One of the most famous chefs in America, and an ideal pop culture chef. Bobby Flay is the head of several restaurants, an author of 15 books and the star of many TV shows. More than just a cook, he is clearly a star. Let’s find out more about this successful chef, entertainer and entrepreneur.
1. Quick Facts: Bobby Flay
Name: Robert William Flay
Date of birth: December 10, 1964
Birthplace: New York City, United States
Partner: Currently single. Ex-partners: Debra Ponzek, Kate Connelly, Stephanie March
Restaurants: Amalfi (at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas) and Bobby’s Burger Palace (19 locations across the US)
2. Early Life
Out of all the cities in the world, Robert William Flay was born in New York City in the 60s, a colorful time in the most radiant, inspiring metropolis. Bill and Dorothy Flay raised their son on the Upper East Side of Manhattan under Irish-American, catholic tradition.
As he became more and more interested in cooking very early in his childhood; he slowly lost interest in other more “normal” activities, until he finally dropped out of high school when he was 17 years old.
With Bobby Flay, it is not possible to talk about an “early life” without inevitably stepping into his culinary career, which we’ll talk about next. Soon after dropping out of school; he got his first important restaurant job at Joe Allen (a quintessential NYC restaurant popular among Broadway personalities).
His father was a partner and offered young Bobby to fill in for a sick employee at first; but this soon became a full-time thing. That was the beginning of his complete devotion to cooking and his unstoppable culinary career, except for a short and inconsequential time spent in Wall Street, which now counts only as an anecdote.
3. Bobby’s Culinary Career
At Joe Allen’s, Flay was first a busboy, then a kitchen helper (some sources mention he started with salad prep). His boss, Joe Allen himself, soon noticed Bobby’s natural talent and decided to pay for his tuition at the French Culinary Institute in Manhattan. “It was there I learned the fundamentals I so needed”, says Bobby, who was a member of the first graduating class in 1984 and won the institute's Outstanding Graduate Award in 1993.
He worked in some kitchens in NYC, until he walked into the one experience which (according to his own words) was a defining point in his career: working for chef Jonathan Waxman. It was during those three years when Bobby Flay began to shape his culinary style, influenced by cajun and southwestern cuisine.
His first restaurant was Mesa Grill in 1991 (first executive chef and then partner), which was named Best Restaurant 1992 by the New York Magazine. A few other awards for Bobby followed that one. Things took off pretty soon after that: Flay opened his second restaurant Bolo in New York City, then a second Mesa Grill in Las Vegas.
The excellent critics continued with his next openings: Bar Americain (the first one in Manhattan and the second one in Connecticut), Bobby Flay Steak in Atlantic City, Mesa Grill in the Bahamas. In 2008, Bobby also started his own burger empire, a popular chain of casual restaurants called Bobby’s Burger Palace. Today, the chain has 19 locations across the US.
Parallel to his culinary career, Bobby also turned into a pop culture TV star and best-selling author, hosting many shows and specials for the Food Network. He’s currently one of the best known chefs in the United States.
His cooking style mixes native American Southwestern cuisine and Mediterranean ingredients. His most signature dish, according to the chef himself, is the shrimp and roasted garlic tamale served at Mesa Grill.
4. Media Appearances
Flay is a media personality and has become a big celebrity tv chef. He has hosted more than sixteen cooking shows and specials for the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. His first appearance on the Food Network was in 1994, for the show Iron Chef America.
After Iron Chef America, he gained a fair reputation as a grill and barbecue authority, starring in the shows Grillin’ & Chillin’; Boy Meets Grill with Bobby Flay; BBQ with Bobby Flay; Hot Off the Grill, Grill It! with Bobby Flay, and Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction.
In other shows, he interacted with other executive chefs and celebrity chefs, either famous (like Throwdown! with Bobby Flay or Beat Bobby Flay) or aspiring cooks (The Next Food Network Star, Worst Cooks in America, America's Next Great Restaurant and Bobby’s Dinner Battle).
He also filmed a series exploring restaurants in Italy (Bobby and Giada in Italy, with Giada De Laurentiis) and the film Bobby’s Ireland, where he explores the delicacies of this European country (Bobby’s family comes from Ireland).
Besides having his own shows, he also had cameos in the series Law & Order, Entourage, Portlandia and Younger; and in Disney’s movie Eddie's Million Dollar Cook-Off and the film East Broadway. He appears in the film Scooby-Doo! and the Gourmet Ghost. There’s even an episode of Jeopardy’s where there’s a special Flay category. He was mentioned in Adam McKay’s movie Step Brothers and had his own character in a South Park’s episode.
Chef Flay also has an important career in culinary literature with 14 published books. His first three books (Bold American Food, From My Kitchen to Your Table and Boy Meets Grill) won several awards and hot reviews. One could say Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill Cookbook is his most popular book, including 150 recipes from Bobby’s first and very successful restaurant.
Bobby at Home and Brunch @ Bobby’s are other best-sellers where Bobby shows a more casual side, with easy and fun dishes to try at home.
5. Charity Work & Advocacy
In addition to being a renowned and award-winning chef, restaurateur and TV celebrity, Bobby Flay also uses his influence and popularity on social media to raise funds for several good causes and charities.
For example, in 2003 he created the Bobby Flay Scholarship, which is awarded to a student in Long Island City's Culinary Arts Program to take a course at the French Culinary Institute. In 2018, he partnered with the Susan G. Komen Foundation and donated 50% of his strawberry smoothie sales to help in the fight against breast cancer.
Bobby is also an animal lover. He works with the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which rescues horses and places them in prisons, so that inmates can grow personally and professionally by working with them (since 1998, Bobby has chaired an annual dinner for 650 people that raises between $400,000 and $500,000 for the organization). His cat food brand Made by Nacho donated $1 per cat adoption during National Adoption Week 2021, to help the organization PetSmart rescue more cats.
6. Personality: What’s He Like?
“I’m not afraid to fail as long as I make every effort to succeed”, is one of the first things you read when you open Flay’s official website. The sentence gives you a pretty good idea of Bobby’s bald and focused personality. He already knew what he liked and how he liked it when he was a child, as he arranged his mother's grocery shopping list.
He dropped out of high school to pursue his vocation, when teenagers that age are usually still gathering clues and thoughts about their future. He’s not afraid to fail, he says, and I believe him.
He may not be everybody’s favorite person, but nobody is (and especially not public personalities) but his culinary genius is not debatable. Even if you dislike him at a personal level; it’s hard not to give him credit for his achievements in the food industry; not only related to food itself (although his dishes are respected for being unique and avant-garde) but to food entertainment, food writing, etc.
7. Follow Bobby on Social Media
If you want to keep up with celebrity chef Bobby Flay’s latest updates or personal life, you can follow him on his social profiles. He’s very active on Twitter as @bflay; on Instagram as @bobbyflay and on his official Facebook Page. His website is also very informative: bobbyflay.com. And if you’re a true fan, don’t forget to follow his cat too! @nachoflay on Twitter and Instagram.
8. Fun Facts About Bobby Flay
- He’s been married and divorced three times.
- Bobby Flay’s cat, named Nacho Flay, has his own Instagram account with 241 thousand followers.
- He launched his own cat food line called Made By Nacho.
- When he was 8, he asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas.
- Bobby Flay has a reality show with his daughter Sophie, “The Flay List”, where the audience can check out his side as a father.
- He loves seafood. Lobsters, crabs and mussels have always been his favorite.
- He was a guest chef at President Obama's annual barbecue in 2009. He even gave the President a few barbecue tips.
- Also, he cooked dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping in his meeting with Obama in 2013.
- His favorite burger joint? J.G. Melon in New York City.
- He tried working as a stockbroker once and is very interested in Real Estate.
- He’s very into horse racing and he is a board member of the New York Racing Association. His horse More Than Real won the Breeders’ Cup.
- Bobby is a declared fan of the New York Yankees.
- It is said that Flay has won more Iron Chef competitions than any other participant.
- He has his own star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- He quit his first job ever as a head chef, for the Brighton Grill in New York. He felt he wasn’t ready.
- He proposed to his ex-wife, actress Stephanie March, while they were ice-skating.
- His favorite media appearances was on BBQ with Bobby Flay, America's Worst Cooks in America, and Bobby Flays Barbecue Addiction.
9. Frequently Asked Questions about Bobby Flay
Is Bobby Flay in a relationship?
In September 2021, Bobby revealed on the Today Show he’s been seeing someone. He wouldn’t give out the name or details, but he did reveal a fun fact: she’s a vegetarian.
How old is Bobby Flay?
Flay is 56 years old (and he is a Sagittarius, in case you were wondering that too!)
Where does Bobby Flay live?
Even though he is a New Yorker and loves New York, Flay currently lives in Los Angeles where he owns a modern property with the outdoor kitchen he always dreamed of.
Does he have any children?
Bobby had a daughter with his second wife, Kate Connelly. Sophie is currently a community journalist for ABC7 in Los Angeles.
What is Bobby Flay's specialty?
Bobby specializes mainly in Southern Cuisine; but he is also widely recognized as a grilling master.
How many restaurants does Bobby Flay currently own?
According to his website; two of Flay’s restaurants are currently open: Amalfi at the Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas (Inspired by his numerous visits to the Amalfi Coast) and Burger Palace with several locations worldwide.
What is ‘Beat Bobby Flay’ about?
In the “Beat Bobby Flay” show by the Food Network, two chefs compete to beat Flay. Very few have actually managed to beat Bobby Flay, though.
What is Bobby Flay's net worth?
Flay has an estimated net worth of $60 Million and is among the 10 richest chefs in the world according to this list.
Did he ever win a Michelin Star?
Yes, his restaurant Mesa Grill in Las Vegas was awarded a Michelin Star in 2009, but lost it the next year. Currently, he doesn’t have any Michelin Star.
Written by Eva ContrerasFood & travel writer based in Buenos Aires. Superpowers include relentless curiosity and high tolerance to spicy foods.