Symon says: You can cook


There must be some superhuman gene involved in being Michael Symon. Chef and owner of numerous restaurants, including the Cleveland-area staples Lola, Lolita, Bar Symon and B Spot, Symon somehow also finds time to appear on shows such as "Iron Chef America" on Food Network, ABC's "The Chew" and his recent series, "Symon's Suppers" on Cooking Channel.

Since September, Symon has been challenging himself on "The Chew" with "Five in Five," a segment in which he introduces viewers to a dish with five or fewer ingredients that can be purchased for five dollars (or less) and made in five minutes. "Today we did a grilled salmon with shaved carrot, peanut, mint and shallot that was super-healthy -- it was, like, 350 (calories) a portion," he says.

But there's room for heartier "Five in Five" fare as well. "A lot of people at Thanksgiving are cooking for 20. A lot of people are cooking for two -- so just a nice, quick chicken cutlet dish with cranberries and arugula to kind of give you that sensation of Thanksgiving, but without the cost and being able to make it in a smaller portion."

According to Symon, after all of this thinking on his feet in the kitchen, his principal passion has become teaching the everyday person to cook. He's very adamant about it. "What I always try to teach people with food in general is, I'm going to show you a bazillion different recipes, but I'm going to show you 10 really good, basic techniques," he says. "Those techniques, for the most part, are not going to change. And that's going to give you the ability to cook a lot of different things -- not just learn a recipe. A recipe should be a guide to your own creativity. Once you learn the technique, you can kind of cook forever."

What are you currently reading?"I just finished 'Devil in the Kitchen' by Marco Pierre White. Great book. Read it quickly -- in, like, a day. Tonight I am actually hoping to start 'Blood, Bones & Butter' by Gabrielle Hamilton."

What did you have for dinner last night?"Roasted chicken over roast sweet potatoes, with jalapenos and cilantro."

What is your next project?"The next part of my life, in that sense, is the ability to teach people, which I'm really enjoying doing. On the restaurant front, in this next year, we're going to open another B Spot, which will give us five; we're opening up a Bar Symon in a Pittsburgh airport, and we're opening another restaurant in Cleveland called S&P Kitchen, Bar and Smokehouse, which will be a 100-percent nod to the cuisine of Cleveland."

When was the last vacation you took -- where and why?"I don't get to take a lot of those. Actually, I was in Hawaii for Food Network. That was my last trip. I was kind of lucky. We worked pretty much for two days straight, but on the island was one of Morimoto's restaurants, so we had a sashimi blowout. It was fantastic."

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