(FROM LEFT): Celebrity chef Bobby flay.//courtesy of food network/Beat Bobby Flay.; Chef Bill Clifton with his son, Kane.//Courtesy of Bill Clifton.
It was the winter of 2018 when chef Bill Clifton received a call from The Food Network.
“[The Food Network] did their research and read several articles about me and wanted to interview me,” says Clifton, a Milford native.
He is talking about his upcoming appearance on the popular cooking show “Beat Bobby Flay,” where two talented chefs go head-to-head for the chance to beat the celebrity chef with their signature dish. Clifton appears on the season finale of the show on Thursday, May 2 at 10 p.m.
Clifton was working at Henlopen City Oyster House in Rehoboth Beach when he got the call. He is currently the executive chef and co-owner of The Counting House restaurant in Georgetown. He and his partner, Miguel Batiz, took over the restaurant in Georgetown’s historic Brick Hotel last August, renaming it The Counting House.
He says the interview process for the show was pretty intense.
“I did a small interview over the phone, then another phone interview followed by a Skype interview,” Clifton says. “I thought I had it—we got along real well—but then I had to submit recipes. There were another two phone interviews after that. It was a few month interview process.”
Clifton can’t reveal whether he wins or loses, but he says, “you have to watch the whole episode.”
Clifton’s career in the food industry started at Grotto Pizza.
“My sister had a job at Grotto as a hostess, so I applied there and I worked myself up to a kitchen manager.” He jumped around to a number of restaurants in Rehoboth and eventually applied to Kendall College at National Louis University, a private college in Chicago specializing in culinary arts and hospitality management.
While he was in Chicago, Clifton pondered where he might work after school. He decided to write letters to the best restaurants in the world, one being The French Laundry in Napa Valley.
“A couple months went by and I get out of class one day to catch the bus and I get a phone call from a woman who says she is from The French Laundry. She says, ‘we got your letter. It looks great. Could we talk for a bit?’”
So at 28 years old, Clifton was invited to the No. 1 restaurant in the world for an eight-month extended internship. When he graduated from culinary school, he worked in Chicago before returning to Sussex County.
Courtesy of food network/Beat bobby flay.
Clifton says he filmed the episode of “Beat Bobby Flay” last March.
“It was a 12-hour day for me. [The show] is filmed in Brooklyn in an old, rundown warehouse. My brother John went with me.”
He says he didn’t know who he was going to be competing against until the day of filming. His competitor is chef Stephan Bogardus, who recently left Southold’s North Fork Table & Inn to be the next executive chef at The Halyard in Greenport.
“Stephan is an incredibly nice person and we still communicate to this day,” says Clifton.
Clifton also reveals that the secret ingredient that the two chefs must cook with in the first challenge is in fact, a secret.
“The ingredient is a total surprise. [When Bobby Flay revealed it] he said, ‘I’m sorry guys, we are running out of ideas.’”
Clifton also mentions that he has a bit of a wardrobe malfunction during the episode.
“We were asked to bring solid colors but they didn’t like what either of us brought. Stephan got a black T-shirt and I had to wear the sweater that I came in. I was sweating profusely and [judge and celebrity chef] Alex Guarnaschelli kept commenting on it!”
But what does Clifton think about Chef Flay?
“I was a big fan of ‘Iron Chef’ back in the day. Not every chef wants to be at that level but just to get there, you have to respect it. He’s incredibly kind and very respectful—I would not have thought him to be so kind.”
Watch chef Bill Clifton’s first time cooking on television on Thursday, May 2 at 10 p.m. on the season finale of “Beat Bobby Flay” on The Food Network.