This summer, Bobby Flay shocked us all when, during an episode of Iron Chef, he ripped open his chef’s coat to reveal a shirt that said, “This is my last Iron Chef battle ever,” leading to a collective gasp from the audience and hosts that quickly made its way to the tabloids before the episode had even aired.
He initially brushed the incident off as a joke. A weird joke, for sure, and a lot of people were still giving him major side-eye. Now, he’s finally revealed in an interview at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival moderated by other Food Network darling Michael Symon that it wasn’t a joke at all. That ended up being his last episode of Iron Chef ever, which even the network didn’t know until he revealed his shirt.
“I wanted everyone to know that this is my last Iron Chef battle,” he told Symon according to People. “And my objective, though it was probably not the best idea, was that that’s what would be filmed. When the camera’s on you, that’s what the viewer would see. So I did it.”
But he never got approval from the network, so they were just as shocked by the revelation as viewers were. “I thought it would be good TV,” he told Symon. “They didn’t think of it that way, and that’s obviously their prerogative.”
TV networks plan everything as carefully as possible, so Flay surprising them with a moment that couldn’t be edited out of an episode of their show — since he revealed his shirt right in the middle of the battle, it wasn’t just a matter of cutting it out of the beginning or end of the episode — would understandably upset them. That being said, they’ve been supportive of Flay’s departure from the show.
So, why leave at all? Basically, it was exhausting. “When I do a season, I do between 6 and 8 [battles] in a week and it crushes me because it’s 60 minutes of pure energy, creativity and execution… so at some point I was like, ‘I’ve been doing this for a long time and I want to go out on a high note,'” Flay said. Considering how exhausting it is just coming up with a last-minute weeknight meal at home, it’s definitely understandable that his constant competing just became too much for him.
Flay is still involved heavily in the Food Network’s programming, with what seems like a new show coming out every couple of years. And though he did say that he’s not opposed to returning as a guest someday, regularly competing in Iron Chef will remain a relic of his past. At least if you still need to scratch your watch-Bobby-Flay-in-culinary-competitions itch, you can always rely on Beat Bobby Flay!