Chef Michael Symon, the James Beard award winning chef and Cleveland-based restaurateur of TV’s “Iron Chef America” recently visited Austin to host Lipton’s fourth and final Chef Fest dining event of the year.
The event, which sought to inspire people to use a large family style meal to reconnect with each other, featured an interactive cooking demo where Michael made one of his favorite dishes and shared cooking tips while attendees ate a large family-style feast. Michael has always wanted his cooking to accomplish one thing: bring people together. That’s why he’s partnered with Lipton – a company dedicated to the very same goal – to join them as part of their sold-out Chef Fest.
Michael found a few minutes for a rapid-fire Q&A with Austin Food Magazine. I asked some of my most burning (and very important) questions: Is he a Longhorns fan? Does he prefer vodka or bourbon? Read on to find out.
Austin Food Magazine: It’s football season, who’s your team?
Michael Symon: “Cleveland Browns and the Buckeyes.”
AFM: What’s your absolute favorite cut of meat to grill when you’re tailgating?
MS:”Ribeye or skirtsteak.”
AFM: Condiments or no condiments?
AFM: Hookem Horns or No comment?
MS:”Earl Campbell is my favorite football player of all time and he’s also a friend, but if the Horns are playing the Buckeyes I gotta go with the Buckeyes, but otherwise yes Hookem!”
AFM: Favorite Fall ingredient to cook with right now?
MS: “Butternut squash.”
AFM: Thanksgiving Turkey; fried, roasted or smoked?
MS: “Roasted or smoked, I’m not a huge fan of frying turkey. It tastes good but it’s a huge mess.”
AFM: Favorite Fall side dish?
MS: “Butternut Squash gratin.”
AFM: What’s a culinary trend you want to die of a slow and painful death?
MS: “Molecular gastronomy! Just make it go away.”
AFM: Vodka or Bourbon?
MS: “What’s vodka?”
AFM: Bloody Mary or mimosa?
MS: “What’s a mimosa ha ha!”
AFM: Celebrity alive or dead you would love to cook dinner for?
MS: “We’re in Austin, Stevie Ray Vaughn.”
AFM: What would you cook?
MS: “I would do barbecue because you could just waste several hours just to BS with him, maybe play a little music. I think that’d be fun.”
AFM: Favorite anytime guilty pleasure food?
MS: “Salt and vinegar chips.”
AFM: Tell me how to cook the perfect steak.
MS: “Just season it heavily with kosher salt and dark pepper the night before, let it sit uncovered in the fridge, start with a very hot charcoal grill and let it char for about 4-6 mins on each side then move it to the cooler side of the grill to let it finish a bit. That’s it, keep it simple.”
AFM: Does your family help you cook at home?
MS: “Oh yeah all of the time. My wife is a great cook, my 98 yr old grandfather was a great cook; my son is 29 and has his own food business so he’s a great cook. So, yea we can cook ha ha! A family that cooks together stays together!”
AFM: What’s your favorite restaurant in Austin?
MS: “I love barbecue so much, and although it’s not a full sit-down restaurant but I just love La Barbecue, I ate there for lunch today actually!”
AFM: You didn’t have to wait in line did you?
MS: “Ha ha, well I know LeAnn so… She and Alli are great and Dylan is doing a killer job, you know for a 22-year old kid as a pit master that’s just unbelievable!”
AFM: Who’s your favorite chef in Austin?
MS: “Stewart Scruggs, he’s an old friend and we’ve been friends since the late 80’s. He was ahead of the food scene here when he opened Zoot in like 1990 when there wasn’t much of a food scene here in Austin. People don’t talk about him as much anymore but I really think he’s one of the guys that started the great food movement here in Austin.”
AFM: One of my favorite things about Thanksgiving is the day after Thanksgiving sandwich, so what’s on your day-after sandwich?
MS: “Well I usually make my sandwich right at the fridge door when everyone is passed out on the couch after dinner. I’ll start with my bread or a couple of slices of my mother’s Youma loaf, cranberry relish, sliced turkey, stuffing, brown mustard, and shaved brown onion if I have some. It’s literally falling a part and probably falling on the floor and the dogs are cleaning it up. It’s perfect.”
AFM: Tell me about Lipton’s Chef Fest.
MS: “I got involved with Chef Fest this year because cooking is about bringing people together and that’s always something I’ve always preached as a chef. I have a Greek and Scilian mom, when she cooked it was a party and that was to me. To me that’s the most important thing that food does. When we do this event, people from each town come together, we cook a dish for a demo, and get everyone together for a big family feast. To pair up with such an iconic brand like Lipton, I mean they’ve been bringing people together for years and years. I wasn’t allowed to drink pop when I was a kid, so we drank a lot of ice tea and I’ve been drinking Lipton for a very long time, so to be able to partner with them and have everyone come together for a food festival is great!”
For more information about the Chef Fest series and for recipes from the event go to LiptonBrightBites.com.