Q & A with Bobby Flay, Part 2: Why Being on TV is the Easy Part
The Food NetworkBobby Flay on the set of his newest cooking show, Barbecue Addiction
In the first part of our interview with Bobby Flay, he gave us some insight into how his opinion of the L.A. restaurant scene has changed over the years, as well as how he thinks the Food Network has molded the food industry across the country. In the second part, Flay explains why as a judge on Food Network Star, he plans to squash any contender who can't pull their weight in the kitchen. He also gives us a peak into his new show Barbecue Addiction, which sounds more like a juggling act than a cooking show.
Read the continued interview after the jump, and check back soon for a Bobby Flay original recipe.
Squid Ink: With Food Network Star, you've got people who are making this their goal now. Is there anything you wish you could warn the contestants before they become famous?
Bobby Flay: Yes. Don't even show up unless you really know how to cook. That to me, as a chef and as one of the judges, is the most important thing. If you can't cook, I'm not going to let you go far. Like, by myself. I don't even need help from Bob [Tuschman] and Susie [Fogelson] in this case. That's the the thing be really tough on, because I want to add somebody to the roster. I want somebody who's going to be a great authority figure.
That doesn't mean they need to be the next Thomas Keller, or the next Wolfgang Puck, but it can be someone like Melissa d'Arabian who won a couple of seasons ago, who is a fantastic home cook and helps mothers everywhere get food to their table every night. So I think there's an importance at every single level when it comes to food. They could be the next Wolfgang Puck and that would be great to add to the Network, but they could be somewhere where Melissa is, or somewhere in between. It doesn't matter. As long as you have a great point of view and it's all about food.
SI: So basically you could have all the charisma in the world but if you can't fry an egg, it's not going to work.
BF: Well, somebody asked me this morning, 'Don't you think it's easier to have someone who has personality and then teach them how to cook?' No way. I'd rather have someone who knows how to cook who's not good on TV, 'cause I can teach them the TV part.
SI: What part of that can be taught, do you think?
BF: I think all of it can be taught. You know, I'm on TV now all the time, but I can tell you right now that when I first started, I wasn't crisp at it. That's for sure. I was not good at it. But the only thing that got me better was working hard, and experience. There's no substitute for that.
I produced a few of my own shows and I produced some other people on the Network, and I constantly worked with them to get them to be better. But if they don't have the confidence in what they're doing in terms of what they're teaching, you can't help them. They'll never be confident. But as long as you're confident about what you're doing, then I can teach you to be good on TV.
SI: You've done so many TV shows. We'd guess that Iron Chef is the most stressful?
BF: It's the hardest thing I do, for sure.
SI: And we'd think the cooking shows and barbecue shows--you're old hat at this point. Are they a breeze for you nowadays?
BF: I actually just started a new cooking show called Barbecue Addiction, premiering on the same day [as The Next Food Network Star] but in the morning at 11 o'clock. It's not that it's all old hat because I keep discovering things myself that I want to talk about when I'm cooking. Barbecue Addiction is going to have a completely different feel to it. I just actually saw the first show and I think it's going to be really terrific and new.
But on Iron Chef I don't have to talk. Except when I'm presenting my dishes but other than that, the camera's on me and it's just watching me cook. The only other person I'm talking to is my sous chef. So that's a lot different than actually doing something like Barbecue Addiction where I'm actually talking to the camera and cooking. I think that is very hard to do for somebody that's never done it before because you have to cook with control, you have to cook with authority, and you also have to talk to the camera and engage the viewer. Iron Chef--all you really need to be able to do is cook. [Laughs.] You don't even have to be good in front of the camera for that show, and as you see, we have chefs from all over the country who have never been on camera before, but they're amazing cooks, and sometimes they come in and they beat us. So, every show has a different skill set.
SI: Can you say more specifically how Barbecue Addiction is going to be different than other cooking shows you've done?
BF: Barbecue Addiction, to me, is sort of like barbecue meets Disney World. It's my barbecue fantasy where I'm surrounded by all these different grills and smokers and barbecues from different parts of the country. Some of them are charcoal, some of them are hardwood, some of them have cracks to them, some of them are ceramic, some of them are big, some of them are small. Everything from a Hibachi to this thing called a ranch grill that Weber makes that can cook like 50 hamburgers at once.
What I'm going to do is focus in on one particular thing. The very first show is all about Pacific Northwest ingredients, so I'll be barbecuing Dungeness crab and hot-smoking salmon and making burgers on cedar planks. A lot of them will have a traditional feel to them, like I might do a show about Greek barbecue or there might be a show about German food on the grill. So everything is going to be focused but really sort of global.
SI: What's the most crucial thing a first-time barbecue-er should know?
BF: How to light charcoal. [Laughs.] A lot of people use gas grills but if you're going to use a charcoal grill, the thing that you want to buy for about 15 bucks is a chimney starter. It takes the lighter fluid out of the game, and that's what you need to know right away.
Barbecue Addiction premieres on June 5th at 11 a.m., and The Next Food Network Star follows on the same day at 9 p.m.
Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife.
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