Food & Wine welcomed superstar chef Michael Symon to our Facebook page for a chat with fans. Symon shared cooking tips, advice on how to break into the industry, and a few things you might not know about him (like just how little he sleeps). Here are some of the highlights.
Favorite Flavor Combinations & Tips
Question: Why am I seeing pork belly on so many menus? I just don't get the appeal of chewing on greasy gelatinous fat. I know you are a fan of the pig and just wondered where you stood on pork belly.
Michael Symon: Love it—it's bacon for cryin' out loud—what's better than that? Pork fat is delish.
Question: Hi Chef, being that you love pork, what is your favorite spice to use with pork and which wine would you pair with pork?
Michael Symon: Coriander. Beer.
Question: Hi Michael, being Sicilian, I really only use sheep's milk cheeses. Is there anytime I should use a truly good Parmesan instead?
Michael Symon: I love sheep's milk. I love a good parm over butternut squash ravioli though.
Question: Hello chef! I was wondering if you had any advice on flavor combinations and preparations for game meats, i.e., moose or caribou?
Michael Symon: Great with grilled peaches.
Question: What are your tips for cooking the perfect steak without a grill?
Michael Symon: Cast iron pan. Get a good char and baste with thyme and garlic.
Chef Michael Symon's Inspirations
Question: Chef, is cooking the only thing you are passionate about?
Michael Symon: Family, motorcycles and golf.
Question: Where do you find inspiration?
Michael Symon: From my surroundings and farmers.
Question: Chef, what is your definition of passion? Who is your inspiration?
Michael Symon: Always do it for love not money. My parents and wife.
Question: What chef has had the most influence on you and why?
Michael Symon: Mark Shary—taught me how to get full flavors out of food—and Jonathan Waxman, for his simple flavors.
Question: I'm looking for ways to help people take risks in the kitchen and try something new as this correlates to the rest of their lives. Any thoughts?
Michael Symon: Garden with them, they'll always try something they grow.
Tips on the Restaurant Industry
Question: I am in culinary school and one of my biggest problems is speed in the kitchen. Any advice?
Michael Symon: Speed comes with experience. Stay focused.
Question: As an aspiring cook, what's the most important skill I need in order to make it in the food industry?
Michael Symon: Don't be afraid of hard work, lots of 16-hour days.
Question: Front-of-house question: how do you calm down a really keen FOH manager without killing her willingness to be part of the team?
Michael Symon: Make them work in the kitchen for a week or 2.
Things You May Not Know About Chef Michael Symon
Question: What are your 3 essential tools for the kitchen?
Michael Symon: Good knife, microplane and chinacap (assuming you have great pans).
Question: What do you like best about the Iron Chef competitions? You are always so amazingly calm and seem to have a blast competing.
Michael Symon: The competition. I love to compete.
Question: Chef Symon—if you could battle ANYONE from the Food Network in Kitchen Stadium, who would it be and why? What would you hope the secret ingredient to be?
Michael Symon: Mario Batali. We have the same thoughts on food. A whole hog.
Question: Trying to eat healthy but need to keep it quick and simple. Seriously tired of having baked chicken breast with baked sweet potato or veggies all the time. Any suggestions?
Michael Symon: Just eat nonprocessed food and food not labeled diet or lite.
Question: Where do you get all your energy from? How do you find time to do everything? Workouts, running restaurants, cooking at home, gardening, cooking shows, teaching...it just wears me out thinking about it!
Michael Symon: I only sleep for 3-4 hrs a night and I have great people around me, especially my wife Liz.
Question: What's the significance of the #13 in your tattoo?
Michael Symon: My lucky number.