Seen in Louisville: Celebrity chef Bobby Flay ... cue the chase
Spotted in Louisville: Celebrity chef Bobby Flay

Bobby Flay was sighted in NuLu on Wednesday by a friend of Insider Louisville.

Yeah, Flay. The Food Network icon. The well-known Iron Chef and multi-unit restaurateur was spotted exiting Harvest Restaurant with several men who were spied peering into street-level building windows along Market Street.

Stop the presses, right? Bobby Flay in li’l ol’ Louisville?

He’s been here a few times as a horse owner, cruising Millionaire’s Row at Churchill Downs like he owned it. (Surely it’s mandatory that those in such rarified seats must strut like the cock of the walk or they’re banished to the infield.)

He’s even donned his chef’s whites for the Taste of Kentucky Derby, the pricey, sort-of star-studded, pre-Derby stuffét that gathers a bunch of tall toques from ‘round the country who earn free Derby tickets for feeding the masses. (Righteous reward, no? I’d take tix over bucks on that weekend!)

He got a breakfast beatdown from Lynn Winter on his show, “Throwdown” a few of years before breakfast–and everything else there–stopped altogether.

He’s visited Anthony Lamas at Seviche a time or two, posed for pics, publicly praised Lamas’s Latino-fusion food, slapped some backs, sipped some bourbon and scrammed. Standard star stuff: eat, grip, grin and run. (Most recently, Lamas competed on Flay’s show, “Beat Bobby Flay,” which Lamas didn’t, unfortunately. Probably avenging his loss to Lynn.)

So this isn’t his first trip to Louisville. That much is clear.

What isn’t clear is why he’d return. Could be something, could be nothing, but Insider Louisville’s Terry Boyd and I were betting it’s something.

So we started calling around.

Scene of the Flay sighting
Scene of the Flay sighting

Well, really, we first started laughing about covering it at all, about closing our notebooks inked with info on serious news to write about “The Bobby Flay Sighting” as if it were the Second Coming. Or at least an Elvis sighting.

Also amusing was how quick we realized we had actual and valuable sources we could contact, people we’ve relied on many years for hard news info. We were going to call/email/Facebook them and ask like vaporous Flay fans, “Why is BOBBY here?”

Sounds kinda pitiful, doesn’t it?

But it’s funny all the same, and we know people want to know, so we ran ahead.

I Facebooked Anthony Lamas to ask if Bobby paid him another quick visit (shall we call it a “Flayby”?) or if he had any idea why he was here.

Lamas said he hadn’t, but that he’d heard he was in town, had lunch at Harvest and was hanging with some Brown-Forman peeps.

What Lamas did know was that he saw “a few of (Flay’s) hams hanging at Newsom’s” when Lamas was there recently for a cookbook photo shoot.

The “Newsom’s” Lamas is referring to is Col. Bill Newsom’s Aged Kentucky Country Hams, and ham maker Nancy Newsom is courteously and cleverly private about her restaurant client list. She wants to sell her hams to the best without other bests knowing about it.

Sorry, Nancy, I hope you’ll forgive us this exposure, but we checked, and your ham is on Flay’s menu at Bar Americain New York. But that doesn’t mean he came to Louisville to drive three hours to check on his hams in Princeton, Ky. Ain’t nobody got time fuh dat! Especially if you’re Bobby Flay.

Would he come to watch his horses run or possibly shop for others?

Doubtful since the meat of the spring meet at Churchill Downs has passed and sales at Keeneland and Fasig Tipton are well down the road.

And so we revisited the Brown-Forman remark and wondered if Bobby might become a bourbon pimp, or even a tequila evangelist since his best known restaurant is Mesa Grill.

But given Woodford Reserve’s highly feminized TV ads of late, it’s hard to imagine Flay, known for his kitchen machismo, would fit into that strategy. Call me unimaginative, but I can’t conceive of him dancing barefoot on the grass or seeking his wife’s advice on whether to pony up the dough for Ol’ Glue Pot seen here. He’s got people for that.

So we proceeded to our sources at Brown-Forman, people who are almost as tight-lipped as Navy Seals. A friend at an unrelated brand said Flay was in town at Woodford’s whim, but for reasons unknown.

So we went to the source, Andrea Duvall, PR manager for Woodford, who said, simply, “We don’t have anything to say about it.”

Which could be saying a lot or absolutely nothing. We think it says a lot. We think something’s up.

Oh, and since Lamas confirmed Flay lunched at Harvest, we made one more call to Philip Ruskin, publicist for the restaurant. Ruskin, a New York native who holds offices here (his wife is a Humana exec) and in Manhattan, was about to board a bird for the Big Apple when he called to say he couldn’t say much of anything about something of which he knew little.

Ruskin’s client, Coby Ming, Harvest’s executive chef, is set to go under the lights this weekend when Cooking Channel star Nadia G. from the show Bitchin’ Kitchen comes to shoot an episode at the restaurant. (When a star is, like, sooo cool that she doesn’t use her full name on a show with such a goofy name, it’s tempting to conform to Terry Boyd’s “no TV” lifestyle. Seriously, dude’s got no tube. Weirdo probably gets his news on the web or something.)

According to Ruskin, saying much about a Food Network personality of Flay’s caliber would likely get back to Food Network. And if Food Network didn’t like what he said, it could play hardball, such as denying his clients exposure on its shows.

“So what I’m saying is, I don’t want to say anything about Bobby’s visit that could, in turn, potentially compromise what’s going on at Harvest,” Ruskin said.

What he ordered ...
Here’s what Flay ordered …

“But I can confirm this,” he added, his tone changing from firm to feigned excitement. “Bobby Flay did visit Harvest for lunch today, and he had a grilled cheese sandwich.”

A grilled cheese sandwich?

“I know, right?” Ruskin said. “I have confirmed that.”

And there you have it. Based on what we have on the record, Bobby Flay came to Louisville for a grilled cheese sandwich.

Alert the Mayor’s office. Call the Convention and Visitors Bureau. We have a story for them.

[dc_ad size="9"] [dc_ad size="10"]
Steve Coomes
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 24-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Louisville magazine, Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass and Food & Dining Magazine. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.

Leave a Reply