Amidst the frenzy of photo posing, autographing and hand shaking, grilling guru Bobby Flay took the time to talk to Street about his grilling lifestyle, the perfect burger, his favorite Philly eateries and his newest Bobby Burger’s Palace (BBP) situated on our campus.
Street: Why did you choose to open your newest BBP in Philadelphia, specifically in West Philly?
Bobby Flay: Philadelphia is a great food city and a close city for me; it’s only an hour by train. We haven’t opened anything [here] before, and we have not opened on a campus either, so we sort of killed two birds with one stone. We are on Penn’s campus, and we are close to Drexel. The fact that Penn has such a great reputation… and that Philly is so close to us (i.e. New York) was a real draw.
Street: After years of Southwestern cooking, what made you open a burger joint?
BF: Grilling is really part of my personal life more than anything else — hanging out in my backyard grilling away — and obviously that turned into a television show influenced by my love of the grill. Burgers are the thing I crave more than anything else. I also think the burger palace has done the same thing (Ed. Note: bringing the chill backyard aura to the culinary world). I don’t look at my businesses as occupational; I look at them in terms of changing the value of my life. I didn’t go to college, so I didn’t learn from books; I learned from life. My personal life and my business life often clash.
Street: On the burger episode of Throwdown, you mentioned that a hamburger is not “meatloaf burger.” That being said, does the base of your burgers change depending on the toppings?
BF: The base of the burger has kosher salt and cracked pepper on both sides, except for the Dallas burger that has a spice rub on it. Other than that, there’s nothing inside of it. We cook it on a hot flat iron, so it gets crusty, flip it once, cook on the other side and that’ s it.
Street: What’s your favorite burger accompaniment?
BF: I like the L.A. Burger crunchified. I also like to make a burger that’s not on the menu: extra American cheese, cole slaw and pickled jalapeños (Ed. note: medium rare of course).
Street: Would you explain the origin of crunchify?
BF: Childhood. When I was a kid I would always eat the potato chips that the burger cheese had melted onto first. I thought why not put chips on the burgers… it adds a crunch of texture. The two most important things in food are flavor and texture, especially contrast of texture.
Street: Favorite ingredient? Chipotles perhaps?
BF: I love chili peppers obviously, but I love blue corn. Corn in general is one of my favorite ingredients no matter what color it is and what form it takes.
Street: Any favorite food spots in Philly?
BF: Vetri. Marc’s sitting right there (points to Marc Vetri and Michael Symon at the neighboring table).
Street: What’s your Favorite cheesesteak topping? Favorite establishment?
BF: Cheese whiz. I like Geno’s.
Street: Did you ever imagine your culinary education would lead to what has become a business empire?
BF: Not really. Food has become so important over the last 10 years that I really feel I was in the right place at the right time. There really is no magic to it. I just try to do the right thing every day and by that I mean trying to make the food better and better and trying [to] make my customers happy. This is what I do every day of my life. I’ve been doing it for 28 years. It never gets easier, and I never lose interest.
Street: Do you spend most of your time in the kitchen or in the office?
BF: In the kitchen. I go from kitchen to kitchen. I’m in my whites 90% of the time.
Street: What’s the best part about being a chef / working in the culinary world?
BF: The camaraderie of the people in [the industry]. In any other profession there’s so much competition. They are my boys (pointing to Vetri and Symon) and they come to support me. That’s the way it is.