Bobby Flay Thrills Audience at The Book Stall
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay autographed his new book and chatted up the crowd.
The Book Stall in Winnetka was packed Thursday night in anticipation of a book signing by celebrity chef and restaurateur Bobby Flay. Excited fans waited patiently for the Iron Chef and an audible gasp met him as he emerged from the back of the store promptly at 6:30. Fans had traveled from as far away as Champaign to see the television star and purchase his newest book, Bobby Flay's Throwdown, a recap of the "best of the best" from the Food Network show, now in its eighth season.
Gracious and friendly, Flay entered the signing area and asked if anyone had brought food, joked a bit and asked for questions. When asked how he chooses his Throwdown cooks, he admitted that three full-time people are always on the lookout for challengers.
"They look for regional masters of an iconic dish, and then set up a surprise cook off. We shoot about three a month," he says. Flay said he enjoys the challenge, although he admitted, "I recently did two in a day. I won't do that again!"
When reminded of a throwdown he had done with Lou Malnatti's here, Flay said, "That's not pizza! I'm from New York!" When asked what his favorite restaurant in Chicago was, without hesitation, he roared, "The Frontera Grill!"
Teresa Deal, who was first in the line that stretched out the door, had arrived at 4:30 p.m. from Palatine. Others came from Arlington Heights, Streamwood, Chicago, River Grove, Skokie, Wheeling, Wauconda and Hawthorne Woods.
Also at the event was Winnetka resident Leslie Weitzman, whose daughter interned with Flay at the Mesa Grill and was a sous chef for him at Café Americana. "He was very nice to her when she was there," she said of Flay. Her daughter, Rebecca, a '92 graduate of New Trier, went on to open Thistle Hill Tavern in Brooklyn. When Weitzman eventually made it through the line and was having her book autographed, Flay remembered Rebecca and said of the restaurant, "I've heard it's good; I have to go there."
Born and raised in New York, Flay got his start working at Joe Allen Restaurant in New York. Allen was impressed by Flay's abilities and paid his tuition to the French Culinary Institute, where Flay received a degree in culinary arts and was a member of the first graduating class in 1984. (In 2003 he established The Bobby Flay Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a student in the Long Island City Culinary Arts Program.) Flay is now the owner and executive chef of 10 restaurants located in New York, Las Vegas, the Bahamas, Connecticut, New Jersey and Philadelphia. He is the author of 10 books and has hosted seven cooking shows and specials on The Food Network, five of which continue to run. He has won numerous awards, as well.
"I came to see him because he has such a dynamic personality," said Betsy Rosenblum, a Winnetka resident. "And I love to support The Book Stall."
For more than an hour, Flay chatted with people while autographing books, talking about anything from pizza dough to the national dish of England (Chicken Tikka Masala – check out his recipe online).