Q&A: Bobby Flay
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay has maintained a strong presence on the Strip for more than a dozen years through his hit restaurant Mesa Grill at Caesars Palace. His style and formidable flavors are as familiar as any of the many star chefs situated on the Strip, but Flay is always making changes and is currently poised to grow—Bobby’s Burger Palace, which also has a Las Vegas location in front of Aria, might just become the next big burger franchise spreading across the country, and Flay is developing a new restaurant concept planned to open at the Palms resort next year. He spoke recently to Las Vegas Magazine’s Brock Radke.
You recently added the Bobby Style burger to the menu at Bobby’s Burger Palace, which is exactly how you like your burger. No matter what’s on top, what is the secret to a truly great burger?
A couple of things. First, seasoning the patty with a lot of salt and pepper. A lot of people just don’t do that, and I hate bland hamburgers. We use lots of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper on both sides, and it helps form that crust on the burger when we cook it on the flat-top grill. In terms of the classic cheeseburger, you have to melt the cheese all the way. In every one of my kitchens there’s a sign hanging where only the chefs can see it, and it says, “Bobby says melt the cheese completely.” It drives me crazy when I order a burger and they don’t take the extra 20 seconds to do it right.
Why is it the right time for you to expand Bobby’s Burger Palace with new franchising?
We’ve been at it for nine or 10 years and garnered a really nice reputation. People like the restaurants and crave the food. I have 17 or 18 of my own stores, and I think it’s time to get out there a little bit more. I like the idea of licensing and franchising to people who are at the top of their game because I get to teach them how to do it.
You are going to open your third Las Vegas restaurant sometime in 2018 at the Palms. How exciting is it to do something new here?
It’s going to be an incredibly fun and exciting project. I haven’t opened a high-end restaurant in Las Vegas for a long time; Mesa Grill was 12 years ago.
What can you say about this new Palms restaurant?
It’s going to be a fish-driven restaurant with a lot of the Latin flavors that I’m known for.
Mesa Grill is one of the most consistently popular restaurants on the Strip. How do you balance maintaining that consistency and keeping dishes people love to come back for with a desire to refresh the menu and the experience?
It’s a great question. I was just there (in November) changing some of the dishes. I think it’s important to evolve the menu within the focus, without going too far outside that focus. People want to come back for the flavors they know again and again, and the things they know you serve. But that said, based on seasonality and the time of year, and the changing ways people are eating, I’ve got to mix it up. We had lobster tacos on the menu for a long time but took them off a few months ago and put some grilled lamb tacos on the menu, and those are flying out of the kitchen. I put a salad on with some shaved Brussels sprouts and kale and pomegranate, things people are eating today with a healthier approach. I listen to what people want to eat and try to craft it in the style of Mesa Grill. But we also have a handful of dishes that have been there since day one.
Your other balancing act is doing so many TV shows while running an empire of restaurants. Has that gotten easier over the years?
It’s just one more thing that I do. I have my own production company now so that helps in scheduling (TV) things when I can get them done. But, yeah … I don’t get a lot of sleep.