1998 Best New Chef Michael Symon
1998 Best New Chef Michael Symon

Michael Symon

F&W Star Chef » See All F&W Chef Superstars Chef Michael Symon is known for exuberant, meat-focused cooking at his five restaurants (four in his hometown of Cleveland, plus Roast in Detroit), and his role as an animated co-host on ABC’s The Chew. He talks to F&W about perfect braising technique, his beef cheek pierogis and where to find the best sausages in Cleveland.  What’s your most requested recipe, the one dish you’re most known for? Either the beef cheek pierogis or the smoked pork chops. Those are the dishes that have made me most known as a chef; they’ve been on the menu at Lola since day one. I’ve always tried to do food that summed up the Midwest to me, especially northeastern Ohio, and those two embrace the culture that I was brought up in. Everybody in Cleveland knows a pierogi. When we started doing them with beef cheeks (which we originally called pot roast pierogis because 17 years ago we couldn’t sell beef cheeks), it explained the best what our restaurant was all about. And because Cleveland has always had this incredible love for sausage and charcuterie and pork, the cold-smoked pork chops have always been an enormous hit. What’s your favorite cookbook of all time?White Heat, by Marco Pierre White—for the stories even more than the recipes. When I was a young chef and read it, I just thought, “My god, these chef guys are so cool, they’re so crazy!” I’ve certainly have never been as crazy as Marco Pierre White. But my business partner Doug Petkovic, before we owned restaurants together, when we were working together 20 years ago, every time I’d yell at a server, he’d go, “Settle down, White Heat!” It’s probably his most hated cookbook, but probably my favorite! Those who’ve worked with me know I’m about as chill as they get, I’m much more of a coddler than a yeller or a screamer. It came out in 1987 or 1988, before Bourdain or any these people wrote about how crazy a kitchen was. Marco explained it best 25 years ago, which I guess shows how old I am. What’s one technique everyone should know? How to braise. To take an inexpensive cut of meat and make it into something delicious is much more skillful to me than throwing a steak on a grill, and much more affordable, and so many people do it wrong. You’re not boiling meat, you’re braising it. All home cooks would save so much more money and get so many more delicious meals if they understood the basic theory and technique. First you need to get that beautiful caramelization and sear. Some people throw everything into a Crock-Pot and turn it on, but you miss out on the beautiful Maillard effect and the depth of flavor that you get from searing it properly. Then you want to build up flavor in your broth. And then, most importantly, you don’t want to cover the meat completely in the liquid. You want to let the fattiest part hang out on the top, and let the liquid come only about two-thirds of the way up, so you get that beautiful caramelization on top. You want a very slight simmer—if I have it on the stovetop I’ll have bubbles barely percolating up. If I put it in an oven, it will probably be around 275-ish. You want to baste the meat every 30 to 40 minutes as it’s cooking, to help develop that moisture and flavor and all that kind of magic. And if I’m cooking a meat that has a beautiful fat cap on it, I’ll pull the lid or foil off toward the end and turn the heat up to about 375 to get that great caramelization. So you need great caramel, superflavorful broth that doesn’t cover the meat and then you need to baste. If you do those three things, and cook until it’s tender—not until it’s mush, but tender and slightly toothsome, you could get a magical stew or braised dish that isn’t that expensive, that you can keep on your stove for a couple of hours. I love when fall and winter hits because that kind of braised food that time of year fills your house with aroma, and is just so soul-satisfying to me. What are your 5 top don’t-miss places on a trip to Cleveland? You have to go to Rock Hall. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame represents so much of Cleveland now. We fought hard for it, since everyone thought New York should get it. I’m a huge music buff, but even if you’re not one, there’s so much history, there’s something for everyone there, from classical music to hip-hop. You have to see the West Side Market. There’s not an Eastern European market like it in the country. When I take New Yorkers there it takes their breath away. It shows you what Cleveland culture is all about. I love J&J, I think they have the best jerky in the world. Ohio City Pasta makes fresh pasta all day; they’ve been there forever. If you want to get some cool, unique spices, Urban Herbs grinds spices daily; it also sells whole spices and they’re always superfresh. There are some really cool historic eateries like Sokolowski’s, which is close to 100 years old. It’s a cafeteria-style Polish restaurant where you can get pierogis and stuffed cabbage and kielbasa, all of those delicious things. And I believe it’s fourth generation. I also love The Sausage Shoppe in the Old Brooklyn neighborhood. They smoke their own meats, they make their headcheese, they have the best bratwurst, kielbasa and headcheese you’ll ever find. For shopping, where our original restaurant Lola is down in Tremont, there’s a great little store next to it called Banyan Tree, which sells great, esoteric, unique clothing, art and jewelry. It’s gotten me out of trouble many times. They have great things for men and women. 1998 Best New Chef Bio Background Trained at the Culinary Institute of America. Worked at Piccolo Mondo and Caxton Café, Cleveland. How he got into cooking "After I blew out my arm wrestling in high school, I knew I couldn't get a college sports scholarship, so I started working at restaurants for money." First food memory "Making baklava with Mom when I was six." Menu bomb Pot pie with a filling of shrimp and escargot. Favorite place to eat Aureole, New York City. Best thing about cooking in Cleveland "Customers are open-minded. And it's my hometown." Food vice The Romanburger at Cleveland's Mr. Hero. "It's a hot sub with a hamburger patty, piled high with salami and cheese—I call it a heart-attack sandwich." Recipe tip If you don't have time to make pierogi dough, use store-bought spring-roll wrappers instead.
Michael Symon's Arancini
Rating: Unrated
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Arancini, the crispy-on-the-outside and cheesy-on-the-inside fried rice ball, is the ultimate cocktail hour snack. Star chef Michael Symon makes his risotto the day ahead for easy prep and then breads the mozzarella-filled balls just moments before frying to get that perfect, crunchy crust. Slideshow:  More Michael Symon Recipes 
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At his new Cleveland barbecue spot, Mabel’s BBQ, chef Michael Symon serves a version of the city’s famed kielbasa sandwich that’s topped with slaw and french fries. Symon makes his barbecue sauce with the local favorite brown mustard, Stadium. Slideshow:  More Sandwich Recipes 
Adding jalapeño and coriander seeds to the pork skin braising liquid adds extra flavor to the crispy fried cracklings. Slideshow:  More Pork Recipes 
On its own, this applewood-smoked brisket is luscious and much easier to make at home than most barbecued meats. Michael Symon turns it into a fun sandwich, topped with cilantro and pickled vegetables to cut the richness of the meat. Slideshow:  More Brisket Recipes 
Michael Symon, who grew up in a Greek and Sicilian family, often adds Greek accents when he cooks. He seasons lamb ribs with oregano and coriander before grilling and serves them with tangy, quick-preserved lemons. Slideshow:  More Grilled Lamb Recipes 
Symon cooks these honey-glazed ribs on the grill from start to finish. Alternatively, you can start them in the oven, then throw them on the grill just before serving for a nice char or simply cook them entirely in the oven.   Slideshow: Pork Tenderloin RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook 
This salad is a nod to my mom and my Greek heritage,” Symon says. In addition to dill, a common herb in Greek cuisine, Symon adds plenty of mint and basil. Slideshow: More Vegetarian RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook 
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"I created this recipe for my father-in-law, who is a big hunter," chef Michael Symon says. "I'm always looking for ways to cook up his fantastic venison in the fall and winter." In place of the traditional Bolognese combination of beef, veal and pork, the venison gives this lush sauce a great gamey flavor. Slideshow:  More Pasta Recipes Recipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook 
In this recipe from star chef Michael Symon, the entire meals cooks on the grill—including the salad.
This salad is a nod to my mom and my Greek heritage,” Symon says. In addition to dill, a common herb in Greek cuisine, Symon adds plenty of mint and basil. Slideshow: More Vegetarian RecipesRecipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook 
"I created this recipe for my father-in-law, who is a big hunter," chef Michael Symon says. "I'm always looking for ways to cook up his fantastic venison in the fall and winter." In place of the traditional Bolognese combination of beef, veal and pork, the venison gives this lush sauce a great gamey flavor. Slideshow:  More Pasta Recipes Recipe from Food & Wine Best New Chefs All-Star Cookbook 
In this recipe from star chef Michael Symon, the entire meals cooks on the grill—including the salad.
“I’m a thigh guy,” says chef Michael Symon, co-host of The Chew. “It has the deepest flavor of all chicken cuts.” Slideshow: More Chicken Recipes 
Spicy 50/50 Burgers
Rating: Unrated
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Mixing seasonings into ground beef can make the burgers tough if the meat gets overworked. Chef Michael Symon ingeniously solves the problem by combining seasoned hot Italian sausage with the ground chuck. The sausage gives this cheeseburger, which is adapted from Symon's 5 in 5 cookbook, great texture as well. Slideshow:  More Burger Recipes 
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This gratin combines blanched chard and sautéed leeks, cooked until just tender in a creamy two-cheese sauce made with both Gruyère and Parmigiano-Reggiano. More Thanksgiving Gratin Recipes
Spicy Sriracha Chicken Wings
Rating: Unrated
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These crispy chicken wings get their heat from Sriracha, the Thai hot sauce that chef Michael Symon says is his favorite in the world. "We always have a couple of extra bottles at home, because my stepson blows right through the stuff."
Shaved-Vegetable Salad
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Michael Symon begins Thanksgiving with this tangle of multicolored vegetables—radishes, golden beet and carrots—tossed with a lemon-dill dressing. Because they're served raw, the vegetables should be sliced very thin, in a food processor or preferably on a mandoline. Symon recommends using a Greek feta for the salad's cheese garnish, because he likes that Greek feta is saltier than some others. More Thanksgiving Vegetable Side Dishes
Quinoa is definitely a superfood: A grain-like seed, it's a "complete" protein containing all eight essential amino acids (another plus: it cooks much more quickly than most grains). To create a terrific vegetarian main course, Michael Symon of Cleveland's Lola tosses quinoa with arugula, apple, raisins and fresh herbs, then spoons the salad into a halved baked squash (a great source of iron and vitamins A and C).
The key to Michael Symon's deeply savory side dish is a dressing that includes anchovies, capers, mustard and a little honey. More Thanksgiving Brussels Sprouts Recipes
Michael Symon defines himself as a "porketarian," saying he can't get enough of the meat. For his luscious chili, he uses incredibly flavorful and succulent pork cheeks—an unusual cut worth seeking out. If pork cheeks aren't available, pork shoulder (cut into 2-inch pieces) can be substituted. Slideshow:  Sensational Chili Recipes 
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Instead of combining vodka with flavored Jell-O mix, Michael Symon concocts a refreshing mojito and stirs unflavored gelatin into the mint-and-lime-spiced rum drink to mold a fun and sophisticated version of the lowbrow shot.More Mojito Recipes
Cleveland chef Michael Symon (an F&W Best New Chef 1998) is now getting more national attention as the newest Iron Chef. His latest venture, Symon Says Live to Cook, a book that chronicles his food career (starting at the stove as a boy learning to cook from his Ukrainian father), along with simple recipes like his luscious, tender lamb rib chops, which he serves with a tangy lemon-and-herb yogurt sauce.More Fantastic Lamb Dishes
Creamed Corn with Bacon
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Michael Symon’s version of creamed corn gets a little tang from sour cream and a bright kick from lime zest. Slideshow: Corn Recipes 
Lots of people brine their turkeys. Not Michael Symon, who thinks brining makes the bird a little rubbery. In this turkey recipe, he salts his bird well and refrigerates it overnight to season it. Before roasting, he covers the breast and legs with cheesecloth that's been soaked in a cider-infused butter. For his beer-spiked gravy, Symon recommends the German-style Dortmunder Gold, made by Great Lakes Brewing Company, from his home state of Ohio. Slideshow: More Holiday Turkey Recipes Plus: Ultimate Thanksgiving Guide 
Michael Symon's four-ingredient potatoes get plenty of flavor from browned butter and crème fraîche. Reserve a little browned butter to drizzle on the potatoes just before serving. Plus:  Thanksgiving Side Dish Recipes 
To jazz up arugula salad and give it a slightly Greek twist, Michael Symon tosses it with chopped fresh dill, briny Greek feta cheese and kalamata olives. He finishes the salad with extra-virgin Greek olive oil, which he says has a pure flavor and is generally more affordable than olive oil from Italy.More Green Salad Recipes