SheKnows grilled celebrity chef Michael Symon to get the skinny on Iron Chef, The Chew, Greek cooking and Eva Longoria. Plus, check out his answers to our Celebrity Chef rapid-fire.
an Iron Chef
When we got the chance to interview Iron Chef Michael Symon, we were stoked! So, who does he think is the toughest to beat in Kitchen Stadium? Sit back and relax, dear readers. We’ve got all the deets.
An interview with chef Michael Symon
Celebrity Chef rapid-fire
Favorite fellow celebrity chef?
Bobby Flay… He is one of my best friends and has been a terrific mentor on the “celebrity” side of chef-ing.
Favorite casual restaurant in Cleveland/Ohio?
Favorite fast-food restaurant?
In and Out
Favorite food truck?
Big Gay Ice Cream Truck
Foodie guilty pleasure?
Salt and vinegar chips & Mint chocolate chip ice cream
Food you hate?
Favorite non-food-related show?
Hobbies other than cooking?
Best ingredient no one’s using?
Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt!
Favorite U.S. regional cuisine?
I love, love, love Southern food
SheKnows: Thanks for agreeing to this interview. Before we get into food, you do the Lay’s commercials with Eva Longoria. What was it like working with her?
Michael Symon: Fantastic!! She could not have been nicer. Has become a great friend and sounding board.
SK: Speaking of TV, who would you say is the toughest Iron Chef?
MS: Morimoto is amazingly creative and a true craftsman, but I think Bobby [Flay] would be the hardest to beat.
SK: Which battle did you personally think was the hardest and why?
MS: Basil. Very hard to make an herb the star ingredient without it overpowering the meal.
SK: How does your Greek heritage influence your cooking, especially on Iron Chef, where you have no control over one of your main ingredients?
MS: The simplicity and pureness of Greek cuisine works very well in Kitchen Stadium. Ever since I was a little boy, Greek yogurt has been a staple in my kitchen. In fact, my grandmother made Greek yogurt from scratch, and I’ve incorporated it into a ton of my recipes, including my wife’s famous biscuit recipe! I actually eat Dannon Oikos Greek yogurt every day because it reminds me of the yogurt I grew up with.
SK: Do you have any tips on incorporating Greek ingredients, like Greek yogurt and hummus, into the foods we eat every day?
MS: They work very well not only as base for dressing and soups but also are great for marinades.
SK: In doing my research, I saw a recipe you did for a roasted leg of lamb with mint and cucumber yogurt. It sounded delicious, but I have a couple of problems. First, bone-in leg of lamb always causes me issues. What’s the trick to making sure it cooks evenly?
MS: Once you get a nice sear on the exterior, drop the roasting temp to 275 and cook it until the meat reaches 135… let it rest for 20 minutes and serve.
SK: My second issue is that I can’t manage to get the right balance of ingredients on the tzatziki sauce. In fact, in my research, I’ve found I’m not the only one. What’s the secret?
MS: Don’t make it too thick and don’t be afraid to load up on dill and mint and always finish it with extra-virgin olive oil.
SK: Great tips! Speaking of giving out tips, what’s your favorite part of hosting The Chew?
MS: The whole crew. Amazing group of people that make work a blast every day.
SK: Finally, you’re from Cleveland , so my boyfriend (who’s also from Cleveland) wouldn’t forgive me if I skipped this. Favorite Great Lakes brew?
MS: Christmas Ale of course!!
We’d like to thank chef Symon for taking the time to answer these questions. Check out the recipe he’s provided us below and his answers to our Celebrity Chef rapid-fire.
Spinach gratin recipe
Courtesy of chef Michael Symon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 6 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1/2 cup Dannon Oikos plain Greek nonfat yogurt
- 1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
- Preheat a medium oven-safe saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt.
- Cook for 3 minutes, then add the spinach. Cook for an additional minute or until the spinach had wilted slightly, then reduce the heat to low.
- Stir in the yogurt and 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning, adding additional salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed.
- Sprinkle the breadcrumbs in an even layer over the top followed by the remaining Parmesan.
- Place the pan under a broiler on the low setting and cook for an additional 8 to 10 minutes or until the top is golden brown.