By Jae-Ha Kim
Tribune Media Services
May 31, 2011
People know who Bobby Flay is because he is everywhere. The celebrity restaurateur (Mesa Grill) is the Food Network’s face of grilling, an Iron Chef and host of the network’s biggest show “Food Network Star,” which premieres this season on Sunday, June 5. Though Flay loves traveling overseas, the 46-year-old culinary artist says if he were forced to pick between visiting domestic or international locales, he’d pick the United States.
“I love the food in every region of our country whether it’s the Southwest, the Pacific Northwest or the Deep South,” says Flay, who lives in New York with his wife, actress Stephanie March. “That said, I have to add that going to lunch in Paris or shopping the markets in Barcelona, Sicily or the South of France isn’t bad either.”
Q. If you had to pick one city that has it all — food-wise — which city would it be?
A. I’d have to say New York City. I think New York has the most diverse and best quality representation of so many different cuisines at all levels. There truly is something for every taste or craving.
Q. What are some of your favorite restaurants?
A. Some of my favorite restaurants in New York City are Daniel, Morandi and Milos. We hit Morandi for brunch a lot. A must-have is the ricotta, honey and hazelnut bruschetta, escarole, lava bean and mint salad, skirt steak and eggs. At Milos, I love the tomato salad and St. Pierre fish. I went to Osteria, which is owned by Marc Vetri, in Philadelphia just the other night and had an amazing dinner — my favorites are the stuffed soft-shell crab with egg and asparagus and the pasta with rabbit and morels. You can’t go wrong with any dish on the menu. Order a lot and eat family style. I also love Vetri in Philadelphia. Spago in Beverly Hills is also great. Have the Chinese-style duck and the angolotti. Lolita restaurant in Cleveland has great flatbreads and pizzas. And Michy’s in Miami is great, too.
Q. What food have you eaten on the road that inspired you to try to duplicate it when you returned home?
A. The first dish I think about is the shrimp and grits I ate in Savannah, Ga., more than 10 years ago. It has been on my menu at Bar Americain since opening day and has become a restaurant classic.
Q. What have you learned from your travels?
A. I am always inspired by what other people are cooking and eating in every place I visit. Observing that local culture and flavor is probably the number one source of my inspiration for creating my restaurant menus.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of back home?
A. I seem to respond most to places that are more cosmopolitan because of my Manhattan upbringing. Some of the major international cities I’ve visited like Madrid, Rome and London have a lot of similarities and “New York” elements while also obviously having their own flavor.
Q. Where would you like to go that you have never been to before?
A. I’d love to visit Thailand just for the street food and the energy of a city like Bangkok. I’d also like to go to Bologna in Italy. I hear the food of Bologna is some of the best in Italy.
Q. When you travel, what kind of food do you like to eat?
A. I always eat the food that is traditional to the place I’m in. I never look for the hottest restaurant of the moment, I look for the place that best represents the cuisine of the country, city or town I’m in. The restaurants that locals know to be the very best that their city has to offer.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. It’s always the ice cream of any particular place. For example, in Sicily I always get the pistachio gelato after every meal, every day!
© 2011 JAE-HA KIM
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