Celebrity chef, author and maestro of Southwestern cuisine Bobby Flay is already one of the most recognizable faces in American cooking. Now he's turned his knife to the most American of feasts Thanksgiving. With a new web series sponsored by Hellmann's mayonnaise on tips and tricks for dispatching holiday leftovers, Flay uses the down-home style familiar to viewers of his Food Network shows such as Boy Meets Grill and Iron Chef America to reinvent holiday standbys. He spoke with TIME about how he prepares the most important meal of the year and his secret weapon in the kitchen.
Your Thanksgiving tradition sounds like a major operation.
I usually cook for between 30 and 50 people. Every year, my wife asks me, "Are you sure you want to do this again?" But I absolutely love it. My house smells like Thanksgiving from 5 am until the end of the night. It's the best aroma there is.
Thanksgiving is the most important food holiday, and food is my whole life. I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite day of the year. I wake up early, about 5 am. My first 30 lb. turkey I cook two goes into the oven, and then my Thanksgiving day begins. It's all about cooking, watching a little football, and a little Trivial Pursuit at the end of our meal.
And something to drink, I'm assuming.
Lots of wine. Red, white, champagne, and usually one cocktail. I make a cranberry martini but I only let everybody have one, and then we move on to the wine.
What is your secret weapon in the kitchen?The key to Thanksgiving is not the turkey, it's the chicken stock. You want to keep some chicken stock hot on the stove. You use it in a lot of different ways, mainly to reheat things and to bring back moisture in your dishes.
If you're reheating stuffing, you put chicken stock in it. It'll bring back the moisture and bring it back up to temperature. Same thing with sliced turkey. You slice it, put it on a platter, but it could be 20 minutes before everybody sits down. A little ladle of hot chicken stock over your turkey reconstitutes the texture, brings the moisture back, and keeps it nice and hot.
Thanksgiving means leftovers until the end of time. You've come up with a new web-series with Hellman's that goes beyond the turkey sandwich approach. What's the idea here?
I was inspired to create these dishes with the idea that parents cook one meal instead of two. A lot of times, they're making one meal for the adults, and one for the kids. I think you can find dishes that can do both. Dishes like green beens with aioli and some toasted almonds, or a piece of French bread covered with cream cheese, mayonnaise and white cheddar topped with some hot Italian sausage and mushrooms they're flavorful and they're easy. And most importantly, anybody in your family can eat it.
Speaking of family: you have a teenager, right?
Oh my God, she is a teenager, isn't she?
I think 13 counts. How do you get her to eat well? What battles do you pick?
I don't battle my daughter when it comes to eating, I just expose her to things. She's not going to eat everything I expose her to, but if I expose her to 10 things, she eats four of them, and likes three of them that's fantastic. I think that you can learn about people in different places by the food that they eat. So if I take her to Europe, she's not only just eating a lobster in Brittany, she's learning about the people of Brittany. She's learning about the food, but also the culture.
It seems like people generally feel more empowered to prepare and appreciate food in our culture. What do you think your role has been in that?
Hopefully, I've inspired a few people to eat differently for the better. I think I'm part of a much bigger idea in this country we're one of the last countries to catch up in that department. But thankfully, people are demanding more value for the things that they buy, better ingredients and of course more locally grown things. We've made gigantic strides in the last decade or so, and now I think every year we're moving to a better place when it comes to food in this country.