The unbeatable Bobby Flay shares his kitchen secrets in new cookbook

Chef Bobby Flay is everywhere. The 29th season of his show just started, coinciding with the release of his new cookbook, “Beat Bobby Flay: Conquer the Kitchen with 100+ Battle-Tested Recipes” (Clarkson Potter, $32.50). His Thanksgiving menu recently popped up in the Williams-Sonoma email blast, and every Tuesday he hosts a podcast with his daughter called “Always Hungry.”

And you’ll have to get up pretty early in the morning to beat Bobby Flay. The Food Network superstar rises at 5:30 each day to work out, because he believes staying in shape helps him perform at his peak in the kitchen — and he’s got the track record to prove it.

In round 1 of “Beat Bobby Flay,” two chefs compete for the chance to challenge him. In round 2, our hero wins 70 percent of the time. And that’s shooting two shows a day in marathons of 100 episodes.

Dude has always been driven. When he was 8 years old, he asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. Dad thought he ought to get a G.I. Joe. But the kid badgered Santa so much, he got both. His folks couldn’t know his cooking would lead to fame and fortune, but somehow little Bobby must have sensed it.

Seems he’s always been confident in his talent, with the swagger of an East Coast rapper minus the arrogance, which might explain his off-the-charts popularity. Born and raised in New York City, he dropped out of school at 17 and started working at a pizza joint, at Baskin-Robbins and then at celeb hangout Joe Allen Restaurant in Manhattan, where Flay’s father was a partner. Allen recognized Flay’s talent. He paid the young man’s tuition at the French Culinary Institute.

Aside from a short stint at the American Stock Exchange, Flay’s been on the culinary fast track: James Beard awards, Emmys, first culinary star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — the list goes on. Always competitive, he beat Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto at his own game in a rematch between the two in Japan.

Today, Flay owns dozens of  restaurants, including Amalfi in Las Vegas, Gato in New York and Bobby’s Burger Palace, with 19 U.S. locations. His net worth on the tell-all websites? Around $30 million.

Now comes “Beat Bobby Flay,” a cookbook filled with advice, including 10 tips called “In It To Win It!” and recipes divulging his “arsenal” of stocks, sauces, doughs and more. He basically spells out exactly how his opponents can topple him.

We caught up with Flay to find out how the book came together and why he decided to give away so many of his kitchen secrets.

Q.  Your new book is a cheat sheet on winning the show. Why are you being so generous to your competitors?

A. I created the show based on two things I love to do, hanging out with my friends and cooking. Obviously it’s a competition, so there’s winning and losing, but to me, the most important thing is to give some people, who have never had a stage before, a chance to show what they’re able to do, and there’s some friendly competition within it. But it’s fun! I mean, it’s not life or death, we’re cooking food.

Q. Where did you find the time to write this?

A. I’ve written 16 books now. So, writing is part of what I do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. Like, I  have to write 12 headnotes by next week, so I put myself on a schedule. I’m definitely a morning person. I do my best work before noon.

Q. The photography is glorious.

A. That was done at my house. It was a grueling schedule, doing maybe 15 shots a day. And there’s a lot of prep that goes into that process: the styling, cooking all the food, then shooting. The photographer is Ed Anderson, and I’ve used him on my last five books.

Q. There are tons of tricks in this book and some surprises. The Thai-Style Chicken is skewered after it’s cooked so you’re not looking at  burnt skewers. And the recipes are not always the winners. How was that decided?

A. There wasn’t really any sort of long decision-making. We just wanted to show a bunch of different cuisines, a bunch of different chefs.

Q. I’m in awe of your work with chiles. The blend of ancho, guajillo, chipotle and New Mexico powders in the Vegetable Chili added depth. Where did you get your pepper expertise?

A. I’ve been cooking Southwestern food for decades, basically my entire career. There’s no substitute for experience when it comes to chili peppers.

Q. How does BBF run? Do you get a copy of the competitor’s recipe ahead of time?

A. No, I don’t. The producers know what (the recipe) is, because they have to make sure they have food ready for that recipe. They tell me the dish, and that’s when I decide what I’m going to do. We have tons of ingredients, but sometimes, if there is something we don’t have, we literally have people waiting in stores to get a phone call and bring it back in five or 10 minutes. After I get challenged, it’s about a 10- or 15-minute break where we have to turn the cameras around and have all the ingredients ready to go. The timer goes off, and it’s 45 minutes of straight cooking.

Q. Tell us about some of your celebrity contestants. You’ve had Marcus Samuelsson, Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli …

A. People know them the best, because they’re part of the Food Network family. So it’s always fun. Usually they don’t want to compete. They want to judge or co-host, which I get. They’re like, “We don’t want to work that hard.” But listen, they bring their best game, and they want to beat me, and they actually have a very good record against me.

Q. Any anecdotes?

A. Anne is probably the most competitive, and she is a great cook, a great chef. She picked cheesecake, and she knows desserts aren’t my No. 1 strength. She beat me handily.

Q. That recipe’s in the book! So, what’s next? 

A. We’ve just opened a new restaurant in Las Vegas called Amalfi which is all about my current obsession with Italy, and that’s gone really, really well. And I’m writing a book based on my Sunday dinners with my daughter Sophie. She’s a broadcast journalist for ABC. The book’s about home cooking, basically. So I’ve been working on that book, as this one is coming out.

Q. You’ve come so far — from the boy with the Easy-Bake Oven to millionaire TV star. What do you want to be best remembered for?

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