Bobby Flay’s life is in a state of flux right now: He’s up to his neck in Manhattan real estate drama, his $20K sofa is a constant source of agita, and now it looks like the Food Network star is about to lose his title as Iron Chef. But the last predicament, it seems, is entirely by his own design.
Food writer Allen Salkin recently attended a taping of the forthcoming series Iron Chef Showdown in which Flay inexplicably ripped open his kitchen coat at the end of a battle to reveal a sign on his shirt that read: “THIS IS MY LAST IRON CHEF BATTLE EVER.” A producer on the show apparently told Flay that they couldn’t cut around that shot, and Flay reportedly explained that he knew they would have to keep it in.
According to Salkin, the Food Network will neither confirm nor deny the incident, but it sounds like the producers are not ready to part with Flay, who has been part of the show for the last 17 years. Rumor has it that the network’s executives have decided to blur out the t-shirt slogan when the episode airs.
The premiere date of the show is also somewhat up in the air because the first episode of the new series was slated to include a hosting appearance from John Besh, the New Orleans chef who just left his restaurant group after a slew of sexual harassment allegations were lodged against him. Iron Chef Showdown was originally targeting a November 8 premiere, which is just two and a half weeks away. Although the Food Network has not commented on Besh’s participation in this show, it seems unlikely that they will let him appear on Iron Chef so soon after news broke about the sexual harassment allegations and his departure from the restaurant group that he started.
Flay also hasn’t made any official announcements about leaving Iron Chef. But in what can be seen as another move to distance himself from the show, Bobby didn’t attend the “Rooftop Iron Chef Showdown” at the New York City Wine & Food Festival last week. Instead, he decided to have dinner with his Hamptons pal Scarlett Johansson, thus fueling rumors of a burgeoning “Billy Jo”romance.
UPDATE: Flay now says that this whole t-shirt stunt was just for laughs. The chef sends along a statement:
This past summer when I was in production on Iron Chef Showdown, I wore a t-shirt to have a little fun during my last battle this season. In hindsight, it was probably not the best decision because it’s just creating confusion. Food Network has been part of my family for over 20 years and will absolutely continue to be, and though there is a talented bench of Iron Chefs to tap, if I were asked, I’d be excited to return to Kitchen Stadium, whenever my schedule allows.
So it sounds like Bobby was just trying to keep the Kitchen Stadium crew on their toes — what a goofball. Stay tuned for any and all updates on FlayGate 2017 as they become available.