During my recent vacation in Denver, my eight-year-old nephew Harrison, who goes to sleep to the Food Network (he finds it less scary than The Weather Channel, which sometimes reports on frightening storms), wanted to get an idea of how well I knew some of the celebrity chefs. So he asked me if I knew Bobby Flay's favorite color.
I explained to him that grown-ups don't actually talk about their favorite colors much, and that at any rate I didn't know Bobby Flay very well. Although I'd interviewed him over the phone once or twice, he doesn't seem sure of who I am when he sees me. He seems aware that he should acknowledge me, but he's not sure why.
That's totally understandable. There's no reason why he should know me. I have many similar relationships with people.
For some reason I have been seeing a lot of Bobby Flay here at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen.
I ran into him in the elevator of the St. Regis Hotel yesterday, apparently after he'd been working out.
"What's goin' on?" he asked.
"Aspen," I said.
But this morning I ended up at the same table as he and his cohorts during a panel discussion in which Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin asked Steve Ells, Drew Nieporent, Thomas Keller and Tom Colicchio about the future of fine dining.
Like me, Bobby Flay likes to comment to his friends in the middle of panel discussions. So when Dana introduced Steve Ells, the founder of Chipotle, Flay leaned over to his business partner, Laurence Kretchmer, and said, "It's good food."
At one point during the discussion, Drew sort of started insulting everyone, and everyone at the table seemed to get a big kick out of that.
It wasn't really intentional, but he grimaced when he said "Chipotle" and later he basically said that Thomas Keller's strategy for handling reservations was to raise prices so fewer people would want to go. He pointed out that Craft, Tom Colicchio's fine dining restaurant, was spelled with a 'C,' not a 'K.'
He even managed to take a swipe at Bobby Flay (and Nation's Restaurant News, which continues to anger him because we haven't inducted his Tribeca Grill into our Fine Dining Hall of Fame, but the magazine staff can handle it). He said he couldn't imagine Tom Colicchio's face on a bucket of chicken, but "Bobby Flay's, yes."
"Was I just insulted?" he asked Kretchmer.
"A little bit," was the response.
"He's speaking from the heart," said Jose Andres, who had seated himself between me and Flay, with a shrug.
Flay also asked Ells a great question about what food was prepared on-premise and what wasn't, and Ells' response was extremely forthright, as it usually is from him but rarely is from many other chain restaurant operators when it comes to those sorts fo details (basically if it's braised, it's made off-premise, but by Chipotle, not by suppliers or manufacturers).
Flay also asked Andres about a project the Spanish chef was working on in Los Angeles. I thought I had a little scoop, but it turns out that my colleague Milford Prewitt wrote about it awhile ago: He'll be involved in the redevelopment of Le Merdian hotel on La Cienega. The new property, SLS, is being designed by Philippe Starck.