Not all the action is in the kitchen for Bobby Flay! Several high-profile Manhattanites gathered at Bar Americain to honor the 48-year-old celebrity chef at the inaugural Belmont Stakes Charity Celebration on June 6. Following a live auction of enviable prizes, Flay was given the Earle I. Mack Thoroughbred Champion Award for his outstanding efforts and influence on Thoroughbred racehorse welfare, safety and retirement. The event, which featured a dinner menu created by Flay, raised over $450,000 for The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation.
Before Flay jumped into the kitchen, he chatted with Haute Living about his charity work, his favorite seasonal ingredient and his upcoming Father’s Day plans.
You’ve raised hundred of thousands of dollars for thoroughbred retirement. Why is this cause so close to your heart?
I get a lot of joy out of owning horses and I think that if you are going to breed horses, raise horses and own horses, you have a responsibility to take care of them after their racing career is over. They’re not machines, they’re animals. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way so we have events like this to raise money to ensure they’re taken care of.
Why did you name your horse Sweet Potato?
I named her Sweet Potato because I did this Iron Chef competition at the White House and the secret ingredient was the White House garden that Michelle Obama champions. So I asked her, “Out of all the ingredients in the garden, what’s the one ingredient I have to use?” She said the sweet potato, so I decided to name my horse that.
You started as a busboy and now you are one of the most successful chefs in the country. What advice would you give to an aspiring chef or restaurant owner?
Be patient. I feel like patience has really gone out the window, especially in the food world. There’s so much media attached to it now. One of the reasons I feel I have had longevity in my career is because I’ve never stopped trying to be a good cook. The most important thing to me is being in my restaurant, in my chef whites, in my kitchens with my staff. That’s how I started, that’s my foundation. So if TV goes away or people don’t want to interview me anymore, that is okay because I found out what’s most important to me, which is cooking. So I always tell younger people: Don’t become a cook to be on television. Become a cook to be a really good cook and it will take you anywhere you want in the world at some point.
What is your favorite restaurant in New York?
My wife and I go to Morandi all the time. We go there for brunch, lunch and dinner.
Do you spend time with any of the other Food Network Chefs outside of work?
Michael Simon is my best friend… so yes.
What is the most challenging part of shooting a food TV show?
Waiting around. I like the idea of live television. I own my own production company so I am always trying to shoot my shows as live as possible so they have that sensibility to it. When things get delayed, it drives me crazy.
When it’s just you at home cooking for yourself, what’s your go-to dish?
Chicken Milanese. It’s one of the perfect dishes. You have this beautiful salad on top, plus there’s a crispness to the chicken, veal or whatever you’re cooking. It’s light, but it has tons of flavor.
With a glass of wine?
Definitely a glass of wine. Like four glasses of wine. A bottle.
What spring/summer ingredients do you like to cook with?
Wild Striped Bass
How are you planning to spend Father’s Day with your daughter Sophie this year?
That’s a great question, but you’ll have to ask her. I am not planning it. Interestingly enough, I am usually in Aspen for the Food and Wine Festival so I am happy to not be doing that this year. We like to spend a lot of our time eating out. She loves to eat. She loves food, and obviously I do too, so we will probably go to brunch.
Photo credit: Courtney Heeney