How To Beat Bobby Flay On Food Network

This post describes my experience on the show Beat Bobby Flay, which aired on Thursday April 14, 2016. {Entire episode is posted below}

 

So my wife Carissa and our children had been bugging me long enough, and they just had forwarded me a casting call to appear on the Food Network’s show Beat Bobby Flay.

So I did it. And I was on the show on Thursday April 14, 2016 at 10 pm Eastern.

The show is taped, so it was a lot of fun to participate, and here I want to share my experience, how I competed and how I met Chef Bobby Flay.

BEAT BOBBY FLAY

CASTING CALL BEAT BOBBY FLAY (FOOD NETWORK)

As I said my wife and kids forwarded me an application for a casting call for the Food Network show Beat Bobby Flay. I’m initially not too much into culinary competitions, and I’ve been having mixed feelings about the Food Network, its stars, and its shows that can sometimes be a bit flimsy, and frankly, not that interesting.

I had seen the show Beat Bobby Flay a few times. One thing I liked about the show is that competitors are legit… Just chefs from across the US who make a serious attempt at bringing their signature dish to the show, and try to beat Bobby Flay.

Another thing I liked is that the Food Network doesn’t try to put the chefs down. Really, they appear pretty much as they are, and there is no nastiness or ridiculous editing to make the chefs look bad. I’m a 45-year old chef with a reputation in Tampa Bay, FL, with 5 children and a lovely wife, so the last thing I wanted was to be ridiculed on national TV because I burnt such or such a dish.

For those who don’t know me, I am the Executive Chef Partner of Piquant Artisan Caterers. I also wrote 2 books: The Chef’s Repertoire and Eat More Burn More.  And finally, I also lead online cooking classes via my own brand: Eat More Burn More.

I know, that’s a lot, right? 🙂 Anyway, my point is that as much as I wanted to please my 5 children and Carissa, there was some risks involved in cooking in front of a national audience.

But I do have extensive experience appearing live on HSN, as well as many speaking obligations involving culinary demonstrations. So I felt confident enough to try to beat Bobby Flay while a sizable portion of America watches me from their couch, gobbling down popcorn and putting in their 2 cents.

 

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So I went aeat more burn morehead and filled up the application. Sure enough, it didn’t take long. The next day I had a call from the casting company, and we scheduled a one-hour Skype interview. That went very well and the next step was to talk to one of the Food Network’s producers. That call lasted 3 hours! 3 HOURS!..
They wanted to know everything about my life, from my childhood in the south of France, chef school, my culinary travels, when I came to the US, where I cooked, who I was inspired by, who I mentored, when I wrote my books, why I got involved with Eat More Burn More, my family life, my struggles, etc… EVERYTHING! 3 hours.

 

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I had to provide photos of my food, and a signature recipe. I chose my killer Coq Au Vin recipe. Provided the recipe, sent photos, kind of practiced a bit (even though I was in full catering season), and then I was off to New-York city.

From the moment I applied to Food Network’s show Beat Bobby Flay to the moment we taped, it was about 2 weeks. Pretty fast turnover. I didn’t really expect it to be that fast. 🙂

 

PREPARING TO BEAT BOBBY FLAY

I didn’t know much about the show. But I knew I would compete against another unknown chef, then if I won, I would have access to Bobby Flay. Round 1, then round 2 against Bobby.

beat bobby flay

For round 1, the competition lasts 20 minutes (which goes really, really fast). There is a mystery ingredient. Which means you discover the ingredient seconds before preparing and cooking it. I was kind of confident for that round, but really, I was afraid I would get some stupid ingredient like Oreo cookies or hamburger buns, or something relatively obscure like taro root. I’ve been cooking professionally for almost 30 years, so there wasn’t many ingredients I didn’t know, but i certainly didn’t want to end up scratching my head about how to feature Oreo cookies in a dish. I also didn’t want any pastry shit, but i figure with 20 minutes, they were not going to ask me to make a genoise or a piece montee. So I was pretty safe there.

Still, regarding round 1 of Beat Bobby Flay, I was fairly confident because i’ve conducted countless culinary demonstrations, and cooked for something like 3000 events in Tampa bay, and many required me to cook really fast in a very limited time.

So some confidence for round 1.

 

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For round 2, if I gained access to Bobby Flay by winning against my first opponent, then I would have 45 minutes to make my signature dish. That I was super confident with. Why? Because I knew my Coq au Vin was killer, and that I would have the advantage of surprise (Bobby Flay doesn’t know what he’s supposed to cook until the very last minute) AND I’d been cooking that Coq au Vin all my life and coming from France, there was no American boy who was going to take that away from me!

The other thing is that I had taken some liberty about my original recipe. I had planned on “giroles” (an awesome wild mushroom from the South of France) and organic chicken and beautiful crisp pancetta for texture. I also inserted some tourne’ potatoes in there, and I knew Bobby wouldn’t even try to do any of that.

Also, I made sure to pack as much as possible in the 45 minutes I had. Not easy. A Coq au Vin in 45 minutes… you need to time your shit properly.

So super confident for round 2. I had practiced round 2 in spite of being stuck in full catering season, being tired, and not having much time to dedicate to this.

But how do you possibly practice for round 1? And if I didn’t win round 1, then what? You go home to Tampa with your tail between your legs, disappoint my kids (No!!!!), and hope that your friends still love you! Sorry, French chef ego speaking! 🙂

One thing to remember: Bobby Flay doesn’t lose much. In fact, the odds are definitely in his favor. I looked it up and it looks like he wins 90-95% of the time.

 

THE SHOW: BEAT BOBBY FLAY

The Food Network flew me to NYC, set me up in a nice midtown hotel right next to Central Park. Carissa and I had a nice dinner in town, and the next day I was in the studios. One of the producer put me in a “green room” with some dude and we waited there for a while, until we both realized that we were each other’s competitor! We had no idea.

 

beat bobby flay

 

The other competitor was Chef Kevin Ashade of Dallas, TX. Nice guy. Great chef. We started talking, just shooting the shit and discovering things about the show, etc… We also found out that we had the same signature dish: Coq Au Vin. So somehow the producers got us to agree on the same dish.

 

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There was a nice competitive spirit with Kevin but nothing nasty or demeaning. He was super nice to me, respectful, and I was to him of course. We waited in the same room for a few hours, and then did a 1-hour, pre-show interview.

During that interview, the producers asked questions about my background, and I realized that they had a storyline drawn according to that 3-hour phone interview I had done a couple of weeks ago. The entire team was very nice.

Then it went pretty quickly after this. I had been in the studio for about 4 hours and hadn’t even see the kitchen yet. Some producers took us to it and showed us everything. The kitchen “stadium” looks exactly like  what you see on TV. 2 separate islands with commercial stove, and everything you might want to kick some ass. A producer showed us everything, and I paid close attention to the ingredients, because those were capital in the first round dish. I noticed some mascarpone cheese, a great Italian estate olive oil, harissa, pastis (a liquor from the south of France), great herbs, some stock, wine… I also looked at the plates and I was already brainstorming about my presentation possibilities.

The producers had told me there was a 5 minute break to reposition the cameras between the moment they announce the secret ingredient, and the moment you actually start competing. So I was really planning on that to brainstorm and refine my dish with the secret ingredient.

Then more waiting. Then it was getting close. Bobby Flay came and said hi to us. Then more waiting. At that time we didn’t know what the secret ingredient was. Again, I was hoping for no Oreo cookies surprise. Other than that, I was fine and ready. A bit nervous, but ready. Chef Kevin looked concentrated but a bit worried.

After more waiting, it was finally time for the entrance. Music, smoke, 2 audiences (one cheering for Kevin and one cheering for me). You make your entrance, you go to your station. Bobby comes with a basket. Uncover the secret ingredient.

 

And then… And then…

 

At time of this writing, I can’t reveal what happened next. See you on Thursday April 14, 2016 at 10 pm eastern. I’ll talk more after that but for now… no spoilers! 🙂

 

UPDATE ON BEAT BOBBY FLAY’S FOOD NETWORK SHOW

This is an update AFTER the show had aired on April 14, 2016. Of course, I couldn’t reveal anymore than I did reveal above.

The mystery ingredient was… Artichokes! Bobby Flay had just released it to Chef Kevin Ashade and me, and I was really happy and relieved. Why? You see, artichokes are a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, and where I come from in the South of France, we eat artichokes very often. In fact, I pretty much grew up on artichokes. So I couldn’t be happier and already all kind of thoughts came to my mind. The main one being: Artichoke Barigoule… A classic dish from Provence.

beat bobby flay

 

beat bobby flay

 

So automatically, I think about my own variation of Artichoke Barigoule. Traditionally, artichokes are turned into an artichoke broth-stew. But even in Provence, variations are wide (some barigoule variations include artichokes that are just grilled with a drizzle of good olive oil and just a simple shot of ground peppercorn!). So I felt I had some leeway in my interpretation of the dish.

At this time, the cameras repositioned and I knew I had 5 minutes to brainstorm and refine my thoughts for my dish. I had seen some very good olive oil, some anchovies, some pastis (anise liquor), some broth, some olives also… all being traditional ingredients from Provence and sometimes inserted into artichoke barigoule recipes.

I had also seen some mascarpone cheese, and I wanted to use that as a foundation to give some softness and sophistication to an otherwise “thin” and somewhat “rustic” stew. So pretty much I had my dish.

beat bobby flay

 

As seen on TV, I started mincing my garlic really fast, I took my plates and laid them out (4) so I had them ready for plating way ahead of time. I knew time could be an issue. 20 minutes goes really, really fast. So I was flying…

IMG_1209 IMG_1208 IMG_1207 IMG_1204

 

After mincing garlic, I seared my artichokes and gave them a nice browning to enhance the flavors. I added some anchovies for flavor and let them melt before I flambe’ with pastis, deglazed with a bit of wine. I added a ton of garlic (yeah!) and some fresh basil leaves. That was about it for my artichokes.

I started plating and put a bit of mascarpone cheese at the bottom of each plate. Salt and pepper of course. Then I plated my artichokes on it. We were getting close with about 5 minutes to go.

I could tell chef Kevin was done. He was just standing there and I was like, what the hell?.. Can’t he just time himself properly? What is he waiting for to add to his dish? His dish looked simple, with only a couple of elements. I couldn’t really see from my station, but it looks like some artichokes with an artichoke “creme” or something. I became confident.

So I finish my dish with a bit of broth, add some olives. For me the olives Nicoise where a signature Provencal move, and it complemented the artichokes. Many provencal dish portray olives and artichokes. It didn’t occur to me that it would be a little busy on the plate.

So that was my “drizzle” on the plate. I wanted to have some kind of a broth/stew like liquid to reminisce about the traditional Barigoule, and I thought the judges would get it. They didn’t.

Time was about to run out, but I was pretty much plated, and I decided to work the crowd. I played with the audience a bit, and then came back to plate a few watercress leaves on my dish.

I liked my dish. I thought I had done great. In time. Great flavors. A familiar ingredient. Tastes of my home country. I was super confident.

I looked at Carissa in the audience, and she was also confident. She looked at me like “you’ve got this. No problem”.

Frankly, I was already thinking about the next round at that point. I don’t think it was overconfidence. I really thought that I had done a great job under the circumstances, and that Kevin’s dish was very simple and looked like I could top it. I think it was nice, but I thought mine was better.

A few minutes pass, and we’re back stage. We shoot the shit a bit with Kevin, and everything is more relaxed from that point. Then it’s time to approach the judges.

The judges were a bit bitchy and condescending. I guess that’s the name of the game, right?.. So they started with Kevin’s dish and kind of destroyed him. Then they went to me, praised my dish a bit, and then concluded that the olives and broth were out of place, and that the watercress topping was too much. And they chose to go with Kevin’s dish.

It was a real disappointment. But this is a competition and his dish was better than mine. In hindsight, I don’t think I would have changed anything. My timing was right. My dish was meaningful and rooted in my home region of the South of France. That dish would have worked fantastic over there. Not here. 🙂

I shook hands with Bobby, congratulated Kevin, said bye to the judges, and exited.

I want to congratulate Chef Kevin Ashade of Dallas for his win against me, and against Bobby Flay. Kevin was very nice and courteous to me. And we had a great time interacting. I’m happy for him that he gets to go back to his hometown with the bragging rights that he beat Bobby Flay. That’s great.

Carissa came to me backstage and was so supportive. She really was. I was pissed! 🙂 I really wanted this!

I waited for 3 hours, then had an interview for 2 more hours. At that time, Kevin was competing against Bobby Flay and won the Coq au Vin throw down. Good for him.

Overall, it was a really great and fun experience. I had a blast. Sure, I’m bummed that I didn’t win, but such is competition. There is a winner, and then there is a loser. It’s not easy to lose but it’s part of the game.

I want to thank everyone who believed in me and supported me. From my wife Carissa and our 5 children, our close friends, family, and then all of you guys who know me or not, and really pushed behind me and made me feel like a real winner. Thank you everyone! 🙂

 

“Have Merci!
It’s a good ol’ fashioned food fight as French caterer Gui Alinat and Dallas caterer Kevin Ashade put it all on the line to get to Bobby Flay. It all falls on New York chefs Josh Capon and Alex Guarnaschelli to pick the competitor they think can bring one of America’s finest chefs to his knees! (Episode: BY0805H)”

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Chef Gui Alinat is a Florida-based ACF Certified Executive Chef, published author and partner at Piquant Artisan Caterers. He published his first book, The Chef’s Répertoire, in 2010. The Chef’s Repertoire has won a Cordon d’Or International Culinary Award for Best Culinary Literature. He also just released his brand new cookbook: Eat More Burn More™, a collection of 100 delicious recipes for anyone interested in good food and staying fit.
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13 Comments

  1. This is so exciting. And the dream opportunity I had hoped for my friend. Win or lose the world will be introduced to an extroidinary chef and a great personality. Can’t wait as this adds another chapter to the real Chef Gui book on his journey. And I look forward to the dish!

    Reply
  2. I’ve been a fan of this show for years but I must say how disappointed I was with what I saw on camera as a REAL lack of respect for Gui during the first round. Bobby Flay’s and the others judges’ rude behavior and laughing was surprising and obvious. I know it’s such a popular show that they don’t have to worry about my viewership, but they should think about their lack of professional demeanor.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your message. It’s reality TV… I knew things like that could happen. When you sign up (and sign your life away!), you know what you’re in for. I actually selected that show because they don’t make the chefs look too bad, no matter what. I don’t feel disrespected and I understand the “rude behavior and laughing”. Having said that, I would have preferred to win and move to the next stage.

      Again, thanks for your concern and your comment. I understand and appreciate your point. But overall, it was a fun experience for me.

      Reply
  3. Proud of you Chef Gui.. What an awesome accomplishment to add to your repertoire. Your professionalism and expertise in the culinary arena is exceptional and truly admired!

    Reply
    • Thanks Beth. The same can be said about you. It’s not easy to go out there and be “watched” by millions of people. It was a fun thing to do for sure. 🙂

      Reply
  4. I saw this episode the other night as a rerun and I have to admit that it inspired me to cook Coq au Vin for the very first time. It turned out great, although granted I let it braise for over 2 hours, not under 45 minutes. I too felt there was a lack of respect toward you and I was definitely on board with #teamchefgui during the show. You rocked the skills!

    Great job! (and your artichokes ruled the competition in my book)

    Reply
    • Congrats Michael on the Coq au Vin. And thanks for the compliment.

      Reply
  5. You are very gracious and professional. I enjoyed reading this. What a fantastic opportunity and accomplishment.

    Reply
  6. I know i can beat bobby flay.. Am a home cook and cooking is my what i love to do…

    Reply
  7. This was a very entertaining read! I thoroughly enjoyed the story. If you ever tire of being a chef, you could always be a writer.

    Reply

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