Saturday, July 22, 2006

Well done, Bobby Flay -- and I'm not talking about steak

Food Network junkie that I am, I really love some of the new additions to their line-up. One such new show is "Throwdown with Bobby Flay," in which the famous chef challenges relative unknowns to cooking competitions on their own turf. The episodes that I've seen so far have pitted Bobby Flay against a wedding cake maker, a guy who owns a chowder restaurant, and a military man who cooks steak in 100-degree desert heat.

One aspect of the show that I really like is seeing Bobby Flay as a real person. Ever since watching his pompous performance on "The Iron Chef" (original Japanese version) a few years ago, I've been decidedly anti-Flay. Even Bobby Flay's brief appearance in a delightful Disney Channel movie (about a kid who is torn between cooking and playing baseball, in case you were wondering) did nothing to improve my negative opinion. But, though I am stubborn as all get-out, I think the tide is starting to turn in Bobby's favor these days, thanks to "Throwdown." Maybe it's just because he's going up against people who specialize in areas of cooking that are not his strengths, but "Throwdown" shows a humble side of Bobby Flay that was totally missing when he did his stand-on-the-cutting-board stunt on "The Iron Chef." It's nice to see. (For a description of this event and a full screed against the man, check out this lovely article.)

I also enjoy seeing how excited the other chefs get when Bobby Flay appears out of the blue. But at the same time, I always feel bad for them because I know that they're about to go up against a chef who has much more professional experience than they do. See, these poor people think that the Food Network is filming them for their own TV specials; they don't realize that they're really pawns in the "Throwdown" producers' game and that Bobby Flay is the true star of the show. It just makes me a little sad because if I were in their position, I would feel disappointed upon the reveal. Of course, they are all very gracious and seem to view Bobby Flay's mere presence as an honor, so maybe I'm off base here.

Also, it strikes me as kind of bizarre that the premise of the show has the viewer rooting against the star. Again, maybe it's just me, but I would think that everyone would cheer for the underdog, in this case, the chef being challenged by Bobby Flay. Especially since, in addition to the surprise element, Bobby Flay also has the advantage of being able to bring his own ingredients. (In my opinion, this was especially critical in the steak challenge against the military guy who had a much more limited "pantry," so to speak, to work with.)

Oh, well. Despite these weird aspects of the viewing experience, "Throwdown" somehow works. So, way to go, Bobby Flay. Keep it up, and maybe you'll win me over yet.


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