​Bobby Flay's recipe for success

"I remember waking up in the morning, laying in my bed, staring at the ceiling and saying to myself, 'I can't wait to go to work today,'" he said. "It hit me: I was working with my hands. I was creating things. And I could actually do it. I didn't have to open a book. I was learning in a practical manner."

Excited and inspired, Flay went on to cooking school, graduating from New York's French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in 1984. Seven years later, he had a New York City place of his own: Mesa Grill.

He was all of 25 years old.

So did cooking save him? "Oh, totally," he said. "Cooking definitely saved my life. I mean, I think I could've easily gone down a bad road, for sure."

Like what? "Well, what was I going to do? I mean, how was I going to make a living? What were my skills?"

"Honestly, Bobby, you think you would've turned to a life of crime?" asked Smith.

"Uhm, I'm not gonna say that. But a lot of my friends did. I took the different path."

And it worked out: Mesa was a huge success, and Bobby Flay now has 24 restaurants to his name.

Life outside the kitchen's pretty good, too: for the past 10 years he's been married to actress Stephanie March, and he has a daughter, Sophie, from a previous marriage, who is now a college freshman.

"I got the greatest thing ever," he said. "I got Sophie who's happily surpassed me in the educational world."

But there are times when it seemed he may have stretched himself too thin.

In 2008, a New York Times reviewer wondered if he'd taken his eye off Mesa Grill -- and took away one of the restaurant's two stars.

He remembers it clearly: "Oh, yeah. I was in a taxi when I found out that he was taking a star from me.

"It was a long day. I got really drunk that night."

Still, Mesa Grill survived, and flourished, right up until the rent got too high and Flay was forced to close it down last year.

The same thing happened with another place, Bolo, which that left him with a hole in his soul that only a new restaurant could fill.

And that was Gato.

Right after Gato opened, a New York Times restaurant critic came calling again. This time, the review was glowing.

Smith asked, "So what'd that feel like in your gut, to read that?"

"It was an amazing -- just (sigh). I could finally exhale!" he said.

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Bobby Flay talks to his staff at Gato in New York City. Gato/Daniel Krieger

Anyone who's tasted his food knows that he's not afraid to spice it up. But Flay also knows how to savor the sweet.

"It's the holiday time, it's the time when people are counting their blessings," said Smith. "Do you do that sort of thing?"

"I feel blessed and lucky every day," he said. "My father always said to me, 'Think of the word 'content.' If you can feel like you're content most of the time, everything is good.'"

"Are you content?"

"One-hundred percent," Flay replied. "Plus a little more."


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