First Martha, then Wolfgang, now Bobby Flay. This is the third installment of our Celebrity Chef series. As with the other two, Bobby Flay does more than one thing. He’s the owner and creative force behind several restaurants—Mesa Grill, Bolo Restaurant & Bar, Bobby Flay Steak, and Bar Americain—and he’s an award-winning cookbook author and television personality.
His website states that his first priority is always his restaurants, so let’s judge him primarily on that. However, as we’ll see, that’s not what social media posters necessarily do.
People love Bobby Flay’s Southwestern cooking style. No single dish or recipe accounts for this—people name a couple of dozen favorites.
Many viewers of Bobby’s cooking shows find him “amusing to watch.” Not a bad trait for a celebrity chef looking to spread the gospel about his cooking style and promote his restaurants.
Many (female) viewers of his TV show buy the whole “awesome” Bobby Flay package.
The largest negative theme isn’t strictly about his restaurants or his recipes; it’s about his performance on his TV show, Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, on the Food Network.
The second biggest theme, “annoys me,” is also not about his restaurants, food or recipes. Many of the sound bites here just say that he annoys the poster—no specific reason. I guess if someone bugs you, they bug you. No explanation required.
This poster dislikes Bobby Flay based on the rumor (with the emphasis on rumor) that he’s cheating on his wife with Mad Men star January Jones. Once again, we’re a long way from a dispassionate evaluation of his real line of business.
People who like Bobby Flay do so for his restaurants, his recipes, and his TV personality. People who dislike him do so mainly for his TV personality. Frankly, I imagine he can live with that—he wants people to like his food and his restaurants, and they do. What they think of him, if he’s simply being himself, is beyond his control.
But it’s not inconsequential—people’s opinion of him can affect sales at his restaurants and sales of cookbooks. Clearly, if you really dislike a celebrity chef, you’re probably not going to patronize his/her restaurant, even if other people tell you it’s good. That’s the trade-off. All that TV exposure is great publicity for your restaurants and cookbooks, but you’re setting yourself up as the ambassador of the brand. If you’re a likeable ambassador, it’s good for sales. If not, it’s not. For Bobby Flay, the trade-off seems to work. Given that the two biggest negative themes are not about his restaurants, cooking or recipes, I guess the hazards of being a celebrity are worth it.
Also, on the negative side, people revel in the fact that he often loses on his Throwdown show. And yet, that’s also probably a good thing—it makes the show authentic, provides an element of suspense, and shows him to be a good sport. Viewers may tune in to see him lose, but hey, they’re still tuning in. (By the way, I looked up his record on the show. As of February 2011, it’s 32 wins, 1 tie, and 68 losses. He’s not afraid to lose.)
One other insight: Since Bobby usually prepares a variation on the dish prepared by his Throwdown! opponent, he should come out with a cookbook of his winners. If it’s been judged by an expert panel to be better than a dish some other chef is known for, it’s got to be something special. Oh wait—he’s thought of that: Bobby Flay’s Throwdown!: More Than 100 Recipes from Food Network’s Ultimate Cooking Challenge is already out there.