INTERVIEW WITH BOBBY FLAY

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of America's great masters of the grill, Bobby Flay. Read on for what makes this man stand by the fire and take the heat. You'll even get a tip or two to make your grilling easier and the food you prepare taste delicious!

Happy Cooking!! Fern Berman for StarChefs.com

Fern Berman: What is your first memory of grilling?

Bobby Flay: Grilling outside with my parents at the Jersey shore. We would grill lobster and corn in the summer. It was so much fun. We'd have lots of company and we'd all cook together. I still love making hamburgers on the grill. I guess whenever I eat them childhood memories come up for me.

FB: What is it about grilling that you enjoy?

BF: I love the culture of grilling. It creates an atmosphere that is festive but casual. Grilling takes the formality out of entertaining. Everyone wants to get involved. The process and the great smells it produces make everyone hungry and get everyone's mouth watering. And it gives men a chance to cook.

FB: What can you tell me about your new television show?

BF:
It's called "Hot Off The Grill," and it's a lot of fun. Jacqui Malouf is my co-host. She's a comedian by trade and she keeps the action going. This show is different from my last two because it takes place mostly indoors (about 80% of the shows are filmed in a home kitchen). The show is not just about grilling and it tries to create a fun party-like atmosphere. It's filmed in a SoHo loft.

FB: What advice do you have for beginning grillers? Can you give us a few Grilling 101 tips?

BF: Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using. I also recommend a gas grill for someone who is just starting out. I love using gas grills because they are easier to heat and it's much easier to control the flames with a gas grill than with a charcoal fire. Grilling is not just about lighting a fire. It's about cooking things properly. Heat is more even on a gas grill. On a charcoal grill the flame varies so much that it takes a very skilled hand to grill things properly. If you do use a charcoal BBQ, I suggest you use a grill pan so you don't get flare-ups. Whatever kind of grill you use, cook everything on high heat so it doesn't stick. It is very important that when you put something on the grill, you leave it in place to cook. If you move it around too quickly, chances are it is going to stick. I also recommend that you coat the food with canola oil. Canola oil is great and light when grilling.

FB: What are your favorite things to grill?

BF:
At home I like to do things like leg of lamb. I have a rotisserie on my grill. This past weekend I made a molasses-and-pepper-crusted filet mignon. I also like to cook ribs. However, you have to cook them really slowly on a low flame so they cook through and don't burn.

FB: Who in the food business has inspired you? And why?

BF:
Wolfgang Puck because he helped make a career in food possible for somebody like me. He made food that was really good, but also fun and whimsical. He took the formality out of really good eating and he was able to make a good business out of it. I like the idea of being a chef / businessman. He inspired me. I looked at him and knew it was possible. The other person who inspired me was Jonathan Waxman, who used to own Jam's in New York City. He was the first person to show me what good food was. I learned so much from both of them.

FB: Mesa Grill is Southwestern cuisine and Bolo is Spanish-style cooking? Where did you learn to cook Spanish food?

BF: I went to Spain and basically stole the flavors of Spanish cooking. We use, at Bolo, ingredients, herbs and spices used in typical Spanish cooking. I like to roast dishes in cazuelas and serve them directly from the oven to the table. It's a really festive style of eating.

FB: Why did you go into the food business?

BF:
I guess I fell into cooking. I started when I was 17 at Joe Allen (my dad was a partner there). I hated school and had no desire to go to college. So I went to FCI (the French Culinary Institute). I was in the first class. And I just fell in love with cooking. I woke up one morning and realized that I loved going to work. There are so many great things about this business. Almost everybody is on the same team. It is all for one--friendly competitiveness. No one is out to hurt anyone. I love that the entire industry gets together for important causes. Everyone does it with a smile. And cooking is a subject you can never know enough about. There is always something new to discover.

FB: Would you want your daughter to follow in your footsteps?

BF: If my daughter wants to get into this business, I would support that decision. She's going to have a hard time not being in it. She loves food and she's around it all the time. It means long hours--you can't work any harder than you do in this business--but I can't think of another business that is so much fun and filled with so many fantastic people. And if you are with the right people, it's a great atmosphere.

FB: Which woman in the food industry would you want to be a future role model for your daughter?

BF: I would say Alice Waters. She has such great respect for ingredients. I think it's important for my daughter to understand where food comes from.

FB: What are the five tools you must have in the kitchen?

BF: 1. Squeeze bottles for sauces and vinaigrettes. 2. A high quality but simple pair of tongs. (Grilling tongs are always awkward so go for the basic kind.) 3.Three knives--a chef's knife, a paring knife, and a boning knife. I use Global Knives. They are stainless steel and are made in Japan. 4. A small metal spatula. 5. A good side towel.

FB: What are your plans for the next couple of years?

BF:
My partner and I are looking at several locations on Park Avenue South and Midtown for a new restaurant space. What I've really wanted to do for a few years now is a contemporary Steakhouse. I love New York City so much that I want my passion for it to show in this steakhouse. It's going to be really New York.

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