Chef Michael Symon is a familiar face in households across America from his appearances on shows like Iron Chef, Burgers, Brew & ‘Que and The Chew. He has written six award-winning cookbooks and is chef-proprietor of several restaurants throughout the US, where he showcases his signature bold flavours.
Symon was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in North Olstead. His family is of Greek, Sicilian and Eastern European ancestry, and his cooking is influenced by both his heritage and his Midwestern upbringing. The young Symon had his first taste of the professional kitchen working part time at Geppetto's Pizza and Ribs, before attending the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
After graduating, Symon returned to his native Cleveland, where he built a name for himself working in local restaurants, including Player’s, in Lakewood, Piccolo Mondo and Caxton Cafe. In 1997, he and future wife Liz Shanahan opened their first restaurant, Lola, in Cleveland's up-and-coming Tremont neighbourhood. Lola opened to rave reviews, placing Tremont firmly on the map as a go-to, hipster location, and helping to cement Symon’s reputation as one of America’s best chefs.
Symon’s flagship restaurant, Lola, was a bistro-style concept serving modern interpretations of Midwestern favourites. After opening the restaurant in 1997, Symon began winning awards almost immediately, being named a Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine in 1998, while Lola was chosen as one of America’s Best Restaurants by Gourmet magazine in 2000 and has been named Cleveland’s Best Restaurant on no less than 18 occasions. Lola moved from its original Tremont location to downtown Cleveland in 2006, but was sadly forced to close for good in November 2020 due to the financial pressures of the coronavirus pandemic.
Symon remains chef-proprietor of many other successful and award-winning restaurants, however, including Detroit steakhouse Roast, which was named Restaurant of the Year by the Detroit Free Press, and multi-award-winning burger chain B-Spot, which won the People’s Choice Award at the SoBe Wine and Food Festival on five separate occasions, and has been included in ‘Top 10 Burger Joints’ lists by both Bon Appetit and Food & Wine. He also owns Italian concept Angeline, located within the Borgata Hotel, Casino and Spa in Atlantic City; Bar Symon, with locations in various US airport lounges; Mabel’s BBQ, with branches in both Cleveland and Las Vegas; and Sara’s, a speakeasy supper club accessed through Mabel’s BBQ in Vegas.
In addition to his network of restaurants, Symon has written six award-winning cookbooks, four of which have made The New York Times Best Seller list, and won The James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Great Lakes in 2009. He is also known for his multiple appearances on TV, winning season one of The Next Iron Chef in 2008, and appearing as host of various popular shows, including Burgers, Brew, and 'Que, Cook like an Iron Chef, Dinner: Impossible, and Food Feuds. He was also a former co-host of Emmy award winning talk show The Chew and is the resident chef on Good Morning America.
Symon’s recipes are popular for a reason. Simple to make at home and full of big, Midwestern flavours, these are true classics given the gourmet treatment, and are sure to be loved by the whole family. These are just a few of our favourites, with links through to Symon’s website for the full recipe.
This vegan-friendly version of mac and cheese may seem surprising from a meat-loving chef like Symon, but thanks to some clever seasoning, there is no compromise on flavour. With a creamy ‘cheese’ and herb sauce and golden-brown herb crumb, this is comfort food at its indulgent best.
This fiery and satisfying chilli is super adaptable. You can mix and match to use your favourite beans and meat, and even swap the meat for diced eggplant to make it vegetarian. Serve with fresh cilantro, sour cream, lime wedges, sliced jalapeño and diced avocado.
Another hearty and flavourful stew, this dish is full of the aromatic flavours of celery, garlic and onion, with lentils, chunky potato and carrot, herbs and spices, all topped with a perfectly runny fried egg. You can add ground meat or sausage, or leave it out for a vegetarian dish.
Easily adapted according to your favourite ingredients and what you have in the refrigerator, this simple recipe creates a perfectly seasoned bean stew to accompany your meat or vegetarian protein of choice.
A simple and satisfying meal of chicken and beans in a perfectly-seasoned tomato gravy, all prepared in one pot. What could be simpler?
Symon may be renowned for his honest, home-cooked food, but he was one of a handful of chefs at the forefront of cutting-edge burger technology when his gourmet burger concept, B Spot was one of the first to trial the Impossible Burger 2.0, the 2019 upgrade of Impossible Foods’ ‘bleedable’ plant-based burger.
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