The chef got real at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit.

By Samantha Zabell
Updated October 20, 2016

Bobby Flay, acclaimed chef and restaurant owner, author of 15 books, and Food Network personality, has learned many things from more than 25 years in the restaurant business. While you may know him for his love of Southwestern cuisine, his television show, or one of his 19 Bobby’s Burger Palaces (among other restaurants), Flay shared a few little-known facts and anecdotes that may surprise even the most loyal fans.

Bobby Flay
Credit: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

He Never Graduated High School

In 10th grade, Flay became so unmotivated at school that he dropped out. Since he needed a job, he began working in a restaurant, and suddenly realized how much he enjoyed working with his hands and learning about food. This passion motivated him to get his GED and apply to the French Culinary Institute, where he enrolled in 1984 at 18 years old.

He Love Horse Races

Food isn’t Flay’s only passion—he’s very active in the horseracing community. In fact, his horse won the 2016 Belmont Stakes, the biggest race of the year. He purchased a minority interest in Creator, the winning racehorse, this past June just about a week before the race. Flay has a stable of other thoroughbreds as well.

He Doesn’t Want to Start a New Food Trend

“Whenever I guess [what’s next in food], I’m 1000% wrong,” Flay said. “I never want to be the person blazing the train. I want to watch the person who thought it was a good idea and see if it was a good idea.” This is how Flay makes many of his decisions—seeing what works for others, and finding his unique spin.

His Favorite Spice? Chipotle.

Despite growing up Irish-Catholic, Flay has fallen in love with Southwestern food. “I was talking about chipotles before anyone else,” Flay says of his go-to ingredient. “It can spice up any dish.”

He Prefers Kitchens to TV Sets

Despite his immense success on the Food Network, it’s not his favorite part of his job. In fact, it might be his least favorite, although he does say Food Network has been “very good” to him and has “given him a stage” to educate others about his food. “I’m always happiest in my kitchen,” Flay said. “To me, there’s nothing more satisfying.”

He Still Fears Failure

In 2009, his Las Vegas restaurant Mesa Grill lost its one and only Michelin star, and that has haunted him ever since. Even though his latest restaurant, Gato, received rave reviews, Flay can’t shake the fear of criticism. “Pete Wells [the Times restaurant critic] is a very important part of my sleep,” Flay joked. Lesson learned: even the most successful people worry they’re not good enough.