Famed chef Bobby Flay and his wife, “Law & Order: SVU” actress Stephanie March, split after she discovered he was having an affair with a young aide, claims a close friend of March.
March, 40, learned of the betrayal shortly after Thanksgiving, said actress/writer Maia Madison. The boyishly handsome 50-year-old Food Network star had for three years been seeing 28-year-old Elyse Tirrell, a singer/actress who worked as a hostess at the chef’s Bar Americain in Midtown in 2008 and became his assistant, she said.
March packed her things.
“She came to my house and was sobbing uncontrollably,’’ Madison recalled. “She said, ‘I can’t believe the last 10 years of my life have been a lie.’
“Elyse had always seemed so nervous when Stephanie came to one of the restaurants, and Stephanie, not knowing what was happening, went out of her way to compliment her and try to make her more comfortable. Elyse had even been to Stephanie’s home when she was there — and when she wasn’t.
“Now this girl is about to ¬become the Monica Lewinsky of the food world.”
Tirrell did not return calls from The New York Post for comment.
Julie Halpin, a spokeswoman for Flay, would not confirm or deny the affair:
‘“We will continue to refrain from responding to the continued efforts by certain parties to spread rumors and innuendo. This specific allegation was in a letter sent from one attorney in this case to the other. It was written and then leaked specifically to try to insert this story into the press, and that’s unfortunate. Even more unfortunate is that all of this is being done in order to renegotiate a prenuptial agreement that was agreed to over a decade ago and never amended during the marriage.”’
March’s lawyers have reportedly challenged the couple’s prenup, ¬under which Flay is to pay her $5,000 a month. In 2012, Forbes estimated Flay’s worth at $9 million.
Flay did attempt to save the marriage by surprising March in Amsterdam while she was there holidaying with friends.
“He did a Hail Mary and asked her to please try to work on their marriage,” Madison said. “Because she loves him, she said OK, and they went to a therapist and tried to work through their problems.”
But then he travelled to appear at Miami’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival in February with a group of assistants, including Tirrell. This devastated March.
“Stephanie told me, ‘I wasn’t asking for much. I would have stayed if he had given me one date night a week and tulips on our anniversary,’ ’’ Madison said.
After Miami, Flay immediately went to Los Angeles for a five-week shoot. When he returned, March asked him to move out and weeks later Flay filed for divorce.
Flay business partner Laurence Kretchmer defended his good friend.
“Bobby has a rule that when people talk crap about him he doesn’t respond,” he told The New York Post. “I’ve been in the middle of this relationship for 14 years, and he did everything he could to save his marriage.
“Elyse is a great and valued employee and it is awful to see her dragged into this thing. If she had an affair with Bobby it would have been reported to me. That has never even been suggested, and people like to talk. Have Bobby and Elyse been seen together? Yes, that’s her job. None of this has any basis in reality.’’
Kretchmer added: “As ugly as Stephanie is going to look [when this news comes out], she will look uglier when other things come out.”