Bobby Flay Reveals His Competitive Strategy Ahead of the New Chopped Tournament

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For the first time in Chopped history, Bobby Flay is entering the arena, initially as a judge and then as a competitor. In the new tournament Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay, premiering on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 9|8c, 12 chefs will try their luck in three preliminary rounds. Three champions will make it into a final round, and at the end of it the single best competitor will get the chance to battle Bobby in a wild-card round, which will determine if it’s even possible to beat the master of competition himself, Bobby Flay.

FN Dish caught up with the indomitable Bobby on the set of Chopped to chat about how he’s judging the competition, what he expects from the final round, his advice for the chefs and what it takes to beat him. Read on to learn Bobby’s best traits in competition.

How is it serving as a judge to these competitors — one of them you’ll eventually be competing against?

Bobby Flay: I mean, it’s actually kind of nice, because I’m really looking for the best person that can take me on later on in the competition, and I’m not really thinking about who I’m going to take on. I’m actually judging it based on what’s in front of me at the moment, so based on who they’re participating against and what they’re cooking.

When you’re looking at these contenders cook, are you analyzing them, seeing what their weaknesses and strengths are and what their cooking styles are?

BF: I think you certainly get a sense of that, based on watching them cook and tasting their food. I’m not really overly thinking it, but I get a sense of how good somebody is just from watching their movements and then tasting the finesse on the plate.

Do you have any advice for these competitors or any smack talk for them?

BF: I have no smack talk. I think it’s important to cook within yourself and not try to worry about what I’m going to make but basically try to make the best dish that they can make and put their best foot forward, and at that point they can try to beat me.

Do you have an idea what the baskets might be in the final round? How will they get picked?

BF: It’s their signature dish, so I don’t know what the baskets will be, but I think what I’m told is that it’s going to be their signature dish plus some basket ingredients. So, there’ll be two surprises for me.

Is there one ingredient that you’d hate to find in the basket?

BF: Anything decorative like gold dust, marzipan, stuff like that.

Do you have anything in mind in advance that you’d like to create, or do you want to just let the ingredients speak to you in the moment?

BF: I can’t even imagine what it might be, because I don’t know who it is, and I’m almost never right about what the direction’s going to be. Almost never.

Thinking about all the competition shows you’ve been on, like Iron Chef and Beat Bobby Flay, what are your strengths when it comes to competitive cooking?

BF: I’m definitely a more savory cook as opposed to pastry and stuff like that. I would say mostly meats, things like beef and pork, any other kind of red meats, like lamb, venison, things like that.

What does it take to beat you?

BF: I think probably something that’s not in my wheelhouse. I’m not really good with Asian flavors. I like to eat them, but I’m just not that adept at them in terms of cooking. Anything in the pastry department — batters, doughs, things like that. I mean, I can do it, I can get by, but if somebody does something incredibly elaborate, I’m going to have a hard time keeping up with it.

When it comes to competing in general, what do you like about it the most? You’ve mentioned that it’s sort of a form of athleticism for you.

BF: Yeah, it is. It’s definitely a form of athleticism. It gets my adrenaline up and it keeps me on my toes, and also it keeps me sharp.

Watch the premiere of Chopped: Beat Bobby Flay on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 9|8c to see who’ll be going up against Bobby in the finale.