Superstar chef Bobby Flay sounds amused by critic and fan response to his daughter, Sophie’s, appearance on NBC’s “America’s Next Great Restaurant” this week. Words such as “harsh,” “toughest judge,” “disturbingly mature” and “the first 14-year-old on TV who’s made me feel intimidated” have been filling the blogosphere in the wake of her crisp critiques of the restaurateur wannabes’ food and plans for giveaway toys on the show’s kid-centric week.
“I think she was fair. I don’t think she was harsh. We told her, ‘Just be honest about what you taste and what you see,'” says Dad.
According to Flay, Sophie’s involvement “just came about at the last minute. I didn’t know the rundown of all the challenges, and when I was reading that the next show was going to be with kids, I said to the executive producer, ‘If we’d thought about this, it would have been fun to get my daughter to come out and comment … She’s grown up around food. Food is really important to her.’ She said, ‘Let’s get her on a plane.’ Sophie is pretty relaxed about everything. She liked the idea of coming to L.A. and doing a little shopping.”
So, will the pretty and self-assured young lady become the next Chef Flay in future years?
“No, definitely not,” he answers. “Her clear vision is she wants to be a fashion editor at some point. That’s what she really wants to do. People have always asked her whether she wants to be a chef like her dad, and she always says, ‘We already have that covered in our family.'”
With just a couple weeks to go before “ANGR’s” season finale May 1, Flay acknowledges getting caught up emotionally with some of the contestants.
“I think you can’t not,” he says. “It’s just a natural thing that happens. I have to admit, I have some people who – I wouldn’t say they’re favorites, but whose stories definitely pull your heartstrings a little bit more.”
He adds that he finds it interesting that viewer favorites “seem to change from week to week.”
Flay also finds himself getting peppered with questions wherever he goes, pertaining either to 1) who is going to win or 2) how to sign up to audition for the next season of the show. Of course, he avers when it comes to question 1: “People would really rather see how it plays out for themselves,” he notes.
As for question 2, first, we’ll have to find out whether there’ll be another season of the reality series. Despite its obvious ratings challenges, he feels, “We’ve picked up traction as we’ve gone along.”
A DREAM DEFERRED: To say that Hal Linden’s “Never Too Late” album was a long time coming would be quite an understatement. The beloved star of “Barney Miller” fame tells us his yearning to make a record “goes all the way back before I was an actor. I started out as a musician. I had a band, I played with bands, I sang with bands. I looked forward to recording, and then what happened was I went into the Army, and when I came out, I was a dinosaur. Everything was rock ‘n’ roll. It was traumatic at the time. I put music aside and decided to go into the theater, which had a pretty good result, didn’t it?” says the Tony- and Emmy-winning performer.
His musical dreams remained alive, however, and today finds him wrapping up a string of 28 concert dates in Florida – as well as getting ready to launch “Never Too Late” on Amazon.com, his own hallinden.net website and elsewhere. The album has him working with different musical configurations – big bands, combos etc. – and features musical styles from jazz standards to classic pop songs, big-band numbers and favorites from the American songbook.
“The title tune is what it’s about – ‘Never Too Late,’ just that. I’m using that as my encore, my signature song,” says Linden. “Audiences are really responding to it.”
As far as his record, he adds, “It’s already been very rewarding just to put it together, to make it work. If it’s only for me, it’s satisfying.”
EDGY TERRITORY: Stephen Frears’ “Lay the Favorite” big-screen biopic of successful gambler Beth Raymer starts production next week, with locations planned for New Orleans and L.A. The feature stars “The Town’s” Rebecca Hall, Bruce Willis and Catherine Zeta-Jones. They’ll also be setting scenes in Las Vegas, where Raymer first got involved in sports betting.
Director Jason Connery’s “Philly Kid” is just about to begin shooting in Baton Rouge, La. His first non-science-fiction directorial assignment, it’s the story of a guy who spent 10 years defending himself in prison on a manslaughter conviction – who comes out and finds he feels out of place in the normal world. And then he discovers Mixed Martial Arts.
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