He reigns over the city’s dining scene. Michael Symon, 37, is the culinary mind behind Cleveland restaurants Lola and Lolita, as well as New York City’s Parea. “In New York, you get a huge daily influx of diners from all over the country, so the crowd in a restaurant can be from an extremely diverse number of dining backgrounds.” Here, Symon is packing the house with his second incarnation of Lola, which opened last September on East Fourth Street. We recently talked to him about kitchen essentials, cooking at home and his local food favorites.
What one ingredient couldn’t you live without? Salt
What was the hardest skill for you to master in the kitchen? Restraint. A lot of younger chefs want to put too many ingredients on a plate as a way to prove their skill or knowledge. Eventually, you learn that simpler is always better.
What trend are you sick of? Foam and science cuisine. Enough said.
Most underrated spot in town: Flying Fig. Karen Small and her staff consistently do a great job.
What’s your favorite pizza in town? Vincenza’s on Prospect and Capri in Middleburg Heights
What’s your favorite brunch spot? Lucky’s in Tremont
What does the Cleveland food scene lack? A really good French brasserie What’s your favorite guilty food pleasure? Either saltandvinegar potato chips with Lawson’s chip dip or the MoFo Burger from Ray’s in Kent
Do you do the cooking at home? It’s a 50-50 split between me and Liz.
What is your favorite restaurant in New York? Mario Batali’s Babbo. He’s become a good friend and helped a lot with our transition into the New York restaurant scene.
What’s been your biggest surprise since reopening Lola? We’ve been surprised at how many new faces we see; people who never came in when we were in Tremont.