CELEBRITY chef Bobby Flay is pinning his hopes on Pizza Bianca delivering a slice of happiness at Royal Ascot.
The American restaurateur, 57, has a well-fancied filly racing in the Coronation Stakes on Friday.
He got into racing when he was a teenager, when his grandad took him to Saratoga.
And for over a decade he has owned successful horses, including the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner More Than Real.
Pizza Bianca won that very same race back in November, showing her own credentials on the track.
And Flay is buzzing for Ascot.
“The experience of this is what it is all about. When you have a horse like this, she can take you to different experiences all over the world and to me, Royal Ascot is the pinnacle, ”he told Racing TV.
But it’s in cooking where Flay really made his name – amassing a £ 25million fortune with his restaurant chains and reality TV shows.
And who can forget his star turn on US TV show Entourage – where he left Ari Gold’s character’s wife swooning over him.
The cooking bug
It was at the age of eight that Flay first declared his love for being a chef – demanding an East-Bake toy oven for Christmas.
He dropped out at school aged 17 and pursued a career in the kitchen working in a pizza restaurant and serving ice cream at Baskin Robbins.
It wasn’t until he scored a job making salads at the Joe Allen brasserie in Manhattan’s theater district that he caught the eye of the proprietor who thought Flay had a natural ability and paid for his tuition at the prestigious French Culinary Institute.
Upon graduating, Flay fine-tuned his skills and developed expertise in southwestern and Cajun cuisine, which has now become his staple.
In the early 90s, following a brief change of career working the floor of the American Stock Exchange, Flay returned as an executive chef at the now-closed Miracle Grill.
Restaurant Jerome Kretchmer took note and offered him a position as executive chef at Mesa Grill, which is where Flay’s rep grew.
He soon became a partner, opening restaurants in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. Then, he launched his brand with Bobby Flay Steak in the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, and another Mesa Grill establishment in the Bahamas.
In 2008, his Mesa Grill in Las Vegas earned a Michelin Star, although it was taken away a year later – and has yet to earn it back.
Most recently, Flay launched his own burger chain – Bobby’s Burger Palace, which has restaurants dotted all over the US.
Reality TV star
Handsome, with a gift of the gab, Flay was a natural for daytime TV.
Regularly, he left housewives salivating thanks to his dishes and good looks during cooking segments on US chat shows.
So it made sense he would become a television icon, with a variety of grilling series’ under his belt
Flay caused controversy on Iron Chef America, when he challenged legendary Japanese Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to a rock crab battle.
Believing he had won, Flay prematurely leapt on top of his cutting board and raised his arms – offending Morimoto who accused his adversary of lacking professionalism with his flamboyant reaction.
Flay lost that battle, but returned for a rematch in Morimoto’s native Japan. This time, he won.
Flay’s longest running show Beat Bobby Flay features select chefs against the host to see if they can create dishes that are better than his. It’s now in its 30th season.
Most recently, Flay got himself a new deal with the Food Network, who he has had a 27-year relationship with.
Initially, he threatened to walk from the channel if he did not receive a $ 100million contract.
Last November they agreed on a new three-year deal.
Fame beyond the kitchen
Flay has transcended the kitchen into popular culture in the US.
His name was dropped in a scene in Will Ferrell’s hit comedy Step Brothers, while he has appeared in popular TV shows.
One recurring role saw Bobby rival Jeremy Piven’s Arie Gold in Entourage in which he played himself, winning the attentions of Gold’s ex-wife.
Flay even appeared in the romantic comedy East Broadway, alongside his second wife, Stephanie March.
But, he has been accused of letting fame go to his head in the past.
Back in 2017, he bizarrely sued an American design company over the comfortability of a £ 15,000 sofa.
According to the complaint filed to the New York Country Clerk office, it was “intolerably uncomfortable to sit on for any extended period of time”.
Lucky in the kitchen, unlucky in love – Flay has been married three times and all of those have ended in divorce.
His first, to fellow chef Debra Ponzek in 1991, lasted just two years.
He then married Kate Connelly in 1995, before they divorced in 1998. Although, she had his only child, Sophie.
Law and Order: SVU actress Stephanie March was his third wife, which lasted ten years but then proved to be his ugliest divorce.
In divorce papers, she accused him of forgetting an anniversary, demanding a prenup, publicly degrading her for her purported breast implants, and cutting off her share of their finances.
It was also alleged that he had an affair with 28-year-old assistant Elyse Tirrell.
Today, he dates Christina Perez – who will be joining him at Royal Ascot. And they could be toasting Pizza Bianca, if she comes up trumps on Friday.