Photo: B51/MarkABrown/Getty Images.
When it comes to summer cooking, we think grilling. And when we think grilling, we think of Bobby Flay. The restaurateur and TV host has been the Food Network's go-to grill guy for almost 20 years, and has been sharing his knowledge with home chefs both through their TVs and in-person, through shows like Food Network Star and Beat Bobbly Flay.
Perhaps because of his role as grilling mentor to millions, Lipton recently gave him a new honorific: head counselor for the day at Lipton Summer Camp, a pop-up event in NYC's Herald Square. We caught up with the head counselor there to find out more about what he's still learning about grilling, the new season of Food Network Star, and what his friends never want to help out with in the kitchen.
So you've been declared head counselor for the day. Did you go to camp growing up?
I did. I think I was a counselors nightmare! I'm a city kid, so I think my parents were like, lets get him out of the city. It took me a while to adjust to it, but I was always an athlete when I was a kid, so I liked that part of it. But the food wasn't great.
You've been the Food Network's go-to grilling guy for a long time, are you still learning new things, or do you feel like you know it all at this point?
No, I'm constantly learning new things. It could be twists on a classic, like today we're grilling chicken and we're doing a really simple recipe with some of the ice tea with a marinade, pairing it with fresh rosemary, thyme, garlic., so savory things with things that are sweet and tart. And at my house, I'll do barbecue chicken, but I'll do a Korean barbecue chicken. So it's things you recognize from the past, but have a different flavor today.
What is the most interesting new technique or recipe you’ve tried recently?
I have to tell you I’ve been cooking with a lot more Asian ingredients than I have in the past. It's not always been my go-to, so I've been experimenting with things like black vinegar.
Do you have a least-favorite parts about cooking in the summer?
No, I love doing it. I get asked all the time what I do to relax, and interestingly enough, I do the same thing to relax that I do for my profession. I just do it at a different pace and a different style. I'm going to work tonight at my restaurant. Gato will do 250 covers tonight, that's a different pace, a different thing.
Cooking for myself and my friends, it's big platters, it's family style. My friends are always helping me do stuff. My friends are always saying, "What can I do to help?" And i ask them to peel the shrimp, and all the sudden I'm unreasonable. (Laughs) I thought you wanted to help! "I don't want to do that!"
The thirteenth season of Food Network Star is about to come out. You've seen so many people come through at this point. What is the biggest misconception about what makes a good Food Network star?
Giada [De Laurentiis] and I argue about this all the time. As a chef, the food to me is the most important thing. My feeling is like if you're a good cook, and you have a repertoire of lots of recipes and ideas and creativity, if you want to be on TV, give me some time, I'll teach you how to do TV, because you're going to be comfortable cooking.
I think there are a lot of people who sit at home and put on the Food Network and think, "I can do that! People tell me I'm personable." And the answer is yes, you can do that for a short period of time. But to have a long career, you have to have the foundation. Giada and I debate this, because she always says, I can take the person who has a really good personality and is good in front of the camera, and teach them to do food T.V. There is something hollower about that. I want people to have the foundation of cooking. Don't forget, it's the Food Network. And that's the most important thing.
Are there any food trends you're sick of?
What are the food trends that we're talking about these days?
Gosh, like unicorn lattes.
Well, unicorn isn't a flavor. It's just a color. So to me, if something doesn't have a flavor it's not worth anything.
Photo: B51/MarkABrown/Getty Images.