November 19, 2012 10:00 AM by Veronica Dudo
Celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay recently served some of his famous bites at the fifth annual Savor Borgata. The food and wine event at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City allowed fans the opportunity to mix and mingle with the resorts renowned chefs. The Food Network star hosted a Thanksgiving cooking demonstration, held a book signing and served guests some of his signature dishes. We caught up with Flay to talk about why he dropped out of school, how he discovered his passion for cooking; plans for more Bobby’s Burger Palace’s; and the upcoming season of the hit TV series Worst Cooks in America.
This year, Savor Borgata featured the resort’s world-class chefs offering guests the chance to “sip, savor and celebrate” with Wolfgang Puck (Wolfgang Puck American Grille), Bobby Flay (Bobby Flay Steak), Michael Mina (SEABLUE), Michael Schulson (Izakaya), Stephen Kalt (Fornelletto), Geoffrey Zakarian (The Water Club), Thaddeus DuBois (Borgata Executive Pastry Chef) and restaurateurs Greg and Marc Sherry along with Chef Romeo DiBona (Old Homestead Steak House).
Hundreds attended Flay’s Thanksgiving cooking demonstration and got to ask the award-winning chef questions about his culinary skills. Before cooking at the main event, Flay dished about how he became a chef and his plans to re-open Bolo Restaurant & Bar.
Savor Borgata continues to grow each year. What is new this year?
This is the first there’s actually events other then the dine-around. The chefs have been pushing them to do more things like demonstrations and there were some more intimate events like at Stephen Kalt’s restaurant he did a meatball thing; my event had 750 people as the demonstration and I think that it’s giving people things to do during the day as opposed to just waiting for something to happen at night. It’s actually becoming like a little food festival and I think it’s great.
During your demonstration, you mentioned that you dropped out of school–was that a difficult decision?
It wasn’t difficult, I couldn’t wait to get out of school but I was 16 or 17 years old and I didn’t know anything. I had no interest in learning in a traditional way and I always try to push for more funding for vocational schools because not everybody learns the same way and I could only learn through life and with my hands. A lot of times people say cooking is an art; I don’t think it’s an art. I think there are some artistic values to it–I think it’s a craft and so I think that when we’re cooking we’re crafting things with our hands and I could not accomplish that sitting in a traditional school room. I needed to grab something and create something with it and I didn’t know that until I started cooking.
How did you discover your passion for cooking?
I only started cooking because I needed a job. My father was like, ‘Alright, you’re going to drop out of school you’re not going to go hang out with your friends and be some criminal–you need to go get a job.’ And I got lucky.
When you returned to school at the French Culinary Institute in New York City; did you enjoy your time there?
Yeah, I was in the very first class of the school in 1984 but even there I wasn’t a good student I was too young I just wasn’t mature enough–not that I’m mature enough now–but I was really not mature enough then. I talk to the woman who owns the school all the time now obviously and I was like, ‘Stop giving me these awards–I don’t deserve them. I appreciate that you recognize me but I was a terrible student.’ She was like, ‘Bobby, don’t worry about it. You’ve helped our school a lot. A lot of people want to come here because you went here.’ And I was like I totally understand that but as a real student I wasn’t that focused.
Many foodies attended your Thanksgiving cooking demonstration and got to ask you questions. What do you strive to accomplish during your demos?
A lot of times a lot of cooks get up and they don’t cook on these demonstrations and they entertain and talk. I don’t understand that really; people are there to learn something. Yes, they want to be entertained as well I completely understand that. But, at least today I made a soup, I roasted the Turkey and the whole thing with the Turkey was that I didn’t really pay that much attention to the Turkey and I wanted to make that point–it’s like stop over thinking it just get it in the oven it’s going to be fine and then we made the Brussels sprouts which became the big deal of the day but I finished them and I completed them and I had a lot of people come up to me and say I picked up a lot of things for my Thanksgiving that I’m going to implement. That’s want I want and I want them to leave obviously not yawning when they walk out–I want them to have a good time.
The contestants on Worst cooks in America aren’t very savvy in the kitchen–do you enjoy having the opportunity to teach them?
Yeah, you teach it and you get to see them actually progress which is a really nice thing. We’re starting with a team of unfortunate cooks and its Anne Burrell and myself. It’s really her show like I’m challenging her. She beat me last year (it’s not really us) it’s our students that are sort of facing off but her student beat my student in the end and I really like it. It’s a very lighthearted show; it’s no harm, no foul. I get notes from last season’s team–they show me things that they made so they really are utilizing it.
Are you planning on opening more restaurants?
We continue to open more Bobby’s Burger Palace. We have 11 going on 12 of those and so we’re continuing to open those. I’m not looking to create some new cuisine, my next thing is I’m going to re-do the things I’ve been doing my whole career so I want to re-do Mesa Grill and I want to re- open a restaurant called Bolo that I had for 15 years. It’s a Spanish restaurant and they knocked the building down that the restaurant was in three years ago so obviously it closed and I want to reopen that and I want to re-launch Mesa.
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Photo Credit: Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa