Michael Symon in 2007.
|Education||Culinary Institute of America|
Michael D. Symon (born September 19, 1969) is an American chef,restaurateur, television personality, and author. He is of Greek, Sicilian, and Eastern European descent. He is seen regularly on Food Network on shows such as Iron Chef America, Burgers, Brew and 'Que, Food Feuds, and The Best Thing I Ever Ate, as well as Cook Like an Iron Chef on the Cooking Channel and The Chew on ABC. He has also made numerous contributions to periodicals such as Bon Appétit, Esquire, Food Arts, Gourmet, Saveur and O, The Oprah Magazine.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Symon is the chef and owner of a number of restaurants in the Greater Cleveland area, including his flagship Lola, Mabel's BBQ and burger franchise BSpot. He is credited with helping to "save" the restaurant scene in Downtown Cleveland. He also owns Michael Symon's Roast (also known as Roast) in Detroit, Michigan. On May 6, 2017, he opened Angeline (named after his mother Angel) at the Borgata in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Symon describes his cooking as "meat-centric."
Symon was born in Cleveland, Ohio and is of Greek, Italian, and Eastern European ancestry. He was raised in North Olmsted, Ohio, attending St. Richard School in North Olmsted and St. Edward High School in Lakewood, graduating in 1987. He took a part-time job at Geppetto's Pizza and Ribs on Warren Rd. as a cook.
Symon cooked in the Cleveland restaurant scene, working at Player's, a Mediterranean restaurant in Lakewood. In 1993, he moved to Piccolo Mondo as chef, developing a small yet devoted following. He subsequently moved to Caxton Cafe.
In February 1997, Michael and his then-fiancée (now wife), Liz Shanahan, opened Lola in Cleveland's trendy Tremont neighborhood. It is named after his aunt. At the time, the neighborhood was just beginning to be rediscovered and develop into the hipster, "go to" neighborhood that it has become. Tremont food scene pioneers Gerry Groh and Lynda Khoury had opened and grown one of the first new restaurants, named Bohemia, in Tremont. After several years of success, the couple was ready to move on to other ventures and the couple sold the space to the Symons. Lola garnered rave reviews and was named one of America's Best Restaurants in Gourmet magazine in its October 2000 issue. In 2005, he converted Lola into Lolita, and reopened Lola in downtown Cleveland the next year.
On April 15, 2006, Symon opened a third restaurant, Parea, which in Greek means "a group of friends" or "company," in New York City. The restaurant, which featured upscale Greek food and was located on East 20th Street near Park Avenue, was run by Jonathon Sawyer, who tutored under Symon at Lolita. It was located next door to Gramercy Tavern. Symon partnered with Telly Hatzigeorgiou, George Pantelidis, and Peter J. Pappas. Although New York Times food critic Frank Bruni gave the food a 2-stars rating (very good), he noted that the sound level reached "piercing heights." By many accounts, the food was good, as the restaurant was even listed on "100 Tastes to Try in '07" in Food & Wine magazine. It closed in 2007, and was acquired by Stavros Aktipis who renamed it Kellari's Parea.
He opened a restaurant on July 1, 2009, called Bar Symon in Avon Lake, Ohio featuring casual concepts on tavern food. Soon after, he opened a hamburger focused restaurant named BSpot in Woodmere, Ohio. The original Avon Lake Bar Symon closed on October 19, 2010. However, the concept still exists in airports.
In October 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that Symon would contribute menu items to be prepared by foodservice firm Aramark at the Quicken Loans Arena. Two existing restaurants were renamed after Symon's bar-bistros, Bar Symon and BSpot, and some of his signature dishes were made available as suite catering offerings.
On October 19, 2010, Symon announced that he would be closing the Avon Lake location of Bar Symon. He later announced two more BSpot locations, one in Strongsville (opened April 6, 2011) and another in Westlake (late 2011). Another BSpot opened at the Horseshoe Casino Cleveland in May 2012, and a BSpot stand opened on the club level at Cleveland Browns Stadium for the 2012 NFL season. The BSpot in the casino closed in 2017.
On June 25, 2012, Symon opened another Bar Symon in Pittsburgh International Airport-Airmall in partnership with United Concessions Group and The Paradies Shops.
On November 21, 2015 Symon opened Symon's Burger Joint in Austin, TX near The University of Texas. This was his first venture outside of the Midwest. It closed in June 2017.
On January 10, 2016, a fire caused the closure of Lolita in Tremont, which was originally the site of Lola. On May 1, 2016, Symon claimed a restaurant named Sherla's Chicken & Oysters would open in the former Lolita spot. He posted a concept menu on Facebook. On March 14, 2017, a Symon representative said the restaurant was "currently in the design phase." A Facebook page for the restaurant was last updated on May 1, 2016, and has since been deleted. The URL sherlaschicken.com currently redirects to Symon's page. As late as May 15, 2019, Symon stated the project was in development: "We don't have an ETA, we're still plugging along," he said. "We got through everything with the building. We're hoping to start working on the building, hopefully within the next couple of weeks to a month. We're getting there." However, it was revealed 5 months later that the project would not be coming to fruition with no comment from Symon.
On April 11, 2016 Symon opened Mabel's BBQ on East 4th Street adjacent to Lola. On June 11, 2016, Symon noted there would be only one location of Mabel's BBQ. On December 20, 2018, another Mabel's BBQ restaurant opened at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. On February 6, 2019, a speakeasy named Sara's opened inside of the Palms Casino Mabel's BBQ location.
On November 20, 2020, it was announced that Symon's flagship restaurant Lola and 2 more locations of BSpot would close due to financial pressures of COVID-19, leaving his only Ohio restaurants to be Mabel's BBQ in the East 4th Street District and BSpot Eton in Woodmere.
Symon was one of the rotating hosts of Food Network's show Melting Pot. He appeared on Sara's Secrets with Sara Moulton, Ready, Set, Cook, and FoodNation with Bobby Flay. In 2005, he appeared on Iron Chef America, where he lost to Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto in Battle Asparagus.
On August 27, 2007, Symon appeared in the "Cleveland, OH" episode of the television series Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.
While competing in the reality competition TV series The Next Iron Chef, he reported on his experiences for Fortune, posted on CNN Money. On November 11, 2007, after a head-to-head match against John Besh, Symon was declared the winner of the entire competition. On November 18, 2007, Symon won his first battle on Iron Chef America.
On April 21, 2008, the Food Network announced that Symon would take over as host of Dinner: Impossible, the network's third most popular show. He hosted the show for ten episodes until host Robert Irvine was reinstated. Although it was not announced publicly, Symon knew it was a temporary gig "from the start."
He appeared along with several other Food Network stars on Dear Food Network: Thanksgiving Disasters, a program dealing with dinner mishaps which first aired November 17, 2008. He appeared in the very first episode of the network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, which featured his restaurant Lolita.
Cook Like an Iron Chef, a Cooking Channel show starring Symon, debuted in July 2010. He described it as "a show for the people who've watched Food Network forever and are ready to learn something more advanced or more creative."
The show Food Feuds, which featured Symon, premiered October 10, 2010. He travels to various locales and performs a direct comparison competition between local food rivals.
On February 14, 2011, Symon appeared in a skit on the late-night talk show Conan, in which a young couple had won a "romantic" Valentine's Day dinner date on the set. Conan O'Brien announced that Symon would be presenting them with their dinner--which he did, in the form of a Taco Party Pack from Taco Bell.
Symon has been the host of the television series Burgers, Brew and 'Que since 2015.
Symon was featured in fellow Clevelander Michael Ruhlman's 2001 book, The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection. The second part of the three-part book focuses on Symon's quest for culinary perfection.
In 2009, Symon collaborated with Ruhlman to write his first cookbook, Michael Symon's Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen (ISBN 978-0307453655). The foreword is written by fellow Iron Chef Bobby Flay. It was published by Clarkson Potter and was released on November 3, 2009.
On September 25, 2012, another cookbook was released named "The Chew: Food. Life. Fun." (ISBN 978-1401311063), co-authored by Symon along with fellow Iron Chef Mario Batali, long-time Food Network producer Gordon Elliott, Carla Hall, Clinton Kelly, and Daphne Oz. Three weeks later, Symon and Cleveland food writer Douglas Trattner collaborated to release his second offering, "Michael Symon's Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers" (ISBN 978-0307951786).
Beginning in September 2012, the Chew crew began releasing seasonal e-book cookbooks with "The Chew: Fall Flavors: More than 20 Seasonal Recipes from The Chew Kitchen," published by Hyperion Books, which is a unit of ABC parent The Walt Disney Company. It was followed up with "The Chew: Winter Flavors" in December 2012, while "The Chew: Spring Flavors" and "The Chew: Summer Flavors" were both released on April 23, 2013.
The Chew: What's for Dinner (ISBN 978-1-4013-1281-7), was released on September 24, 2013, by Hyperion Books, and is the second book based on the hot ABC television show. The cookbook features 100 easy recipes for every night of the week provided by Symon along with his co-hosts. In this cookbook, Symon provides quick and easy recipes for chicken marsala, angel hair caprese, and many others. He also shares tips on how to cook scallops restaurant-style.
Onter cookbooks include 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners (2013), 5 in 5: 5 for Every Season (2015), Michael Symon's Playing with Fire (2018), and Fix It with Food (2019). These were all co-authored by Douglas Trattner.
In 2011, Symon partnered with kitchenware company Weston Products on his official specialty kitchen product line, the Michael Symon Live to Cook Collection by Weston.
In 2012, and again in 2013, Symon was paired with actress Eva Longoria for a promotion for PepsiCo's Lay's potato chip called "Do Us A Flavor." The promotion encourages consumers to submit new flavor ideas and fans vote for their favorite on Facebook. The person who creates the winning flavor is awarded $1 million or one percent of chip flavor's net sales.
Symon is married to Liz Symon, who has also been a collaborator on his restaurants. His wife is a vegetarian. Symon has an adult son, Kyle, who was two years old when Michael and Liz married.