Iron Chef Michael Symon
Jeremy Emmerson chats with Iron Chef Michael Symon
As his book comes hot off the press, the Iron Chef, restaurateur and now author takes time out to talk about his food, thoughts and first publication Michael Symon’s Live To Cook Recipes and Techniques To Rock Your Kitchen.
G.C. - The recipes in your book are influenced by a collection of ethnic backgrounds, diverse, yet cohesive. How did you decide which dishes were going to make the pages of Live To Cook?
M.S. - I wanted the book to be more than a collection of recipes, I wanted it to tell a story too, to tell the tale of my childhood till now. The recipes are a reflection of my family, friends, family and the way I was raised; these are the things that have got me to where I am now.
G.C. - If the book was penned by another author, how would you, as a chef, put the book to work in your kitchen?
M.S. - I would take a real good look at the base recipes, go through the lessons with young cooks, review how to season, baste discuss the use of acid and fat, how one plays off the other.
G.C - Name names… tell us which recipes in your book are must try dishes?
M.S. -Dates with chili; super simple, but sum up how I feel about food – sweet, salty… the pickles are great and such a huge part of how I cook. Pork belly is my thing and some of those family style dishes are great, my mom’s lasagna is the best!
G.C - What is your daily or weekly routine like?
M.S. - I am quite regimented; 5am coffee, newspaper, workout, back by 8am. I hang out with my wife and then bounce from restaurant to restaurant. I spend most of my time at Lola working with the cooks. I am normally home around 10pm.
G.C - How did you fit writing Live To Cook in to your schedule?
M.S. - Well just like a restaurant it is not about one person and it took about four years. I did most of it out of my home; we just fitted it in when we could. I am happy that it took so long, it gave me time to really think about it and enjoy the process.
G.C - Your life has dramatically changed over the past several years, chef, restaurateur, author, Iron Chef. Who is Michael Symon?
M.S. - It has not changed me at all. I love being with friends and family, and my family keeps me very grounded especially my mother. She is Greek and know if don’t call her I hear all about it, I am the same guy now as I was 20 years ago…
G.C. - With this kind of profile, does it mean that you can’t eat out without an enthusiastic chef sending you a tasting menu or a collection of pork dishes when you simply want a burger? What's the best and worst part of being a well known chef?
M.S. - The best thing is that I can give back and give back in a way that I never thought possible. I support three charities; Autism Speaks, Share our Strength, a local Cleveland charity Urban Community Schools, I have been able to raise a million dollars since I have been involved with the school, I could have never done that without my “celebrity status”. On the other end I have not had a normal meal out with my wife in years, I know peoples’ intentions are never mean spirited, but people always want to stop at the table. As result, we have got pretty good at cooking at home.
G.C. - Whose restaurants’ rock?
M.S. - All of Paul Kahn’s places, Jonathan Waxman’s Barbuto and Mesa Grill is always great. Bobby is so under rated. He is an amazing chef, I mean think about it, he brought Southwestern cooking to New York twenty years ago.
G.C. - Which high profile/Food Network chefs have you become friends with over the past few years?
M.S. - I know a lot of them from the days when the network was just starting up. I was on the show The Melting Pot so I know the old guard pretty well, Mario and Rachel. Bobby and the other Iron Chefs I know well but not so much the newer guys.
G.C. - What’s next for you, do you see a follow up to Live To Cook or more restaurants in the future?
M.S. - I would love to do some single subject books, all about the pig… meat, grilling, pasta that type of book.
G.C. - What advice would you give to the chefs out there that would like to follow in your footsteps?
M.S. - You can’t be afraid to work your butt off, don’t get frustrated, work for the chefs you want to learn from and don’t be afraid to ask questions…
To Buy Live To Cook online, click here
Portrait shot courtesy of the Food Network