Participants in this weekend’s New York City Marathon crowded into the Javits Center yesterday to pick up their bib numbers, including a particularly conspicuous superchef, Bobby Flay. Dude’s got energy: He signed books, sat down for a live Q&A; session, then left to catch a plane to the Breeder’s Cup at Churchill Downs — the trip will bring him back to the city on Saturday night to grab a few hours of sleep before embarking on the 26.2-mile trip of the boroughs Sunday morning. What’s his secret? Is it the duck tacos? The tuna nachos? We caught up with him for a couple of minutes.
We know you’re going to eat pasta before the race, but how will you splurge on dinner afterward?
There is a place right across the street from my house called Bella Napoli. It’s a really good pizza place. I always get my pizza from there. It’s going to be a thin, extra crispy pie, probably just plain because to me it’s all about the dough quenching my hunger after the race.
Compare the physicality of the marathon to competing on Iron Chef America.
Iron Chef is like a sprint compared to the marathon. Obviously there are a lot more different components. I’m not going against the best chefs in the world during the marathon, but I think of Iron Chef as an athletic event because it’s timed, you have to accomplish something, and you’re competing with someone else. The marathon is a little more of a friendly competition. Everybody is sort of competing against each other but also pulling for each other at the same time. But there is nothing more grueling that the marathon.
You’re a lifelong runner who has that athletic mentality that maybe a guy like Mario Batali doesn’t. Does that give you an edge on Iron Chef?
Yeah, I think that being in good shape for Iron Chef is really important. I run the whole 60 minutes. When I need an ingredient I’m sprinting back and forth from the pantry to my workstation. And a lot of the other guys walk around. They get the job done, too, but it’s just my style to keep my energy up, and I think it comes out in my food. I want the same energy from getting it done to be part of the flavors as well.
What’s the last recipe you thought of while on the run?
The last recipe I thought of was a red velvet brownie sundae, which we’re serving at Bar American. It’s a red velvet brownie with cream cheese ice cream, wet walnuts, and chocolate sauce. So it’s basically like red velvet cake turned into a sundae. I got a soft-serve machine for my pastry chef because she wanted a toy, so I got her that.
Where were you running when you thought of that?
The West Side Highway
There are a number of chefs who are running these days — Joe Bastianich, Daniel Humm. Do you ever run with any of your fellow chefs?
No, I haven’t run with them. Daniel Humm is really tight. He’s like close to an hour ahead of me. I don’t know what Joe runs, but I’ve known Joe for twenty years. He’s changed his entire body, and he’s done it through running. Now he looks like an Italian supermodel.
Yesterday you did a Throwdown with the McRib. If you could take another American fast-food staple on in Throwdown, what would it be?
Well, Bobby’s Burger Palace is my answer to all of the burger places that are open. I feel like we do hamburgers in a really fantastic way, not to say that there aren’t other great ones, of course, because there are. I never liked it when I copy what somebody else is doing. The McRib thing is obviously funny, and I did it on Elvis Duran’s show. It was kind of cool. I barbecued the ribs in the oven at home.
So you cooked them the day before?
I brought a rack of ribs from my restaurant home, and while I was watching the World Series I put them in the oven, spice-rubbed it and braised it, slow-cooked it, and slathered it with barbecue sauce so it got this crust on it. I cooked it until it was really tender and then I took the ribs out, and what you have is a boneless piece of rib. I don’t know what McDonald’s does, but I did it the old-school way.
Did you vote?
Absolutely, I think voting is an obligation.
Did you vote for Andrew Cuomo?
Is that because you love Sandra Lee and you wanted to support her?
Well, I like Sandra Lee a lot. She is a great girl, but I’m also a supporter of Andrew. I was a supporter of his dad, and I’m a supporter of him as well.
Any chance you’d like to run for office one day?
I don’t know. I’m a huge supporter of New York. If anyone loves New York more than me then it’s a tie. New York is the greatest city in the world. New York has always been so good to me, and I feel like when I have the opportunity I want to give back to the city.
Like as the mayor?