. I fell in love with the flavors, the colors, the textures. It became the palette that I reach for always,” he said.
Flay told the Wall Street Journal he got the job after meeting a chef for Bud’s, a Waxman-owned restaurant, at a cocktail party and telling him that he would love to work there.
“She said OK,” he said. “I said to her: ‘I will promise you this, I will give you 120%. Just tell me what to do.’ Today, when I hire, I look for people who want to be trained and molded.”
Flay went on to work at three Waxman restaurants over the years.
His favorite place to grab a burger is J.G. Melon in New York City.
“My favorite burger in the city is from J.G. Melon on 74th and 3rd Avenue,” the Food Network star told Eater. “Nothing fancy—just a simple burger with American cheese cooked on the griddle. I grew up eating this burger, and it actually inspired me to cook my burgers on the griddle. The patty gets a great crust on it that way.”
However, despite being a native New Yorker, Flay now lives in Los Angeles.
In 2019, the chef spent $6.5 million on a modern, 3,820-square-foot Los Angeles home. The real estate purchase was his first on the West Coast. The Food Network star also owns an apartment on the Upper West Side, a duplex in Chelsea, and a home in East Hampton, according to Architectural Digest.
He opened his first restaurant when he was just 26, and it remained open for 23 years.
Flay opened Mesa Grill in New York City in 1991. According to Flay, Jerry Kretchmer, a popular restaurateur at the time, had just come back from a trip from the Southwest and wanted to find a chef who could cook great Southwestern food.
“He heard about me, and he asked if I wanted to open a restaurant with him and I said yes,” Flay told WSJ.
Both Mesa Grill’s New York and Las Vegas locations have since closed, with the latter closing to make way for a new restaurant, Amalfi by Bobby Flay.
Bobby Flay’s cat, Nacho Flay, is famous on Instagram.
Flay’s gorgeous, long-haired Maine Coon named Nacho is Instagram royalty, with over 210,000 followers.
Flay is a huge cat lover and even named one of his restaurants “Gato” after the Spanish word for cat.
“He travels with me almost wherever I go and, most importantly, shows me his love and affection constantly,” Flay said, according to Eater.
Bobby Flay has been married – and divorced – three times.
Flay got married for the first time in 1991, when he was 26 years old, to Debra Ponzek. However, the pair split in 1993.
Flay married again in 1995, this time to Kate Connelly, whom he met while appearing on her Food Network talk show. They divorced in 1998.
In 2000, Flay met actress Stephanie March, who was appearing on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” at the time. She agreed to meet Flay for a date at Nobu, a high-end restaurant in New York City known for being exceptionally hard to get into at the time.
“I know it’s a cliché, but I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the rest of my life,'” March told CNN.
In December 2003, Flay took March ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, where he proposed to her with a princess-cut engagement ring.
They were married for ten years but split in 2015.
“There’s still a lot of love there and no one makes Stephanie laugh more than Bobby, so this was hard for both of them,” a source told People at the time.
Flay has a 23-year-old daughter named Sophie, and they love to cook together.
Flay only has one child. He shares his daughter Sophie with Connelly. She was born on April 16, 1996.
The dad-daughter duo loves to cook together. Sophie appeared on “Rachel Ray” with her dad in 2013, “Brunch at Bobby’s” twice in 2016, and “Beat Bobby Flay” twice, once in 2015 and again in 2017.
The two have also hosted a cooking show together on Food Network’s Snapchat Discovery channel.
Bobby Flay has given former President Barack Obama a couple of grilling tips.
In 2009, Bobby Flay attended the annual Young Men’s Barbecue on the White House lawn.
Flay said it was “probably my greatest professional moment … Thirty seconds into it he made me feel like he and I had known each other for a long time.”
Flay cooked for President Obama again in 2013. China’s President Xi Jinping also attended the dinner.
Flay told Politico that he prepared an “All-American meal” of New Mexican lobster tamales with green chile, Porterhouse steaks, potatoes with Point Reyes blue cheese, and cherry pies with bourbon, vanilla, and fresh mint ice cream for dessert.
Bobby Flay appeared on and off on “Iron Chef” for 17 years.
Flay has reportedly won more Iron Chef competitions than any other competitors in his tenure on the TV show. According to The Recipe, Flay has a win percentage of 72.1%. Of the 61 Iron Chef battles he competed in, he has won 43, lost 16, and tied two.
Flay shocked audiences when, during a live taping in summer 2017, he removed his chef’s jacket to reveal a t-shirt that read, “This is my last Iron Chef battle ever.”
Flay clarified the bold move afterward, saying he wouldn’t be appearing on the show regularly but said he would return when and if his schedule allowed.
Throughout his career, Flay has hosted 16 different cooking shows and specials on Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
Since debuting on Food Network in 1994, Bobby Flay has hosted numerous cooking and food-centric programs on both the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
His hosting credits include “Throwdown with Bobby Flay,” “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Brunch @ Bobby’s,” “Food Network Star,” “Grill It! With Bobby Flay,” “Boy Meets Grill,” “BBQ with Bobby Flay,” “Hot off the Grill with Bobby Flay,” “Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction,” and more.
He’s now working on a new food show based in Italy with fellow celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis.
Bobby Flay has written 15 cookbooks.
Bobby Flay is perhaps best known for his television appearances, but he’s also a successful cookbook author. Some of his cookbooks include “Bobby Flay Fit,” “Bobby Flay’s Burgers, Fries, and Shakes,” and “Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook” featuring recipes inspired by his own restaurant.
Flay was the first chef to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
On June 2, 2015, Flay received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
“Honestly, to be the first chef to get a star is really, truly an amazing milestone,” he said.
The ceremony marked Flay’s first public appearance since his split from Stephanie March. As the ceremony proceeded, a plane with a banner reading the word “CHEATER” flew overhead, according to People. It was rumored at the time that Flay had cheated on March and that the couple had split as a result. Flay’s reps said they wouldn’t respond to “continued efforts by certain parties to spread rumors and innuendo.”
Bobby Flay reportedly has a net worth of $30 million.
Between Flay’s television appearances, cookbooks, and restaurants, it should come as no surprise that the food star has accumulated quite a bit of wealth over the years.
Though Flay’s exact net worth is unknown, Money Inc reports his net worth falls in the range of $30 million as of 2018.
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