The Influentials: Michael Symon

Chef and part-owner, Lola and Lolita

For a city of our size, Michael Symon estimates that we have five to 10 times as many chef-driven restaurants than we have any right to. He’s too humble to endorse this kind of talk, but a lot of the reason for that has to do with him. When he opened Lola in Tremont more than a decade ago, he traded jackets and ties for jeans, a funky décor and an exciting menu. The restaurant’s success convinced a legion of chefs that they too could open hip restaurants in their hometown. We’ve never been the same since. The debut of Symon’s tasty, trendy and beautifully appointed new Lola on East Fourth Street in September 2006 was a local culinary coronation, only to be followed by his national one a little more than a year later when he became the Food Network’s newest Iron Chef.

The Food Chain
Who’s influenced our Influential? Given chef Michael Symon’s love of local ingredients, it’s no surprise that it all tracks back to food revolutionary Alice Waters.

Alice Waters
Chez Panisse, Berkeley

Waters preaches eating food supplied locally. Wanting to serve fresh pup swordfish and dorado, Waxman recently opened an outpost of Barbuto on the island of Guadeloupe. Tower, who had no formal culinary training, applied for a job at Chez Panisse after eating a memorable raspberry tart there. He worked there from 1973 to 1978. People still debate whether he or Waters invented California cuisine.
Jonathan Waxman
Barbuto, New York City
Jeremiah Tower
Stars (now closed), San Francisco
Waxman introduced Flay to Southwestern ingredients.

Bobby Flay
Mesa Grill, three locations

Symon credits Flay with showing him the ropes of how to handle the public and television appearances that come with being a celebrity chef.
“Michael’s one of the smarter people I know in the business. He’s also physically and technically talented,” says Waxman. Batali worked with Tower at Stars, once one of the hottest restaurants in the country.

Mario Batali
Babbo Ristorante, New York City

"His passion and knowledge of charcuterie has been a big motivator in continuing to explore the art of the curing of yummy salted meats,” says Symon.
Michael Symon
Lola and Lolita, Cleveland

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