Chef’s Story: Bobby Flay

Originally posted at Edible TV on January 15, 2008.

For Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a copy of a series that until now I knew nothing about. Chef’s Story is a series of in-depth interviews of prominent chefs hosted by Dorothy Hamilton, founder of The French Culinary Institute (FCI) in New York City. Among Hamilton’s esteemed guest have been prodigies like Marcus Samuelsson, and icons like Daniel Boulud, even the odd cheflebrity like Cat Cora, Anthony Bourdain, and the subject of my DVD, Bobby Flay.

Anyone who has seen Food Network’s Chefography knows that Flay was in the first graduating class at FCI and was in fact named the outstanding student in his class. Most people know that he is from Manhattan, took over his first kitchen at the age of 19, and that he is married to Law and Order: SVU star Stephanie March. But did you know that Flay once lived in Arizona, or that he once shot 42 half-hour shows in six days?

Hamilton leads off her interview by addressing Flay’s stature and drawing attention to the importance of his Spanish restaurant Bolo. She points out that Bolo was the only Spanish restaurant to have three stars from the New York Times, “making it the most acclaimed Spanish restaurant in New York City.” She also points out that Bolo opened before anyone else was doing Spanish. Bolo has since closed because the building that housed it was sold and is being torn down to make room for a luxury condo tower, but its importance is felt every time a menu features paella.

But Southwestern cuisine is what Flay is known for. However, many may not know that the New Yorker spent some time working in restaurants with Southwestern pioneer Jonathan Waxman and he further expanded his repertoire when he, “got on a plane and worked in a bunch of kitchens around the Southwest.” Many would argue that Flay is now the bell cow of Southwestern cuisine.

Flay also discusses his short lived series Food Nation and what an impact it had on him professionally. He cites that on Food Nation he wasn’t cooking, he was learning. Or as he put it he, “traveled the whole country through food.” He admits that Midtown eatery Bar Americain was born from the travels he did on the show and the many different styles of cooking to be found across the nation.

Hamilton is a knowledgeable and amiable host and as a whole the thirty minute program was brilliant and insightful. But the bonus features on the disk were just as good. For one, the complete interview did not air on TV. On the DVD you get to see it in its entirety plus you also get to see a Q&A with a group of FCI students and there is also a bonus cooking segment as well. This was my first introduction to Chef’s Story but I can assure you it will be occupying an ever increasing portion of my DVD collection.

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Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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