Q&A with Bobby Flay Last Updated 9/16
By Charles Monagan
Appropriately enough, Bobby Flay’s culinary star was first discovered on Broadway. The chef, restaurateur, cookbook author and media personality acquired his chops while working as an ambitious young assistant cook at the storied Theater District haunt Joe Allen Restaurant. And like a rising Broadway performer, he studied diligently, learned from the best, refined his talents, took a few understudy roles and eventually emerged as a force to be reckoned with.
The Path to Connecticut
As a 25-year-old in 1991, he created his first sensation at Manhattan’s Mesa Grill—then came Bolo in 1993 and Bar Americain in 2005. Along the way, his relaxed, down-to-earth approach led to his emergence as a celebrated multimedia culinary personality, with 13 cookbooks to his name (the most recent being 2015’s Brunch at Bobby’s—the next, 2017’s Bobby Flay Fit) and countless television shows and appearances, including Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Iron Chef, Bobby Flay’s Barbecue Addiction and Boy Meets Grill.
It was as a full-blown entrepreneur that Flay took his act to Connecticut in 2009, with the establishment of a Bar Americain at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, followed a short time later by Bobby’s Burger Palace in the same casino. Casino-goers enjoyed Bar Americain’s brasserie vibe as well as its steaks, fried chicken and raw bar. Likewise with Bobby’s Burger Palace, where an array of burgers, fries and milkshakes satisfied a fundamental hunger.
A Few Favorites
Flay’s familiarity with Connecticut doesn’t begin and end at Mohegan Sun. For one thing, he, like almost any other serious food adventurer in the world, is familiar with Connecticut pizza.
“I love the New Haven pizza culture,” he says, “and I’m a fan of the white clam pizza.” He’s also familiar with the food scene in Fairfield, where his daughter, Sophie, grew up.
“Our neighborhood restaurant there was Barcelona,” he says, noting that he’s also dined memorably at Fairfield’s Bodega Taco Bar—“it’s great for tacos and margaritas.”
When it comes to the overall flavor of Connecticut, Flay turns again and again to its nearness to the sea and its array of fresh seafood. He’s quick to name his chowder preference from among New England, Rhode Island and Manhattan styles (“New England all the way. When I want clam chowder, I want that creamy texture.”), and when asked to imagine what specials would be on the menu at Bobby Flay’s Bar Americain if it ever hosted a “Connecticut Day,” he turned to the sea once again.
“There’d definitely be some grilled Connecticut oysters with tarragon hot sauce butter,” he says, “along with Connecticut-style lobster rolls (those are the hot ones with melted butter) and a Connecticut clam pan roast. Really classic flavors.”
You’ll find many of these flavors from nearby waters among the extensive seafood offerings on Flay’s menu at Mohegan Sun. In fact, he’s willing to go a step further in singing the praises of Connecticut’s saltwater bounty. Asked if there were three foods he’d raise on a new Connecticut state flag, he did not hesitate.
“Oysters, clams and lobster,” he said.
Long may it wave.
Charles Monagan was very happy that Bobby Flay referred to the hot lobster roll as the Connecticut lobster roll, because that’s where it originated.