Q&A with Bobby Flay: the Iron Chef talks to us about comfort food, Toronto dining and his Thanksgiving dinner for 55
Bobby Flay is a busy, busy man. In between flipping burgers with President Obama and opening up new restaurants (he launches his ninth Bobby’s Burger Palace next week), he finds time to shoot five TV shows and write cookbooks (he’s penned nearly a dozen). As if that weren’t enough, he also races horses and raises money for charitable causes. We caught up with the Iron Chef, who was in Toronto this past weekend hosting the Chef’s Challenge, a fundraiser that supports breast and ovarian cancer research at Mount Sinai hospital. Here’s what he told us:
Did you cut your Thanksgiving short to visit us?
Yeah, I cooked for 55 people in my Chelsea apartment (with only one oven!) and then left the next morning to come to Toronto. You wanna hear the menu?
I did three 30-pound turkeys, glazed with tangerine and red chilies, and I did the gravy with the same flavours to reinforce the flavour. The stuffing was cornbread and chorizo. There was a cranberry blackberry relish with fresh ginger and chilies in it. Mashed potatoes with green chili queso fresco sauce (my wife’s from Texas, so that’s her thing). A sweet potato gratin with chipotle and cinnamon. Brussels sprouts with pomegranates and walnuts. I don’t make dessert. People bring it—actually we assign our guests dessert or bottles of wine.
How did you get involved with Chef’s Challenge?
I have a lot of customers from Canada, especially Torontonians, who visit my restaurants, and they always ask me why I never come to Toronto. I never have a good answer because Toronto is so close and it’s such a great city, and a good food town too. When Mount Sinai called me, I thought this was an opportunity to kill a few birds with one stone—you know, come up and visit Toronto and get a sense of what the Toronto food scene is really like, but I also get to help raise money for a cause I really believe in. There are a lot of women in my life who are very important to me—my 15-year-old daughter, my wife, and all the women I work with who help me run my life.
This isn’t your first time here, right?
I don’t know why everyone keeps saying that. I’ve been here on my own before and for the FoodNation show. I still remember the terrific arctic char I had at Canoe. On one of my visits to Toronto, I visited Susur’s. I think it might have been the trip when I went to a horse race at Woodbine.
Have you eaten in any Toronto restaurants this time ’round?
I’ve only been here for a couple days, but I visited One last night with Chuck [Hughes]. We tried to go to Ruby Watchco [owned by Lynn Crawford, who lost out to Flay on Iron Chef America], but it was totally booked. Later I found out that they were full up because she had been holding a table for us.
Which of your restaurants would be the best fit for Toronto?
Mesa Grill has international appeal, but Bar Americain would also work really well here. It’s a combination of Parisian style and American cuisine, and with so many people who are French up here I think people would understand what I was trying to do there. And a burger place works anywhere.
Are you planning a return visit any time soon?
I want to come back soon because there’s a bunch of places I want to go, including Ruby Watchco.
Comfort food, the food of the 99 per cent, has been so big for so long. Is it here to stay?
Those kinds of dishes make sense and are recognizable to people. I don’t think it’ll ever be replaced.