Shay Spence
February 26, 2018 at 03:26 PM EST

After reports surfaced that Bobby Flay abruptly quit Iron Chef Showdown during filming, the celebrity chef initially brushed off the incident as a joke. Now, Flay has confirmed he indeed will no longer be competing on the show — and is explaining his decision.

“I’ve done over 100 Iron Chef competitions, and frankly they are exhausting,” Flay said on Saturday during the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. “They are exhausting physically but, even moreso, they are exhausting emotionally.”

“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,” he said during an “In Conversation” discussion moderated by Michael Symon. “And 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.’”

During his final competition over the summer, Flay removed his chef’s coat 20 minutes in to reveal a shirt that read: “THIS IS MY LAST IRON CHEF BATTLE EVER.” Flay explained that the drama of the stunt was precisely why he did it. “I wanted everyone to know that this is my last Iron Chef battle,” he said. “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.”

Though he said the Food Network has been “incredibly supportive of everything that I do,” Flay acknowledged that this was one exception. “The network was not thrilled,” he said. “I thought it would be good TV. They didn’t think of it that way, and that’s obviously their prerogative.”

“[Food Network] said to me, ‘Why didn’t you tell us?’ And I was like, ‘I didn’t tell anyone. That’s the whole point, that it’s a surprise!’” he said.

The Beat Bobby Flay star also revealed that the network “blacked out” the incident for airing — which he acknowledged is a “really expensive thing to do.”

Still, Flay, who has been on the network since 1996 and hosted over a dozen shows, insists there is no bad blood over the incident. “It was no big deal,” he said, adding that he would “consider it” if they asked him to return — though he wants to pave the way for the next generation.

“I think that Iron Chef is a great place for new and younger people to come on and start taking the reigns,” he said. “How many times do you want to watch Bobby Flay do Iron Chef?”

Flay was honored at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival tribute dinner at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel on Saturday, with food cooked by fellow Food Network stars like Giada De Laurentiis, Alex Guarnaschelli, Michael Symon, and Masaharu Morimoto.

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