As Bobby Flay Cooks Up an IPO, Can He Still Remain the Hands-On Guy?

Used to calling his own shots, Flay will soon find out what happens when he lets everyone else into the kitchen.

Photographed by David Yellen; Grooming: Lisa Aharon | Starworks; Stylist: Courtney Fuglien

It’s 1 pm on a Thursday, and Bobby Flay is sitting in his favorite spot to conduct daily business: the corner banquette in the front window at Gato, the Lower Manhattan outpost of his fine-dining empire. He is dressed casually in a dark-blue henley and jeans, wrapping up a call as his team gets situated around him for the first agenda item of the day: testing 10 new cocktails.

Marlene is the new bar manager, and this is her first time pitching the boss her own concoctions. She’s a bit nervous, but she’s done her homework. And Flay is impressed, on the whole, with her creations. But he zeroes in on one drink in particular. “You know what the surprising flavor in here is,” he tells her with genuine admiration, “and not everyone’s going to pick up on this -- it’s the pink peppercorn.” But after a further moment’s reflection, the garnish in Marlene’s drink gives him pause.

“So you’re just going to slice a habanero in there?”

Marlene says yes.

“The only thing I will tell you,” he says, “is if people pick that up and eat it, they’re going to fucking ruin their night. When you have a garnish, people tend to use it.”

Related: Successful Entrepreneurs Never Compromise on These 5 Fundamentals

After 30-plus years running a kitchen, opening dozens of successful upscale and fast-casual restaurants employing, at present, more than 1,000 people and managing a widening universe of , TV shows and product lines, the 52-year-old Flay is cocksure and precise in his knowledge of what will and will not go over with the , and he shares that knowledge freely with his staffers. Whether it be properly seasoning with salt and pepper (forgetting either is practically a fireable offense) or knowing when a garnish will go off in a customer’s mouth like a grenade, these “chef’s adjustments,” as Flay calls them, often stress nailing the fundamentals

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