“My Dad jokes that the first thing he taught me to read was the sports page,” says Michael Symon, the chef and co-owner of Cleveland’s restaurants Lola and Lolita. Here, Symon (a F&W 1998 Best New Chef) talks about why his Pittsburgh cousins had better watch out when the Browns take the field.
How did you become a Browns fan?We come from a football family. Half my family is from Pittsburgh and half is from Cleveland, so there’ve always been huge rivalries. Unfortunately, I typically come out on the losing side. My Dad is a huge football fan, so as young as I can remember we watched.
What do you like to make while watching or tailgating games?The food revolves around the pig in one way or another. We typically do chile. If we have enough time, sometimes we’ll set up a tailgate really early in the morning and do a pig roast. Because of Cleveland’s Eastern European culture, we have a lot of sausage and bratwursts. Cleveland, I swear to God, we have to be the bratwurst capital of the world.
Do you have a favorite Cleveland beer?Great Lakes Brewing Company!
Got any pregame superstitions?I am a little superstitious. I don’t have season tickets anymore so I watch the game at home with a bunch of my friends. If we’re winning, no one gets up, no one moves, no one goes to the bathroom. You don’t switch seats with anybody. You stay where the hell you’re sitting and you end the conversation. Back in the days when I had season tickets, at the stadium if we had a big drive going and someone had to pee, it’d be like, “Hey, you know what buddy? No. It’ll warm you up. It’s cold outside. You’ll be fine.”
If you could be any player on the current roster, who would you be? I’m sure it’s not Brady Quinn, but who else?I wish I was that good looking. I would be [running back] Jamal Lewis (pictured, above). I would want to be a running back or a middle linebacker. I want to be in the middle of everything. Jamal Lewis has withstood the test of time. People thought he was done but he’s come back. He’s a gamer—my kind of guy.
Any predictions for the team? I’m going to say 11-5 and playoffs. For me, I’m a football junkie. I’m just thrilled that football season is here and looking forward to the Browns busting through this year. They’re back in Cleveland and that’s a beautiful thing. A couple of the guys eat at the restaurants [Lola and Lolita] and it’s exciting to see them doing so good on the field. Especially Derek Anderson; he’s a good man.
Which matchup are you most looking forward to?Steelers! I have all my cousins coming in from Pittsburgh. It’s a Sunday night game on NBC.
I hope we don’t see you on TV having a smackdown in the parking lot with your cousins.I’m going to be beating the @%$# out of them.