After dropping out of high school in the 1980s at age 17, Bobby Flay, a punchy New York City kid, landed a job at a restaurant in Midtown, all while lacking the key ingredient to his eventual success: passion. Upon introduction to a myriad of mentors in the burgeoning New York culinary scene, Flay finally found his forte, specifically Southwest flavoring. With that passion came an immediate thrust into Food Network fame, and now, nearly three decades later, it’s hard to keep up with everything on this Iron Chef’s plate.
Fast-forward through the duration of a prolific career, and Flay still maintains his Food Network title. His current television series include Emmy Award–winning Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction, Brunch @ Bobby’s (Cooking Channel), Food Network Star, and Iron Chef America. And with 25 restaurants spanning the country—including 19 fast-casual locations and six for fine dining—he is on a mission to share his culinary expertise with the world. We recommend the kale and mushroom paella for supper at his latest fine dining restaurant, Gato, in New York City.
But a lot has changed over the years that Flay has sustained his culinary fame. When asked about differentiating his plates for varying dining genres with social media in mind, Flay is adamant that he doesn’t cater to the influencer craze. “I plate food for the environment I’m in. For example, at Gato, I plate incredibly simply. It’s cooked, and I put it on a plate. At Mesa Grill, it’s colorful and vibrant with a lot of different textures, so that might be a more Instagrammable photo.” He continues, “But I don’t think about [social media] too much. I know that it’s important, and I partake because it’s the way we get our information out there, but I never plate for social media.”
Beyond New York, there are no signs of him slowing down. Flay is taking his expertise to Las Vegas this spring with his latest and least-expected restaurant concept, Shark, within the Palms Casino Resort. “It’s a new type of cuisine for me. It doesn’t have a title to it. This restaurant is all about fish, but the approach is Latin-inspired, and it will be utilized in a very unique way,” explains Flay. The acclaimed chef adds with a smile and maybe a little bit of that same punchy New York mischief, “And fun. It’s Vegas; it’s going to have a little sparkle to it.”