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After being introduced him to southwestern ingredients, Bobby was determined to explore the possibilities of southwestern cuisine as an important and distinct culinary style for America.
Bobby Flay's culinary versatility is evident in the multiple talents he brings to the field: as critically-acclaimed chef/restaurateur, award-winning cookbook author and television personality. However, his first priority always remains with his restaurants, Mesa Grill, Bolo, Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Bar Americain, his first-ever steakhouse, Bobby Flay Steak at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and his latest opening, Mesa Grill at The Cove, Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas.
Flay discovered his culinary identity at the age of 17, working as a cook at the famed theater district haunt, Joe Allen's. The job had been arranged by his father, who was a partner in the restaurant. After a short time, Joe Allen himself became so impressed by Flay's emerging talents that he paid the young cook's tuition to The French Culinary Institute. Flay obviously excelled and later received the institute's first "Outstanding Graduate Award" in 1993, and now serves there as Master Instructor.
Following his graduation in 1984, Flay worked with restaurateur/owner Jonathan Waxman at Buds and Jams, where he first discovered the sweet-heat of southwestern ingredients. It was at these burgeoning restaurants that Flay met other icons of the era — Wolfgang Puck, Jeremiah Tower — who he credits with spawning an entire generation of chef. "Chefs like Wolfgang [Puck] and Jonathan [Waxman] gave a lot of chefs in my generation a career," says Flay. "They created a genre that proved good food didn't have to be fussy; that food could be delicious and creative while embracing great colors and textures." After Jams, Flay debuted as Executive Chef at the East Village's Miracle Grill where he caught the attention of restaurateur Jerome Kretchmer. Kretchmer offered the 25-year-old an opportunity to create his own sensations at Mesa Grill which opened in 1991.
"I'm hoping to put a new and colorful twist on southwestern cuisine," said Flay just before Mesa Grill's launch. He certainly did and since then the flame-haired chef from Manhattan has earned widespread acclaim, including the "Best Restaurant 1992" award for Mesa Grill by New York Magazine's Gael Greene. The restaurant's two-star review in 2000 by New York Times Critic William Grimes raved that "the sassy fare at Mesa Grill surpasses anything of its kind elsewhere in New York. Mr. Flay, to his credit, has seized on the southwestern idiom and made it a natural part of his cooking language." In the wake of such critical success, the young chef was made partner. Soon after, Flay teamed with businessman Laurence Kretchmer to open Bolo in November 1993 in the Flatiron district.
For Bolo, Flay drew inspiration from the bravado and complexities of Spanish food, deftly blending the unique flavors of Spain with more familiar American ingredients. That same year, Flay was voted the James Beard Foundation's Rising Star Chef of the Year 1993, an award that honors the country's most accomplished chef under the age of 30. A decade later, its menu reenergized by the introduction of tapas, Bolo was awarded a rare "three stars" by The New York Times. William Grimes declared that "Mr. Flay brings color, life, and creativity to every dish he touches." Underscoring this assessment, Bolo continues to be dubbed the top Spanish-inspired restaurant in New York City by the Zagat Survey.
In 2004, Flay brought his unique amalgam of innovative food and inviting hospitality to Las Vegas with the opening of Mesa Grill at the legendary Caesars Palace. The city's upbeat urban energy provides the perfect backdrop for Mesa Grill's lively cuisine.
At New York's Bar Americain, which opened in March 2005, Flay's vision takes the intimacy of a mid-town brasserie and injects it with authentic American flavors and style. Drawing exclusively from regional American ingredients, Flay's dishes rejuvenate old classics and celebrate the abundance of America's diverse and delicious heritage. Bar Americain has received rave reviews from the press including "two-stars" from The New York Times.
The recognition Flay has gained at Mesa Grill , Bolo and Bar Americain for his stellar dishes has built his reputation as a major force not only in New York but also nationwide. In addition to his restaurants, Flay shares his knowledge and enthusiasm for food through his cookbooks and cooking programs on Food Network. His first book, Bobby Flay's Bold American Food (Warner Books, 1994), won the 1995 International Association of Culinary Professionals award for design. Five more cookbooks soon followed: From My Kitchen to Your Table (Clarkson Potter, 1998), Boy Meets Grill (Hyperion, 1999), Bobby Flay Cooks American (Hyperion, 2001), Boy Gets Grill (Scribner, 2004) Bobby Flay's Grilling For Life (Scribner 2005) and his most recent, The Mesa Grill Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, 2007), each lending a unique urban-inspired approach to grilling, proving yet again that there is no limit to what can be cooked on the grill
Since debuting on Food Network in 1996, Flay has continuously hosted programs that bring cooking tips and information on American regional fare to a national audience. These shows include Throwdown with Bobby Flay, the Daytime Emmy-winning Boy Meets Grill and the popular Iron Chef America. Flay is also food correspondent for The Early Show on CBS where he regularly informs a national audience about seasonal dishes and ingredients.
As passionate about New York as he is about food, Flay has found a unique way to give back to the community by establishing a culinary scholarship for New York City high school students through his alma mater, the French Culinary Institute. Working closely with budding young chefs in Long Island City High School's C-Cap (Careers through Culinary Arts Program), Flay personally selects the student with the greatest potential to be the recipient of this annual scholarship. Flay documented this experience in his Food Network special Bobby Flay: Chef Mentor which earned him a James Beard Foundation award for a National Television Food Show 2005.
In spring 2008, Flay will launch his first line of branded products with Food Network and Kohl's. "Bobby Flay at Kohl's" will feature casual, worldly, lifestyle grilling and entertaining products, including cookware, dinnerware, kitchen gadgets, utensils, cutlery and textiles. The items will represent Flay with bold colors, rich textures and product innovations, allowing the home cook to take their grilling and entertaining to the next level.
Flay possesses a remarkable ability to create and retain the individual character of each of his projects, insisting on uniqueness and integrity. He works tirelessly to challenge diners' expectations and influence the way Americans view and taste food — making it bold, zesty and always fun. The future is very bright for Bobby Flay, and as a result, for the American table.
For more information about Bobby Flay click here: http://www.bobbyflay.com/
Iron Chef America Profile:
From: New York City
Restaurants: Mesa Grill, Bolo, Mesa Grill (Las Vegas), Bar Americain
Cuisine: Mesa Grill is American Southwest, Bolo is Spanish-inspired and Bar American is regional American
Interests: Travel, golf, food
Ideal secret ingredient: Any kind of shellfish
Culinary inspirations: Wolfgang Puck, Jonathan Waxman, Julia Child
Ideal judge: My mother
Culinary secret weapon: It’s a secret and giving it away could jeopardize my chances of winning another match.
Favorite restaurant: I have too many to just choose one.
Favorite food: Ice cream
Food you won’t go near: Fiddlehead ferns
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten: Fish testicles
Favorite food destination: Anywhere in the US: New England, the Deep South, and the Pacific Northwest. They all have amazing ingredients and chefs and I am always blown away by the recipes and the food.
Alternative dream job: Mayor of New York