The Surprising Humility of Beat Bobby Flay

Ben Lashar

I can’t cook. Without microwaves I would probably starve to death. If there was a way to burn water, I would have discovered it. My lack of culinary skills is likely why I enjoy cooking shows. Not only can I get lost in the endless dishes I have never even heard of, but I also become enamored with talents that are radically different from my own. The best cooking shows turns a chef’s graceful movements and cooking knowledge into a spectacle, showcasing human creative ability that mirrors our Creator. This is especially true of my favorite cooking series, Beat Bobby Flay.

Every episode of Beat Bobby Flay consists of two cooking competitions. In the first, two contestants must incorporate an ingredient that celebrity chef Bobby Flay chooses. Then that round’s winner competes against Flay, as both cook the challenger’s signature dish. The real joy comes from watching Flay’s talent. When faced with unfamiliar foods, he gets incredibly creative; seeing the renowned grill master forced to cook a vegetarian dish can be quite enjoyable. Yet despite the challenges, Flay still wins roughly two-thirds of the time.

Flay’s likeable personality makes it even easier to appreciate his talent. While Flay and his revolving door of guest hosts joke about his ego, the celebrity chef is actually incredibly respectful to his challengers. Compliments between competitors are common on Beat Bobby Flay. The entire show exudes an atmosphere of culinary respect among talented individuals.

No matter how well we each can cook, everyone can relate to the talent on display in Beat Bobby Flay. We each have our own history with food, even if it mostly involves hamburgers. There is something particularly familiar about the act of making a meal. In an interview with Entrepreneur Magazine, Flay said, “Let’s say you’re a well-known actor. People know what your name is, and they might be able to go see your movies, but they can’t really actually touch a piece of who you are. But in my case, you can find me in my restaurants, you can eat the food I’m responsible for.”

Appreciating the chefs at work on Beat Bobby Flay reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12. In his letter, Paul likens believers to different body parts, with each having a different function that serves the overall body. Reflections on the chapter often frame the metaphor in terms of self-acceptance (we each have our own gifts to be used to glorify God).  Yet the chapter has another implication. Just as you have your own function and talents, so does everyone else around you. We should appreciate how talents different from our own bring beauty to God’s creation. Bobby Flay might not be doing missionary work, but his talents have added spice to countless people’s lives, both literally and metaphorically. A chef, when using his or her talents well, makes the world more beautiful and furthers fellowship.

We should appreciate how talents different from our own bring beauty to God’s creation.

Of course we should also remember that our talents are not of our own doing. They come from God. Even the world’s most talented cook grilling the world’s best steak is just a shadow of what God can accomplish. God created the cow, after all. And it was his gifts of creativity and ingenuity that allowed others to conjure up whatever is in A1 steak sauce. The cook is not great because his talent transcends conventional humanity, but because he is made in the image of God. It’s important to appreciate talent with humility, so that we do not deify it.

Despite its aggressive title, Beat Bobby Flay is a good example of how humility can accompany talent. The show never puts Flay on too high a pedestal. He loses a third of the time, and he accepts his defeats like a good sport. Even when Flay wins, he leaves as roasted as his pork. The guest hosts spend the majority of their screen time making fun of the famous chef and cheering for his competition. Their commentary prevents Beat Bobby Flay from portraying the celebrity chef as a cooking ubermensch, so that the show honors Flay’s talent without deifying it.

Beat Bobby Flay is going strong in its 15th season. Here’s hoping there are many more episodes to come. I know I still have a lot of watching to do if I want to cut down on the oven fires I make.

Topics: TV