Following an introduction via shared friends, Bobby Flay and Christina Pérez become romantically involved around a year ago.

Friends of Bobby Flay have seen a great change in him, and it’s all because of his new relationship with Christina Pérez.

Bobby Flay Gushes Over Girlfriend Christina Pérez!

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“We were at an art gallery opening, and I walked up to two buddies and I was like, ‘What are you guys talking about?’ ” the Beat Bobby Flay star recalls in this week’s edition of PEOPLE, which hits newsstands on Friday. “You’re the subject of our conversation, they said. It’s wonderful to witness your happiness.”

Following their introduction through common acquaintances, Flay, 57, and Pérez, 40, a writer and creative director for the cannabis firm Miss Grass, made their relationship public in November at the Breeders’ Cup World Championship, when Flay’s horse Pizza Bianca won.

“She is so nice. I’m so glad I got to meet her “Flay, who has been working hard to produce the Food Network show Throwdown With Michael Symon, exults. She is always the light at the end of the tunnel for me because of how extremely stressful my life is.

Pérez, a native of Wisconsin who worked at magazines like Glamour, Vogue, and Lucky and whose writing was featured in publications like Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, and Condé Nast Traveler, has also affected his way of life—in and out of the kitchen. She is educating me to use a lot less meat in my cooking, adds Flay. “And all of a sudden, I hike a lot. I’m beginning to understand the Zen California way.”

According to a friend of the couple, they clearly admire one another. She was taken to his warmth, confidence, excitement, and sense of humor, the insider tells PEOPLE. He treats her so well, I think.

They have decided to get together for the holidays. On Christmas Day, Flay said, “I might make some Puerto Rican stuff.” I want to make sure she feels represented at Christmas because she is part Puerto Rican and I adore those flavors and cuisine.

Pérez like Flay’s paella recipe particularly on non-holidays, according to the couple’s buddy. It makes her think about her relatives, the insider said.

Daughter Sophie, 25, from Flay’s second marriage, the first of his three unions, is overjoyed to see her father so in love.

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According to Flay, Sophie is a huge fan of Christina and vice versa. There is nothing better for me than having the two most important females in my life get along and like each other.

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