Westport Eateries among Bobby Flay's favorites
Fairfield's resident TV culinary star counts local eateries among his favorites
Whether they crave the pork and chive dumplings from The Good Fork in Brooklyn, N.Y., or the green chili cheeseburgers from Manny's Buckhorn Tavern in San Antonio, N.M., fans of the Food Network's Throwdown! With Bobby Flay can now prepare them, as well as more than 100 of their favorite recipes from the show.
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay, 46, recreated his favorite moments from the popular show in a companion cookbook, Bobby Flay's Throwdown! which he released on Oct. 12. Flay will sign copies at 11 a.m. on Oct. 30 at Stew Leonard's in Norwalk.
Flay, the star of the show, goes head-to-head every week with cooks from across the country best known for preparing regional specialties that have become favorites in their neighborhoods. With the cameras rolling, he surprises the chefs and challenges them to a throwdown in which they compete between their iconic recipes and his version of the same dish. A panel of local food experts votes for their favorite.
Even though Flay has succumbed often to the regional chefs (his record is 35 wins, one tie, and 65 losses), that's how he likes it.
"Do I feel bad about winning? Every time," he said. "I hate winning Throwdown! and we try to give the competitor every opportunity to put their best foot forward and win. When I win, it's definitely not as much fun. I would rather win at Iron Chef."
Some of his favorite dishes from the competition include the puffy tacos from San Antonio, Texas, sticky buns from Boston, and coconut cake from Charleston, S.C. "That's what I like about Throwdown! We don't always get it right, but we always learn something and we learn about the culture and the food."
Flay, a Fairfield resident whose local favorites include Fairfield-based Barcelona and Osianna and Westport-based The Dressing Room and Le Farm, divides his time between his 11 restaurants -- three Mesa Grills, two Bar Americains, Bobby Flay Steak, and five Bobby Burger Palaces. He also appears on the Food Network's "Boy Meets Grill" and "Grill it! With Bobby Flay," as well as "Iron Chef."
Flay started out in the restaurant industry by tossing pizzas at a parlor in New York City. He was 17 and a high school dropout. He eventually received a degree from the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and afterward took a position as a chef at New York City-based Bud and Jams. It was there that restaurateur Jonathan Waxman introduced Flay to a Southwest style of cooking, which came to define his culinary career. He soon moved on to become executive chef at Mesa Gill and then opened Bolo Bar & Restaurant in 1993.
Up-and-coming chefs today, he said, are in an opportune position. "Food has never been more important in this country," he said, citing the generation of chefs before him like Wolfgang Puck and Alice Waters, for provoking interest in the culinary filed. "When I was a kid, cooking wasn't on the docket. People wanted you to become a lawyer or a doctor. A chef never was in the game, but now it is."
His advice to budding chefs? Get experience. He tells people interested in the culinary arts to work in a restaurant for at least one month before entering school. "A lot of people like to cook at home and think it will translate," he said. "I always tell people [to work first] to get a sense of what restaurant life is really like."
He believes that good cooks prepare great food when they don't over-think the process. He often hears feedback from people who say they could never cook the food that they watch him make on television because it looks too difficult. He tells them to relax, gather the ingredients, and experiment with them. He said, "Really good things will happen."