Bobby Flay and his Maine Coon cat Nacho are cooking up something special.
The Food Network star and celebrity chef has launched a cat food brand with his 6-year-old furry friend called Made by Nacho, which is now available on madebynacho.com and will be available at PetSmart stores starting April 19.
While the Made by Nacho name shows that Nacho had his paws all over this project, the idea started forming before Flay met the feline.
"I have had cats in my life basically forever. I am an only child. My mom always had two or three cats in the house," Flay tells PEOPLE. "I literally feel like I was raised by cats in some ways because that's who I hung out with at home."
This early appreciation for cats led Flay to form a special bond with Nacho and his other feline, a 2-year-old Maine Coon named Stella, that helps him manage the day-to-day stress of chef life.
Courtesy Made by Nacho
"I am in this crazy business," the restauranter says. "I feel like my cats take the edge off me. They create a soothing environment. Every time I walk in the door, I can't wait to see them. It's a very special relationship that only people that have cats understand."
This deep connection to his pets combined with his culinary knowledge means Flay is "thinking all the time" about what he is feeding his cats, but he didn't feel like pet food brands had the same concerns.
"It's hard to find a cat-focused company, most seem to start with dogs and then add cats later as an afterthought," Flay says.
So two years ago, Flay, with some encouragement from Nacho — a celebrity in his own right on Instagram @NachoFlay — decided to start a cat food brand from scratch.
The first step was to learn what cats needed in their diet to thrive, so Flay could make sure that was the focus of the food he and Nacho created. To help with his research, Flay worked with pet nutritionists and his cats' longtime vet Dr. Katja Lang.
After months of taste tests and recipe fiddling, which Nacho and Stella happily took part in, Made by Nacho, a line of cat food and treats, was born.
Courtesy Made by Nacho
For cats, Flays says, the food has a well-balanced mix of ingredients that puts quality protein sources first.
"We picked out thoughtful ingredients [like pumpkin, cranberry, and kale] that are flavorful and palatable for cats, but also helpful in other ways," he says.
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"Bone broth is a trend on human shelves, and that's sort of our secret ingredient," Flay adds. "It's very palatable for cats. It's packed with protein and also provides the extra hydration cats need."
To make Made by Nacho attractive to humans, Flay has made sure the ingredients are thoughtfully and sustainably sourced and that the food is made in the U.S.
"We're thrilled," Flays says of how he and Nacho feel about the final product.
Furthering the duo's mission to help cats everywhere, the Made by Nacho team has also started the Made By Nacho Charitable Fund at the New York Community Trust. The fund has already provided grants to EveryCat Health Foundation — an organization dedicated to advancing feline health — and Best Friends Animal Society — an animal welfare organization working to make America's shelter system completely no-kill.
To learn more about Made by Nacho, and the furry mind behind it, visit the brand's website.