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Throwdown with Bobby Flay

Bobby lost the Wedding Cake Throwdown, but it came real close, he did real well and he is not a baker.

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  1. That episode is from 2006 - the second episode of the first season according to tv.com.

    1. The dumpling episode was recently aired... I was craving dumplings after watching the show. Also, the dumpling chef was freely talking about her "secret" recipe.

      BTW... Bobby lost that episode, but he did make wrappers from scratch while the competitor used what appeared to be store-bought gyoza wrappers.

      1. i watched the grilled cheese sandwich episode yesterday. it got me thinking about that chowhound article about ten unusual grilled cheese sandwiches, and you can bet i'm going out to buy some prosciutto and fig jam today to put together something interesting for dinner.

        that's what i like about this show: it's like a combo of cooking creativity inspiration, and also learning about a cool place to eat if i'm ever in that part of the country. plus, bobby is just a charming dude.

        9 Replies
        1. re: beelzebozo

          They all make me hungry, but nothing quite as much as that grilled cheese one. That was legit!

          Do you know the name of that restaurant in So Jersey? I wanted to look it up to see the full menu- some of it sounded off the hook good.

          1. re: yankeefan

            It's Pop Shop
            729 Haddon Ave
            Collingswood, NJ 08108

            Wish it were there when I lived in Collingswood!

          2. re: beelzebozo

            one thing that i appreciated from the grilled cheese episode is that bobby actually looked embarassed when he won. He felt bad for the guy. Knock him as people may, that was pretty upstanding in my book.

            1. re: cambridgeMike

              Yeah. Its pretty clear that the thing is rigged for the other person to win and that Bobby wins "just enough to make it seem real". That was the first time I'd seem him that visibly embarassed though. Bobby usually seems like a Grade A expletive but at least in this show he comes off as a much nicer guy.

              1. re: jgg13

                i've never seen bobby act like anything but a cool guy. the only time he ever came across as a bit crass was on "hot off the grill" when he had to deal with some of the dopes who would hang out on the show.

              2. re: cambridgeMike

                Bobby was embarassed! I was there, at The Pop Shop, the day he showed up for the throwdown. I live in Collingswood and take my kids there quite often. I expected him to be a real snob but was impressed with how humble he seemed to be when I had the opportunity to meet him. And for the record, I got the scoop from the owners and they really were not expecting him to show up. The food network was pretty sneaky about it all!

              3. re: beelzebozo

                I've heard Flay called a lot of things but 'Charming' was never one of them.

                  1. re: beelzebozo

                    That maybe. But charming? Still no.

              4. Not wild about this show. It is cringe-worthy.

                I think many of the regular folks being challenged have an unfair disadvantage. When Bobby wins and looks embarrassed, to me it looks like an "Aw Shucks" act on his part.

                Except for the firehouse chicken cacciatore throwdown where Bobby used the same budget as the challenger, he unfairly tips the scales with an unlimited budget. (No surprise the regular guy won when both were on an equal footing).

                In the lasagna challenge, the ordinary folks make a standard, basic lasagna as a specialty. Yet Bobby brings one in with an expensive meaty braised short rib ragout.... Like shooting fish in a barrel. Had the challengers known what they were up against they likely would have been able to kick things up.

                Some contestants are able to change midstream, while others can't. In the Philly Cheesesteak contest, Tony Luke guy would have lost if he stayed with the standard sandwich he was demo'ing.....but when he saw Bobby coming in with expensive steak and accroutements, he sent his assistants back to the restaurant to bring out the broccoli rabe and provolone. He squeaked out a win. Would have lost with his basic one though.

                In the doughnut challenge, you could see the contestant was visibly upset because he was expected to whip up contest worthy doughnuts outside of his professional environment, so he only agreed to the challenge if he could use doughnuts made at the plant, and not make them live. Smart move.

                It's not a fair challenge unless both teams have similar constraints.

                11 Replies
                1. re: TrishUntrapped

                  Trish brings up an interesting point. What is the purpose of the show? To show off local business with traditional and emotional ties to the community? While helping these folks gain a measure of fame? Or is it to showcase Flay's chops and originality within the constraints of a traditional dish?

                  I don't think the producers actually decided, it was decided for them. If Flay had to do it the same way as the selected contestants with the same budget and made the same dish, he would get killed because there is no way he had the experience that these folks have, years of making the same thing allows you to have certain insight about what you do. So they allow Flay to be more original. IMHO, his accoutrement are occasionally interesting but mostly ill considered, which is why he loses, when it comes to a neighborhood place, its a lot more about the emotional experience of the taste rather than the adventure of deconstructing the dish.

                  So if Flay amps up his dish too much, he looks like a typical NY a** trying to be the big bad chef from the big city. If he basically does what they do, its boring, and he could never do it better. To me the whole show is a plug for the contestant.

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    "What is the purpose of the show? To show off local business with traditional and emotional ties to the community? While helping these folks gain a measure of fame? Or is it to showcase Flay's chops and originality within the constraints of a traditional dish?"


                  2. re: TrishUntrapped

                    Yes, Bobby does do a gourmet touch on most of his dishes (as well he should) but he usually loses because the judges tend to go with the traditional take on things, I think intentionally. Saying that Bobby has an unfair advantage really doesn't hold up if you look at a majority of the episodes.

                    As far as for who SHOULD win, I don't think it's fair to say unless you're there doing the tasting. Bobby is a great, creative chef, and I like that he tends to bring the spiciness, but these people are being picked for a reason.

                    On the whole, I would say this is definitely one of the better shows now on FN (which, like MTV and music videos, seems to be less and less about cooking, let alone cooking done by real chefs like Mario, rather than "Sandra Lee").

                    1. re: TrishUntrapped

                      Agreed. I remember one meatloaf episode, I think, where the guy actually tells Bobby what his cost is per plate and even Bobby is visibly shocked at the low number.

                      The entire premise of the show - that Bobby Flay can beat the best of the best at their own games week after week demonstrates a cringe-worthy amount of hubris on Bobby's part.

                      1. re: akq

                        Akq, LOL. You really have no clue about this show or Flay at all. Hubris? First off he knows going in he has a 1 in 4 shot of winning, and after three years he does better than that maybe winning 30% of the time.

                        Second, if you've seen his interviews he explains how he loves that show because he gets to spot light others and make them look good. And he does. And no other FN show covers these people but his show.

                        He has one day to come up with something that might compete against a dish that has been perfected over decades by someone, and he goes against the very best.

                        Hubris? Sorry, akq, you are 180-degrees backwards on the intent of the show and the personality of the host.

                        1. re: HarryK

                          Actually, this is the most humble and personable Flay has been since he started doing FN. He was an insufferable little p___k when his first grilling show was on, the one with the useless woman hanging around the set along with the usual coterie of sycophants. The show he had with the older guy was great because that guy put him in his place. And then something happened, he quit being such a jerk and he is actually watchable now.

                          1. re: HarryK

                            Wow, you bought all of that hook line and sinker, huh? If the intent of the show were to spotlight the other chefs, why not have Bobby learn their recipe? The point of the show is to have Bobby Flay devise a recipe of his own, with unlimited budget and then surprise a chef who usually doesn't have the opportunity to change any part of his or her recipe on the spot (cheesesteaks excepted, for instance).

                            The show would be unwatchable if Bobby never won - and that is, I think, what demonstrates hubris - that Bobby Flay will go on national television with unfair advantages of unlimited budget, preparation and the element of surprise to beat a chef who is doing their best at what they do within normal business confines (profit margin, sourcing, etc.).

                            1. re: akq

                              Uh-huh. So the person has a time-tested perfected dish that is nationally recognized and written up for years ... and here Flay has to come with his own variation (can't be the same thing) to compete against this perfected dish in a day ...then he has to travel into their backyard, surrounded by their staunchest supporters and most crazed fans ... oh yeah, sure, that's definitely the epitome of "hubris" .... Btw, I've got some lovely swamp land you might be interested in buying. :)

                              1. re: HarryK

                                Harry, your point is well taken, but given the set up of the show, with all the production and the big to do about the FN coming in to film, and Flay being Flay, it smacks of big bad NYC uber chef coming into your little insignificant town to teach you a lesson. Flay does do a whole lot to counter that perception, which is to his credit. I don't think this was accidental, its dramatic license that FN promotes because it gives this David versus Goliath flavor to the show and suckers people into watching.

                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                  I will give you this much. I felt more sorry for the first season folks as some of them felt "Punk'd". But the longer the show is on, it seems like more and more the folks they "focus on with their own special" seem hip to realizing it's part of a Throwdown. You can see that in the episodes of the past year. Often they're like "I knew this was coming" or "I had that feeling" or "Damn it IS Bobby Flay". Think that helps take the jilting edge off and makes it more of an expected and therefore more welcoming experience for the competing cooks.

                          2. re: akq

                            The purpose of the show is not to make Bobby Flay feel good.. It is to attract viewers and thus advertising dollars.

                        2. Wow, I've only seen a few episodes, and this is news to me - I thought it was fixed and Bobby always lost. The show is about showcasing local culinary heroes who are really good at what they do - I always thought the "throwdown" part was just a stupid gimmick. He *should* feel embarrassed when he wins, because when the home teams loses it means either they choked under the pressure (I would), or shouldn't have been featured in the first place.

                          No, really, I can't believe they actually let Bobby win sometimes. Not that I was about to start watching the show either way.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: nfo

                            I forget the actual %age but it is somewhere in the 20-30% range that he wins. I still think its fixed, and that he 'wins' just enough to make it believable.

                            I don't buy for a second that its a *real* competition, I think its there to do a variety of things (see my snarky 'yes' answer to phaedrus above):

                            - Advertise some good local eateries & cooks
                            - Show Bobby's takes on some classic items
                            - Encourage people to get "into cooking" something well
                            - Pure entertainment.

                            1. re: jgg13

                              Watching the FN less and less lately, I will watch this show occassionally, and always root for the 'home town' team. I truly feel for these people...especially the puffy taco girl..she was told she was filming a pilot. Even though she won, that has got to be maddening, and a major let down.

                              Being local to the Philly area, I was shocked to see Tony Lukes as the self-proclaimed cheesesteak czar. He is most known for his pulled pork sandwiches locally, maybe coming in 3rd or 5th on the list for steaks depending upon whom you ask. He makes a very good sandwich, don't get me wrong, and is an institution in Philly, but seeing him as the throwdown cheesesteak cemented it in my mind.

                              Bobby's supposed to go up against the best in the nation? And Tony's trying to set up chains across america.

                              An advertising agenda. I'm curious if the contestants get paid for their appearance?

                              And on a recent episode Bobby did steak with a marine, and planned to do filet. But changed his mind because of the heat that day. But it was okay, because he had traveled there with coolers and coolers of ribeyes and T-Bones. The challenger was cooking chuck. And commented that from the size of bobby's steaks, they looked like they came from a brontosaurus. I'm amazed if he if always carries spare proteins like that.

                              1. re: sommrluv

                                This is really sad...the mother of the lady who was featured in the puffy taco episode was murdered not too long ago.


                              2. re: jgg13

                                Agreed, this does a good job at promoting smaller businesses. I myself have stopped for the mac n cheese when in philly because of the show and would like to stop at the grilled cheese joint next time Im in that section of South Jersey.

                                I think it is in a good fun and most take it that way except for the miserable donut guy who just pouted. time to get over it and have fun dude.

                                Wikipedia has a good breakdown and I think it does fall in that 20-30% range.

                                1. re: yankeefan

                                  the donut guy came across like such an arrogant ass.

                            2. I don't understand the apparent empathy some viewers feel about the throwees being told that they're being filmed for a pilot. First of all, many pilot episodes never air and thus are simply a one-shot deal (e.g. the "Global Frequency" pilot that leaked on the web). Second, the pilots almost always have stupid titles clearly suggesting that the throwees are each featured for one episode, rather than getting a whole season-long series about, say, puffy tacos or ice cream sundaes ("This week, we will feature the hot fudge sundae for half an hour. Next week, we will talk about the caramel sundae for half an hour"). In the end, they are told that they are being featured on the Food Network as being among the best at what they do, and they end up being featured on the Food Network as being among the best at what they do. It's good publicity for them when they don't freak out too much, like the doughnut dude (Google Mark Israel and Throwdown). Presumably, the people being featured have had a lot longer to perfect their recipes than Bobby Flay, and many of them have already won contests or awards for their recipes, so arguing that it's not fair for these folks to compete against a guy who's had days to prepare seems a little foolish. In terms of the contests, it's usually seems to be set up to favor the home team.

                              Bobby Flay seems to approach each challenge from the perspective of a reasonably famous restaurant chef from New York City who specializes in grilled meats and Southwestern flavors. In terms of the ingredients and budget, it's not like he whips out truffles, caviar, o-toro, and jabugo ham for every challenge, despite the gripes about budget. It seems like he approaches each dish asking himself, "How would *I* prepare this dish?" rather than, say, "How would a hillbilly housewife prepare this dish?" (http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com is a great blog, by the way....) When he realizes that his technical abilities won't match those of the contestant, he "packs it full of flavor" or some other Flay-ish phrase. That approach seems reasonably true to himself.

                              I believe that I once calculated the win rate at around 30% in another thread.

                              Tony Luke's broccoli raab steak-and-cheese is apparently his signature dish, so I don' think that it was too much of a change for him to whip it out.

                              Basically, if you don't like Bobby Flay, you won't like the show, and you'll look for any excuse for take him down, so stop watching it. For the rest of us, it's a reasonably entertaining show, and it beats a lot of the other recent crap on Food Network.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: youngho

                                >>"Basically, if you don't like Bobby Flay, you won't like the show, and you'll look for any excuse for take him down, so stop watching it. For the rest of us, it's a reasonably entertaining show, and it beats a lot of the other recent crap on Food Network."<<

                                this is the long and short of it. some of you take it far too seriously, from what i can tell.

                                1. re: beelzebozo

                                  >>this is the long and short of it. some of you take it far too seriously, from what i can tell. <<

                                  You can say that about the entire web site.

                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                    There are very few posts here that actually make me laugh out loud but this was one. I like some of the seriousness on this site, but boy do I like the humor when it crops up.

                                    As for Bobby, I've been watching him for a long time and I do think this show shows a real different side of him. Occasionally the arrogance shows up but for the most part I find him really likable and sometimes humble.

                                2. re: youngho

                                  In the more recent episodes that I've seen, it seems that they tell the "throwees" that they're going to be filming for a Food Network special, rather than a pilot. That seems like they're trying to cause less of a letdown for them. In the cupcake episode, the woman said that she was expecting Bobby Flay to show up, so I guess people are getting more suspicious.

                                  1. re: youngho

                                    Wow, I tried hitting on a couple of your points earlier but couldnt have said it any better.

                                    thank you youngho, well said!

                                    1. re: youngho

                                      Err, I don't like Bobby Flay but I like this show ;)

                                    2. Entertainment is in the eyes of the beholder and not everyone's cup of tea.

                                      If this is yours great...it just doesn't happen to be mine.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                        Yes, thanks.

                                        In terms of the lasagna episode, Mark Bove from that Throwdown has a blog at http://blog.boves.com in case anyone wants to read about how Bobby Flay's unfair use of ingredients affected the Boves' business and the demand for their lasagna. Tony Luke, whose signature dish has the broccoli raab, has a rather prominent ad in the upper left-hand corner of his website. In his own words, ""When I did the 'Throwdown! with Bobby Flay,' we received e-mails from all over the country. I had people fly in from Texas. People made special trips to come down just to taste the food," he said." Did someone ask about whether the show highlights local business and gives them 15 minutes on national television?

                                        And the doughnut guy..."a smart move"...that's one way to interpret his behavior...I can't say that I'd heard that one before...

                                        Anyway, if it's okay, perhaps we can just agree to disagree on some things. In the meantime, this beholder's eyes will be avoiding the cups of tea offered by the other fine programs on the Food Network, like those featuring Sandra Lee, Ingrid Hoffman, or the Neelys, not to mix metaphors.

                                        On another note, I thought the recent dumpling episode was kind of fun. I think it had the most Asians in one episode on the Food Network since the original Iron Chef! I assumed that Sohui Kim was just much more methodical about rolling out and cutting her dumpling wrappers/skins than Bobby Flay, since they showed her preparing the dough for the wrappers earlier in the episode. I honestly doubt she would use store-bought ones.

                                        1. re: youngho

                                          Speaking of the original Iron Chef, the Fine Living Network is going to start showing it.

                                          If memory serves, I thought this was one of the stupid channels included in my cable package that I would never watch...

                                          Never say never. Can't wait to see Sakai san.

                                          1. re: TrishUntrapped


                                            great to hear, cant wait. Fine Living is actually pretty good- give some of those shows a chance.


                                            well said again. If I owned a restaurant, Id love to have them come and challenge me and put me on a show watched by millions.

                                      2. I saw the wedding cake episode too.

                                        The other night I watched the Chocolate Chip cookie throwdown. Bobby and his team lost but did you see the HUGE chocolate chip and walnut cookies the contestants made? They looked delicious! I knew they were going to win. It was a good show.

                                        1. Great comments. Seems like one's interpretation of the setup depends on what you think of Bobby Flay. My take on the show is that the regional specialty food experts have a lot more at stake than Bobby Flay. These people have their egos wrapped up in whatever food they have been making for decades. Then you have some national figure zooming to challenge your identity, on your turf. Flay has the advantage of tweaking the flavor profiles in a food lab while you are locked into dishing up what you always dish up.

                                          It's the asymmetric stakes of the show that bother me the most about the setup.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Minger

                                            I like Bobby Flay, I think he's amusing.

                                            Chef's have big egos.

                                            The one point of contention, yes, many of the contestants are being told they are filming specials, but at least one person, the puffy taco girl comes to mind, was being told she was filming a pilot.

                                            So that personally bothered me.

                                            And I was furthur bothered that they showed the episode again this weekend. I tuned in to the ending because I ASSUMED they showed it because her mother was tragically killed very recently by a local person in a botched robbery, and I was curious if they were going to a dedication at the end, or something more.

                                            NOTHING. I was very surprised. But they made sure to include all of Flay's restaurant plugs. Obviously, that's not Flay's fault, but it just reflects VERY badly on the FN. Who in the world is controlling PR over there?

                                          2. I love Bobby Flay…and believe me, you would too of you lived a long time outside of the US and were subjected to TV that is US-style 50s and 60s level—drivel, driveL, drivEL, driVEL, drIVEL, dRIVEL, DRIVEL! Its TV!!! Give thanks for what you have!