During the 2015 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, Bobby Flay confirmed reports that he’s scouting a new restaurant location in the South, said there were plans for a Mesa Grill 2.0, and hinted that he might want to open a restaurant in Miami, but for the most part, the rest of the morning spent during the Bullfrog + Baum “Bobby Flay and the B-Team: It Takes a Village” trade talk focused on the people who work with him every day. In fact, anyone curious about the everyday life of the Iron Chef couldn’t have snagged a better glimpse than by attending the talk hosted by Bullfrog founder and president Jennifer Baum in the downstairs lounge at The Betsyhotel on Ocean Drive.
The “B-Team,” chef Flay’s personal team is composed of four women (Stephanie Banyas, Sally Jackson, Christine Sanchez, and Elyse Tirrell) help him do everything from writing his cookbooks to keeping his life on schedule. Who better than to give insight into the life of this iconic Iron Chef? In fact, Flay took the panel opportunity to explain and talk up the work these four women do for him. “People ask me how I do it all and they have this image of me doing everything with 400 hands that are all mine,” he said. “These guys are how I do it.”
What does it take to be successful in the world of celebrity chef, Internet personalities, and media moguls? Who is this Iron Chef really, who are the people who keep him ticking, and how did he find them? Frequently, it seems, from the discussion, chef Flay finds people from within his own organization. “There are two things I look for: if they’re nice and if they’re ambitious,” he explained. “I am always observing how people do their job, how they work, if they’re making the customers’ experiences better, if they’re on time for work, all the fundamentals during every single moment in my restaurants.”
He also isn’t afraid to spend money to find the right people. “When I find somebody I cannot let go in my office or in my restaurants, if I feel have that they have a certain something, I hire them even if I don’t need them and it’s going to make my payroll higher, because people leave, people move on, and good people always find their place.”What’s the next thing in the world of cuisine? When it comes to trends I’m always wrong. I have no idea what’s going to be hot next. We wait to see what’s hot and then I try to do it better. I don’t want to be the first. I want to be the second one on the trail. — Chef Bobby Flay
It also doesn’t hurt, admitted Flay, for them to be women.
“If it's up to me, I think women should exclusively rule the world,” he said. “If a guy were to say to me, ‘Hey I think you really shouldn’t do that, you should do this,’ I would be like, ‘What?’ But if one of these guys says to me, ‘I don’t like what you’re wearing,’ I would just say, ‘Okay, I’ll go change.’”
One of the members of the B-Team on the panel, Christine Sanchez, had cooked in the kitchen for chef Flay, and two others, Stephanie Banyas and Elyse Tirrell, had worked the front door at his restaurants. While they complimented him for being generous to a fault, and being a great boss, the teasing banter exhibited how well they know him and how much he relies on them, calling him impatient, chastising him for wanting to fax instead of email, and ribbing him for scribbling brainstorming sessions on legal pads.
Beyond keeping him on schedule and helping him to deal with the realities of being both a restaurant and celebrity chef in high demand, the B-Team helps Flay come up with new dishes for his restaurants, track commercial branding endeavors like his 320-product Kohl’s line, manage his thoroughbred racing “side business,” help him write cookbooks, and even relaunched his website BobbyFlay.com.
“Most chefs of this stature and experience would make their website about them,” noted Ms. Baum. “Of course, you can see everything you’re doing, your recipes are all there, but you’re putting a lot of emphasis on your B-team.”
“I’ve had some success and they’ve been a part of it,” responded Flay. “If you go to BobbyFlay.com you’ll see that it’s a monthly magazine. These guys work on this constantly. Is it helping my bottom line today? No. But it could be a show down the road. These are four real people who have different personalities and they’re knowledgeable people who have a lot to say. I produce a lot of shows and some of the most successful things on TV involve people who are genuine, people who are authority figures, and people who can help people. They’re definitely all of those things.”
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