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Michael Symon
MSymon Oct2008.jpg
Born September 19, 1969 (1969-09-19) (age 40)
Cleveland, Ohio
Education Culinary Institute of America

Michael D. Symon (born September 19, 1969) is a James Beard Foundation Award-winning American chef,[1] an Iron Chef, restaurateur, and author.

He is credited as helping to "save" the restaurant scene in downtown Cleveland.[2] He is the chef and owner of three restaurants: Lola and Lolita, both in Cleveland, and Michael Symon's Roast in Detroit. Additionally, he owns a brasserie and bar named Bar Symon in Avon Lake, Ohio. He most recently opened The B Spot, a casual burger and bratwurst eatery, on Cleveland's east side. He has contributed to Bon Appétit, Esquire, Food Arts, Gourmet, Saveur and O, The Oprah Magazine.


Early life and career

Lola's patio on East 4th Street in downtown Cleveland

Symon was born in Cleveland, Ohio,[3] and is of Greek, Italian, and Eastern European ancestry.[4][5][6] He was raised in North Olmsted, Ohio, and attended St. Richard School in North Olmsted, and St. Edward High School in Lakewood. A wrestler, he broke an arm during practice and was unable to continue competing. He took a part time job at Gepetto's Ribs on Warren Rd. as a cook.[7] He graduated from St. Edward in 1987.

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 1990, Symon worked the Cleveland restaurant scene, working at Player's, a Mediterranean restaurant in Lakewood. In 1993, he moved to Piccolo Mondo and he was brought aboard as chef, developing a small yet devoted following. He subsequently moved to Caxton Cafe.

Symon describes his cooking as "meat-centric."[5]


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. The restaurant garnered rave reviews and was named one of Americas Best Restaurants in Gourmet Magazine (October 2000 issue).[8] In 2005, he converted Lola into Lolita,[9] and reopened Lola in downtown Cleveland the next year.

On April 15, 2006, Symon open his third restaurant, Parea, which in Greek means "a group of friends" or "company," in New York City.[10] 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 also located next door to renowned Gramercy Tavern. Symon partnered with Telly Hatzigeorgiou, George Pantelidis, and Peter J. Pappas.[11] Although he gave the food a 2-stars rating (very good), New York Times food critic Frank Bruni noted that the sound level reached "piercing heights."[12] By many accounts, the food was good, as the restaurant was even listed on "100 Tastes to Try in ’07" in Food & Wine Magazine.[13] However, it was up against a cynical New York restaurant scene where his flavors were considered not "vibrant" enough, and was chided that it "might improve after Mr. Symon gets more experience in the New York restaurant world." [14] It would close in 2007, thereafter Stavros Aktipis would acquire it and renamed the restaurant Kellari's Parea.

He opened a restaurant named Michael Symon's Roast at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel in Detroit, Michigan in the fall of 2008.[5] Roast was quickly named the 2009 Restaurant of the Year by the Detroit Free Press.[15]

He opened a new restaurant on July 1, 2009, called Bar Symon located in Avon Lake, Ohio featuring casual concepts on tavern food. Soon after, he opened a similarly themed restaurant named The B Spot on Cleveland's east side.

In October 2009, the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that Symon will contribute menu items to be prepared by foodservice firm Aramark at the Quicken Loans Arena. Two existing restaurants will be renamed after Symon's bar-bistros, Bar Symon and The B-Spot, as well as making some of his signature dishes available as suite catering offerings.[16]

Awards and honors

In 1995, The Plain Dealer's Sunday Magazine named Symon as Cleveland’s hottest chef.[2]

He was named a National Rising Star by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine (May 1997 issue). [8] In 1998, he was named one of the Ten Best New Chefs in America by Food & Wine Magazine (July 1998 issue).[17]

In 2006, Symon was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in the "Best Chef Great Lakes" category. He would be nominated again in 2009, finally winning the prestigious award. It was one of the few moments when Symon was "speechless."

In 2007, Cleveland Magazine named him Best Local Chef for Lola and Lolita.

In 2010, the "Fat Doug" hamburger was named top burger at the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival, beating out a burger from Bobby Flay as the "best burger in America."[18] The burger, which is topped with pastrami, Swiss cheese and coleslaw on a brioche bun, is currently featured on the menu at The B Spot.

Media and appearances

He works as a "spokeschef," representing cookware companies Vita-Mix and Calphalon, appearing housewares shows and other demonstration events.[19]

He also appears on behalf of Food Network. During the summer of 2009, he promoted the Food Network's video game named Cook Or Be Cooked for Nintendo Wii, which was released on November 3, 2009.[20] [21]


Symon was one of the rotating hosts of Food Network's show Melting Pot, and 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.[22]

On August 27, 2007, Symon appeared in the Cleveland episode of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

While competing in The Next Iron Chef, he reported on his experiences for Fortune, posted on CNN Money.[23] On November 11, 2007, after a head-to-head match against John Besh, he was officially named "The Next Iron Chef". On November 18, 2007, Symon won his first battle on Iron Chef America.[24]

In the months following The Next Iron Chef, he made the rounds on national network and syndicated programs, including The View [25] and the Rachael Ray Show. [26]

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. [27] However, he hosted the show for ten episodes until host Robert Irvine was reinstated. Although it wasn't announced publicly, Symon knew it was a temporary gig "from the start."[28]

He also 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.[29] He also appeared on the network's show called The Best Thing I Ever Ate, which also featured Lolita in first episode of season 1.


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. The foreword is written by fellow Iron Chef Bobby Flay. It is being published by Clarkson Potter and is scheduled to be released on November 3, 2009 - ISBN 978-0307453655.

To compliment the book "Live to Cook," a reader created a blog titled Live to Home [4] to document as he attempts to cook his way through the book.


  1. ^ 2009 James Beard Award Winners
  2. ^ a b Michael Ruhlman The Lola Moment, Cleveland Magazine, November 2006 issue
  3. ^ Bryan Miller CHOICE TABLES; In Cleveland, Industrial Chic And Inventive Chefs - New York Times The New York Times January 2, 2000
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ a b c [2]
  6. ^
  7. ^ Food Network: Michael Symon, Biography
  8. ^ a b Fabulous Food Show bio
  9. ^ Cicora, Elaine T. The Lola Effect, Scene. 2005-12-28.
  10. ^ Robin Raisfeld and Rob PatroniteRestaurant Openings and Buzz, New York Magazine, May 1, 2006
  11. ^
  12. ^ Frank Bruni From Delphi, by Way of Cleveland, The New York Times, July 5, 2006
  13. ^
  14. ^ John Healy Restaurant Review: Parea, The Epoch Times, May 27, 2006
  15. ^ Sylvia RectorMichael Symon's Roast heats up Detroit, Detroit Free Press, April 20, 2009
  16. ^ Acclaimed Chef Michael Symon Brings His Signature Menu to Quicken Loans Arena, in Partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers and ARAMARK (Accessed October 8, 2009)
  17. ^ Best New Chefs - 1998 - Michael Symon
  18. ^ AP‘Fat Doug’ named top hamburger Iron Chef Michael Symon beats out Bobby Flay's creationToday Show Website, February 26, 2010(accessed March 16, 2010)
  19. ^ Lyndsey Walker The next course: Iron Chef Michael Symon takes one thing at a time Inside Business January 1, 2008
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ Episode IA0401, Morimoto vs. Symon, 'Battle Asparagus'
  23. ^ [3]
  24. ^ Episode IASP07, 'Thanksgiving Battle'
  25. ^ Episode dated 23, November 23, 2007
  26. ^ Season 2 Episode 152, May 7, 2008
  27. ^ J.M. Hirsch Food Network names new host of 'Dinner: Impossible' USAToday April 21, 2008
  28. ^ Joe Crea Michael Symon exits 'Dinner: Impossible' -- and talks to us about it, Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 21, 2008
  29. ^ November 17, 2008

External links

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