A Michelin star is nice. A James Beard, pretty great as well. But for some chefs nothing feels quite as sweet as besting Bobby Flay.
Since 2013, the Iron Chef, a three-time James Beard honoree himself, has been taking on challengers with his Food Network series, Beating Bobby Flay, a natural extension of the head-to-head face-offs he engaged in on Iron Chef and Throwdown With Bobby Flay. The show's recipe is fairly easy. Each half-hour episode starts with two cooks battling it out to create a meal using a featured ingredient (think: fresh squid, pumpkin puree, sardines).
Once a winner has been determined by the guest judges—everyone from Chrissy Teigen to Sophia Bush to Flay's pals Katie Lee has turned up with the intention of finding someone capable of taking him down—that victor gets a swing at The French Culinary Institute grad and they get to decide what's on the menu, generally a signature dish that they've spent years perfecting.
Even with that upper hand, Flay's competitors don't serve up humble pie all that often. In 314 episodes, across 26 seasons, the 13-time cookbook author has only lost a respectable 116 times—and more than a few of those were to his fellow Food Network personalities. (Judges named Alex Guarnaschelli the victor in the blind taste test twice; Amanda Freitag has notched another win and, recently, pastry whiz Buddy Valastro topped Flay in a cake-themed competition.)
"Competing and beating someone of his stature, and knowing how good of a chef he is, it was definitely validation to show my skill exceeded his that day," Michael Merida told New Jersey's Pascack Press of winning with his smoked cod croquettes in February's season 25 premiere. "I wanted to see who the better chef was when it came to flavors—and I out flavored him."
With no end in sight, there are plenty more opportunities to watch Flay, marking his 56th birthday Dec. 10, fry up his competition.
In the meantime, we're dishing out some secrets about his long-running hit. Eat up!
(Originally published May 15, 2020, at 12 a.m. PT)