July 27, 2010 / 10:07 AM / 9 years ago

Chef Michael Symon shares tips to cook like a pro

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Chef Michael Symon says home cooks can make the same sophisticated dishes he creates on the reality television competition “Iron Chef America.”

In his new show, “Cook Like an Iron Chef,” Symon, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in New York, shows viewers how to prepare dishes centered on one ingredient, which is the basis of the show.

The 41-year-old award-winning chef, who co-owns five restaurants in Michigan and Ohio, including Lola and Lolita, spoke to Reuters about elevating home cooking, the importance of using good ingredients and introducing a new generation about the importance of food.

Q: What will home cooks learn from your show?

A: “We are cooking in real time. It’s a true process. The way I look at it is that people who have been watching the Food Network for the past 15 years and have learned all the basics of cooking and are looking to take their next steps and take things up the next level.”

Q: But a home cook doesn’t have sous chefs to help him or her like you do on “Iron Chef America.”

A: “On ‘Iron Chef,’ you have two sous chefs helping you, but at home you are typically not cooking a five-course dinner either. Where it works very well for the home cook is that there are the dishes that taste great, cooked at a high level and are proud to be served in any of my restaurants, but you can make them in a pretty quick time.”

Q: How will you inspire the viewers to be Iron Chefs?

A: “The message I always try to get across as a chef and what I’ve preached in owning restaurants for 15 years is that we will teach some really fundamental techniques, which is super important to make great food.

“But the other thing to make great food is sourcing your products. This is what is going to elevate your food to the next level. Here is the way I teach. Here are the recipes and techniques and let your palette be the guide a little bit.”

Q; What are the common misconceptions about home cooking you’ve come across?

A: “The biggest misconception is that it’s harder than it really is. I’ve worked with people who never picked up a knife before. In an hour, I had them making a great meal.

“A lot of people are intimidated. For the longest time, chefs and restaurateurs were able to get products home cooks couldn’t get, but that’s not the case anymore.

“There are great grocery stores. There are great green markets that allow consumers to get the exact ingredients that we were able to get. If you give me a very bad piece of chicken, I’m going to give you a very average dinner. But if you give me a fantastic piece of chicken, I’m going to give you a fantastic dinner. It’s okay to spend a little more to get that fantastic product, it is just going to benefit you in the end.”

Q: In what ways has being an Iron Chef changed your life?

A: “I opened my restaurant 16 years ago and have always been fortunate to get national exposure. I think with being an Iron Chef it allows you to reach a broader audience. The coolest thing for me is that at my restaurants it was always adults who came in. Now when I go into Lola there are a lot of young people there, teenagers who are interested in cooking, interested in food, interested in Iron Chef. Iron Chef allows me to affect a generation of kids and let them know how important food is.”

Q: What does an Iron Chef cook at home on his day off?

A: “We keep it pretty simple. We roast chickens a lot. We do a lot of polenta and pastas. We have a big garden at our house in Cleveland. Especially in the summer and fall, we go into the garden and see what we’ve got. I also grill a lot. I do steaks, lamb chops, pork chops. It’s usually a grilled piece of meat, a simple sauce like a salsa verde and a vegetable salad.”


Grilled Hanger Steak with Salsa Verde (Serves 6)

4 pounds hanger steak

Clean hanger steak by taking off silver skin. Cut into 8 ounce portions and place in marinade.

Hanger Steak Marinade

2 cups red wine vinegar

5 springs of oregano

3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 shallots, chopped

3 tablespoons coriander

4 cups blended oil

Combine all ingredients and pour over hanger steak. Let marinade overnight. Grill to desired doneness. Medium would be about 5 minutes per side. Slice against the grain and serve with salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde with Tomatoes

4 bunches parsley

1/2 tablespoon chili flakes

2 lemons

3 cups extra virgin olive oil

2 large tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

4 shallots

Wash and dry the parsley. Rough chop parsley, garlic and shallots. In a large mixing bowl combine juice from lemons and olive oil. Whisk together. Add chili flakes and whisk again, toss with tomatoes and serve with hanger steak.

Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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