Here's What It's Like To Be A Judge On Beat Bobby Flay - Exclusive

Bobby Flay might be the most prolific competitive chef on television — his eponymous "Beat Bobby Flay" alone has over 400 episodes. On the Food Network series, he invites chefs to go toe-to-toe with him, and while his victory record is over 60%, the real winners are the judges. Think about it: You get to taste two incredible dishes, one made by Flay and one made by a chef who is giving everything they have to beat him.

In an exclusive interview with Tasting Table, Robbie Shoults of Bear Creek Smokehouse in Marshall, Texas, told us all about being a judge on the show. "I've been up five times and it's always a great experience," says Shoults. "Bobby Flay is super competitive and is also probably the best cook on the earth." If you've ever wondered what it's like to walk onto that set when the bell rings, you're in luck. Shoults shared all the behind-the-scenes details — including whether the taste of chipotle gives away whose dish is whose — so you and your tastebuds can live vicariously through him.

What the judges are up to behind the scenes

While Bobby and his competitor are duking it out in the ring, the mystery judges are hidden backstage. But that doesn't mean the judges are totally blindsided once they get on camera. Shoults continues: "As soon as they get their dishes done, then we go to what they call a tasting room and we taste all the dishes there."

While the food is hot and fresh (and Flay and his challenger are coming down from an adrenaline rush), the "Beat Bobby Flay" judges are having a backstage tasting and making their comments. The producer takes notes, prepping soundbites for when it's time to film, and the judges start to form opinions about which dish is the winner. "Sometimes I would speculate, this looks really fancy, and I know Bobby likes to use peppers a lot," says Shoults. "I've always thought I could guess, but I've been wrong before, so I just quit trying."

The main event: Judging on-camera

After the backstage tasting is complete, the judges head to the ring — the "Beat Bobby Flay" sunken stage surrounded by an elevated audience. Shoults says the competition kitchens are even more impressive in person than they are on TV, loaded with all the kitchen equipment you could imagine — and cameras in between the gear.

Once they're on set, the judges taste the food again for the cameras. "[That is] when the two co-hosts come to you and say, 'Okay, Robbie, what do you think about these chicken wings?' and then I give my comments on it," Shoults describes. The producer will chime in to jog the judges' memories and get the insight they're looking for, and then it is time for a decision.

According to Shoults, choosing a winner isn't as hard as it looks. In fact, they typically figure it out in the tasting room. "It is pretty cut and dried. I mean, when Bobby lost, he lost fair and square. The other cook just did a better job," he shares. For Shoults, though, tasting the food is more exciting than whether or not Bobby wins (again).

Robbie Shoults is the owner of Bear Creek Smokehouse. The restaurant at his store and event space, The Marshall Mercantile, will be opening in the spring of 2024.