A successful restaurateur, Michael recently opened his 14th B Spot Burgers, to go along with his other eateries, Lola Bistro, Lolita, Roast, Bar Symon and Mabel's BBQ. With his hectic schedule, I asked him if he misses being in the kitchen, just cheffing. "No," he laughed emphatically, "You know, I think that the misconception of a chef, especially in my capacity as a chef-owner, is that we work the line every week. I'm in the kitchen yes, but not on the line at a particular station. If you work just a station," he expanded, "when it gets busy, you see just that one station. I prefer to work the kitchen. I expedite, I watch the cooks a lot, but I haven't worked a particular station in God knows how long. Now, I do spend time on each station with the cook the first week when we open a restaurant."
|With Mike, Scott & Randy from Ergo|
"I don't think you need every knife in the set in order to get everything done, We have 2 chef' knives, both a 9' and 6 inch, a good serrated knife, a pairing knife and a vegetable cleaver because I do love using a vegetable cleaver. Then, we also have our steak knives." I mentioned to him that some have remarked that even at the reasonable price, it's still a bit expensive. He answered, "Obviously life is about what you can afford. That said, to be able to get a knife for $69-$79 that will last you a lifetime, as opposed to a knife you can get for $20 that you have to replace in a year, it just seems like a pretty easy decision to me." You can purchase Michael's Knives here: Michael Symon Cutlery
Michael makes his Grandma's Risotto on The Chew
We then moved the conversation to a bit of the person behind the persona side of these interviews, discussing his relationship with his wife, Lizzie and his home life. "We met in the restaurant business back in 1990 and we opened Lola about 17 years ago. My favorite thing I ever do is cooking dinner for Lizzie and my family and friends, just making a meal at home. There's nothing more enjoyable than that." I asked about his hectic schedule and how the two of them balance it and their personal life. "It's like anything else, you get used to it. It's all about the people around me. I am fortunate to have folks around me that I've been working with some 20+ years now. Liz is with me
I asked him to describe a typical day off for America's Favorite Chef. "I'm an early riser," he offered, "so I'm up usually by 5:30am. I head out and putz around the garden for about two hours or so, then I'll head out on the Harley to the gym, get a quick workout in and hopefully sneak in 18 holes of golf. After that I head back home about 1 or 2 o'clock and see what Lizzie wants for dinner and we hang out the rest of the day, me, Lizzie, Kyle and the dogs. I asked him "What's usually for dinner?" and he said "Well Lizzie is a vegetarian so oddly enough, being the meat chef, and I do eat a ton of meat, a lot of days I'll cook a vegetarian meal for both of us. The good thing is that with Lizzie being vegetarian, it always keeps me balanced."
I then turned the questions to a subject we both have in common; Our love. respect and admiration for Chef Jacques Pepin. Michael's has been quoted as saying that Jacques has been the most influential TV chef of all time. I asked him to expound on that a bit. "The thing that I love about Jacques is every time you watch him on TV, you learn something. From that, he has still made it entertaining and fun. More so than all those things, he is one of the most humble, caring people you'll ever come across." I can attest to this. A few years ago, after sitting with Jacques and casually discussing food and cheffing over coffee, he suddenly invited me to spend the day with him and have lunch at the International Culinary Center in New York City. Little ol me! Truly a bucket list moment for me. I asked Michael if he had a personal anecdote about he and Jacques that impacted his life.
"I was really lucky." he stated, "I was the executive chef of a restaurant called Giovanni's in Cleveland. I was 24. Jacques was in town and I got a call from his culinary producer, Susie Heller, whom I knew, and she told me she was bringing Jacques and Julia (Child) in for dinner." He laughed, "Lou, I was literally a trembling mess. I went out after the meal to say hello and he said, 'I loved the meal. I loved it because it was so simple.' I'll always remember that and it's always how I've tried to cook. Clean and simple. I remember he had a veal chop with morel mushrooms" It was immediately obvious in that statement that this was a special moment for Michael and I remarked to him that I thought it telling that even 22 years later, he remembered the evening and exactly what he prepared as if it were yesterday. Cool story.
It's seems there is no slowing down for this driven, dynamic chef. Michael revealed that he has a new show debuting on Food Network, Friday July 10th, but that was all he could share. Long-standing contractual clauses containing stiff penalties for disclosing specifics regarding any Food Network shows in production remain in force.
Cleveland's Iron Chef says he will continue co-hosting his popular ABC-TV daytime show, The Chew. His most recent Food Network series, All-Star Academy, in which he mentored a team of home cooks while vying against star chefs Bobby Flay, Alex Guarnaschelli and Curtis Stone, just concluded.
To connect with Michael, visit his website, www.michaelsymon.com or connect with him via social media on Twitter: @chefsymon, Facebook; Michael D. Symon and Instagram: @chefsymon
Michael also has a series of cookbooks, t-shirts, hats and more, all available here: Cookbooks and more....
I hope you've enjoyed reading this brief glimpse inside the world of Chef Michael Symon as much as I did bringing it to you!
Until next time,