New Yorker Bobby Flay is one of the many Food Network stars, including Marc Murphy, Ina Garten, and Geoffrey Zakarian, who call the Hamptons home (at least part-time). This summer, in his own backyard, figuratively speaking, he’ll be receiving one of the culinary world’s most esteemed recognitions as this year’s guest of honor at the James Beard Foundation’s annual gastronomic summer event, Chefs & Champagne. Past honorees include Emeril Lagasse, Ted Allen, Martha Stewart, Tom Colicchio, Charlie Trotter, Ruth Reichl, and the iconic Julia Child. Quite an esteemed company to be sure.
In the hustle and bustle of an early summer day Flay, who celebrates the big 5-0 in December, was on his way to one of many Food Network commitments while keeping an eye on his newest venture, Gato. Flay opened Gato in February in Manhattan’s NoLita neighborhood, on Lafayette just north of Houston Street, with long time partner Laurence Kretchmer. It’s at this new hotspot with a mere 150 seats (counting the bar) where Flay puts on the apron “cooking every night” creating dish after delicious dish with Mediterranean flair. “It encompasses food in different places like Spain, Italy, France, and Greece. Lots olive oil. Lots of salty flavors like capers and anchovies and olives. There’s a pizza oven where we make pizzas and roast chicken.” Beyond the pizza and pasta Flay says that the oven roasted octopus with sour orange is his personal favorite.
When he does have time to come out from behind the kitchen doors Flay escapes to the Hamptons home he built with his wife Stephanie March three years ago in Amagansett. “I really like being in my house. It’s the place that I’m able to relax more than any place else. But that said, I like going out food shopping, you know out and about, taking a lunch in Montauk. It’s not like I am a hermit when I’m out there. But I spend a lot of time at home.”
Beyond the farmers markets and Citarella, the Iron Chef heads to the IGA in Amagansett which he tells Hamptons.com is “the most underrated store in the Hamptons. The guy that manages the store brings in all kinds of ingredients that you would not find in a supermarket and he does a great job of stocking it.”
It’s from here and from points further east in Montauk where Flay finds ingredients for his favorite comfort foods, fish tacos. “Especially in the summer I like cooking a lot of fish tacos because you know the fish is so fresh out here. I love the wild striped bass that comes out of Montauk. So you know I cook a lot of fish tacos all summer long.”
Flay also recommends Bostwick’s for steamers, lobster rolls, and fluke Milanese which he says is “delicious I go there all the time.” He also heads to Nick & Toni’s, Tutto Il Giorno, and Harlow.
“I have very little ability to tan,” laughed Flay when asked about hitting the Hamptons famous beaches. “I sit in my pool. I go to the beach in Amagansett sometimes because that’s where I live but it’s mostly for walks on the beach really early in the morning or as the sun goes down. I’m not really a sun person.” Guess we won’t see this Ginger surfing at Ditch Plains any time soon (but hey, you never know).
With so much success Flay says that the road was not easy. “I think that to have success for a long period of time you have to have stumbling blocks, or failures. One of the things that I’m willing to do is to try things. I’m willing to try and accomplish things even though I know that there’s a possibility of failure. You know, you can see on ‘Iron Chef’ and you see me there and I know that I’m not going to win every time. I think it’s important to know how to lose as well as win really well. I think it’s something that I grew up doing when I was an athlete because there were wins and losses. I think you have to take it as it comes.” The closures of his restaurants Bolo and Mesa Grill, both in NYC, were big hits to the stellar career that includes not just television fame (over a dozen shows to his credit) but serious accomplishments as a chef. His Bar Americain in Midtown is flourishing as are the many Bobby’s Burger Palace restaurants across the country. Fans of the chef and fine dining can still enjoy Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas or in the Bahamas. On the small screen Flay has a new series, “Beat Bobby Flay,” ready to go as well as a new brunch cookbook coming to print this year.
Flay tells Hamptons.com that being honored at Chefs & Champagne is “something we have been talking about for a few years.” Humbly he explained that he had won a few James Beard Awards in the past that helped elevate his career. “I’ve actually participated in the event. I think I participated in the very first Chefs & Champagne a couple years ago. I was one of the chefs who had a table at the event. So when they asked if they could honor me, I was honestly honored.” He unfortunately won’t be cooking but with a laugh said that he plans to “hang and eat” all night long.
The James Beard Foundation’s Chefs & Champagne in the Hamptons event will take place on Saturday, July 26, 2014, at Wolffer Estate in Sagaponack. Tickets are available at www.jamesbeard.org.