Michael Symon ’90, Restaurateur/Media Personality
Renowned in the culinary world and adored in his hometown of Cleveland, Michael is the executive chef and owner of the Symon Restaurant Group whose stable of eateries include Lola and Lolita in Cleveland, OH; Roast in Detroit; Bar Symon in Pittsburgh and Washington, DC; and B Spot with locations in Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Austin. Symon’s latest restaurant is named after his first dog: Mabel’s BBQ. Located next door to Lola, the restaurant specializes in Cleveland barbecue by paying homage to the city’s Eastern European population with kielbasa and sauerkraut, and will include its own signature style of barbecue sauce. “Because ketchup is made in Pittsburgh, we would never serve a tomato-based sauce in Cleveland,” says Michael. “Cleveland’s known for its mustard, and I wanted to use that as the base of our sauce. But instead of the classic, Carolina, yellow-mustard BBQ sauce, I’m using Cleveland’s famous brown mustard, Bertman’s. We just felt like when people come to Cleveland and eat barbecue they should eat in the style of barbecue that represents our city.”
Michael recently signed on to develop an Italian restaurant in Atlantic City, NJ at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa. “This is the food I grew up eating—my Sicilian grandmother would be proud,” he says. “Authentic Italian is what I cooked in my early career and still what I like to make at home.” The restaurant is scheduled to open in late 2016.
In January 2016, a fire destroyed Lolita and the restaurant was forced to close. Michael is currently working on opening a new restaurant for the space called Sherla’s Chicken and Oyster, named after his mother-in-law.
A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Michael’s pedigree includes being named one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine in 1998 and receiving a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2009.
Born to a family of Greek, Sicilian, and Eastern European heritage, food played an integral part in his childhood. Michael started cooking in high school when a broken arm ended his competitive wrestling days. Returning to Cleveland after graduating from the CIA, Michael work at Players, Picolo Mondo, Giovanni’s, and The Caxton Cafe before launching Lola Bistro in 1997 followed by Lolita in 2005. He stepped out of the kitchen appearing on the Iron Chef in 2005 and, in 2007, was a winner of Food Network’s The Next Iron Chef. Michael was one of the rotating hosts for Food Network’s Melting Pot series and appeared on Sara’s Secrets with Sara Moulton ’77, the Ready, Set, Cook program, No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain ’78, Food Nation with Bobby Flay, Dinner: Impossible, The Best Think I Ever Ate, and served as a mentor on All-Star Academy. He has also appeared on the Cooking Channel’s Cook Like an Iron Chef , Symon’s Suppers, and Food Feuds. Michael’s most recent television show, Burgers, Brews & ‘Que premiered on July 17, 2015 on the Food Network. In it Michael travels the country interviewing and cooking with some of the best barbecue chefs, pitmasters, and brewmasters.
Michael has been featured in national magazines such as Gourmet, Bon Appétit, Saveur, Food Arts, Esquire and O, The Oprah Magazine. He currently serves as a co-host of the popular ABC daytime talk show, The Chew, and has contributed recipes to the series’ cookbooks The Chew: What’s for Dinner, The Chew: Food. Life. Fun., and The Chew: A Year of Celebrations: Festive and Delicious Recipes for Every Occasion. Michael was the recipient along with co-hosts Clinton Kelly, Carla Hall, Daphne Oz, and Mario Batali of the 2015 Emmy award for Outstanding Informative Talk Show Host for The Chew.
Michael was a spokesperson for Vita-Mix and a brand ambassador for Calphalon, developed a line of cookware called Michael Symon Live to Cook Collection by Weston, and partnered with Ergo Chef in the design and creation of Michael Symon Cutlery. He was featured in Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Towards Perfection. Symon went on to collaborate with Ruhlman in 2009 with the creation of his first cook book entitled Live to Cook: Recipes & Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen. In 2012, Michael released Carnivore: 120 Recipes for Meat Lovers. A segment on the first season of The Chew was the inspiration behind the 2013 cookbook Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients, 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners and the followup, Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 For Every Season, released on September 29, 2015.
In 2010, Michael was the first chef ever to host the annual Farm Aid benefit concert and he actively supports Share Our Strength, Urban Community Schools, and Autism Speaks.
When he’s not working, Michael enjoys riding his motorcycle, cooking at home, playing golf, contemplating his next tattoo, gardening in the backyard, and spending time with his wife and business partner, Lizzie, and their dogs, a Bullmastiff named Ruby and Old English Bulldog named Ozzy.