Join us! We are playing the name game with Michael Symon! Learn the stories behind how he named his restaurants, what celebrity chef he calls "Hollywood" and the names of his five favorite restaurants.
How I Named My Restaurants: Lola
Symon and his wife's first restaurant, Lola, originated in Tremont, Ohio and later moved to Cleveland. "We loved the name," explains the chef. "It's my aunt's name and she is very vibrant with tons of personality, the life of the party. Her personality embraced everything that we wanted to have in the restaurant."
"Originally we were going to call it Deluxe, but someone already owned the name," Symon remembers. "As we were sitting there talking about what we wanted to have at the restaurant, I [said], 'we want to have burgers, beer, bratwurst, bologna and bourbon,' and so I was like, 'what do you guys think about B Spot?'"
Roast opened in Detriot in 2008 at The Westin Book Cadillac Detroit. "The hotel wanted us to do a steak house, but I didn’t want to do a traditional [one]," assures Symon. "I wanted it to be a meat house. So we had rotisseries, wood-burning ovens and wood-fired grills and we were going to have all of these interesting ways to cook meat, so I felt that 'Roast' summed up what we were trying to accomplish there—that it was more than just steak."
How I Named My Books: 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners
The title of Symon's latest book, 5 in 5, comes from the cooking segment on The Chew of the same name.
How I Named My Books: Carnivore
Symon refers to Carnivore as his "ode to meat" which he has wanted to write forever. "I wanted it to be my first cookbook, [but my publishers] didn’t like the idea, and that is how Live to Cook happened. The first book was going to be called The Hog is a Magical Animal. This was before [pork became very popular], and they said no."
"I did Live to Cook which did very well, so I had a little bit of freedom on the second book. They still didn’t like The Hog is a Magical Animal, so I did Carnivore."
How I Named My Books: Live to Cook
"My first cookbook was called Live to Cook which has always been my motto," says Symon. "The Live to Cook book is a mix of family recipes, personal recipes, recipes that I’ve been doing [throughout my career], from Player's to Giovanni's, to Caxton to Piccolo Mondo. [They] encompass my life in food."
What I Call My Friends: Jonathan Waxman
"I call Jonathan Waxman, 'Papa,'" says Symon. "He is everybody’s culinary dad."
Image Credit: Rick Kern/WireImage
What I Call My Friends: Bobby Flay
"I call Bobby 'Hollywood,'" Symon shares. "It seems like I’ve known him forever, but he was one of the originators at the forefront of the whole celebrity chef thing. As much as I like to kid him and bust his chops, he has been a terrific mentor to me in the TV world and I wouldn’t be where I am in TV if it weren’t for Bobby."
Symon met Flay while making appearances on the Food Network and got to know him well while filming The Melting Pot. On that show, his cohost, Wayne Harley Brachman, was Flay's pastry chef.
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What I Call My Friends: The Chew co-hosts
As for his cohosts on The Chew, Symon keeps their nicknames simple. "I call Clinton 'CK' or 'Clinton Kelly', his full name," he offers. "I call Mario 'Batails' or 'Malto.' Carla Hall same thing, I call her [by her full name], 'Carla Hall.' [For] Daphne, [it is] 'Dapheles.'"
Image Credit: Donna Svennevik/Disney ABC Television Group
How I Named My Restaurant Dishes
While Symon used to do a lot of "cutesy names" on his menu at Lola (think the knuckle sandwich and slash-and-burn grouper), he now only has them on his B Spot menu. "At B Spot, we have the 'Fat Doug' which is named after my and Liz’s partner Doug Petkovic who is not fat at all really, but he is always making fun of his beer belly," Symon says. Also, "all of my friends used to call my wife Lizzy 'Thin Lizzy,' so we have a 'Thin Lizzy' burger."
Names of My Five Favorite Restaurants: Mesa Grill, New York City
"Mesa Grill has always been one of my favorites," shares Symon. "I eat way too many tamales and drink way too many margaritas."
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Names of My Five Favorite Restaurants: Sokolowski’s, Tremont, Ohio
"There is an old place in Cleveland, Sokolowski’s, [that serves] polish [food like] pierogies, stuffed cabbage, potato pancakes and salsbury steak, cafeteria-style," Symon explains. "You eat it and then you take a two hour nap."
In the early days of Lola, when there were only three people working the kitchen, Symon used to take them out to the restaurant, which Symon remembers as having "pierogies as big as your head." "We were closed on Mondays, so I'd bring the guys to eat there. If we would go on Tuesdays, we’d be so lethargic through dinner time that we would be falling asleep at our stations."
Image Credit: Getty Images
Name of the One Food I Could Eat Every Day for the Rest of My Life
For Symon, it would be pasta. "The simpler the better," he asserts. "Pasta pomodoro, bucatini all'amatriciana or a great bolognese—the simpler ones tend to be my favorites."
Image Credit: Getty Images
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While Michael Symon is a celebrity chef sensation around the country today, he wasn't always working towards TV fame. The chef got his start as a sous chef at Player's in Lakewood, Ohio and took a variety of chef jobs around the Cleveland area following that, from Caxton Cafe to Giavonni's to Piccolo Mondo. He had a dream to open his own restaurant and after years of working for others, finally opened Lola in Tremont, Ohio.
Then, the world began to take notice. In 1998, Food & Wine named Chef Symon as one of the top 10 chefs in America which led to guest appearances on the Food Network. Soon, he had his own show, TheMelting Pot, on the Cooking Channel.
After a couple of years on The Melting Pot, he took a break from TV, but when he returned, it seemed to have been for good. Symon did a few specials with Bobby Flay and then came to Iron Chef seven years ago and The Chew two years ago.
Now Symon takes a look back with us as he shares the stories behind the names of his restaurants and his cookbooks as well as his nicknames for other celebrity chefs and the names of his favorite restaurants.
Check out the slideshow above to join us in playing the name game with Michael Symon!