We all know Michael Symon loves meat. He even has a "Got Pork" tattoo on his chest. So it's not surprising that the Iron Chef and James Beard Award winner, whose affinity for protein dates back to childhood meals — especially his grandmother's flavorful Bolognese — explores beef, pork, poultry and goat in his new cookbook, Michael Symon's Carnivore, available Oct. 16. "This book is my love letter to the Midwest," he says. "This is all stuff you can do at home." In addition to overseeing 10 restaurants, he also co-hosts ABC's The Chew in New York City and shoots the Cooking Channel's Symon's Suppers and Food Network's Iron Chef. "It's a lot of travel, but I'm having a lot of fun," he says. "I always wanted one show and now I have three. But I'm always the most comfortable here in Cleveland."
Q: What was the inspiration for the new book?
A: This is how I've always cooked. Being from the Midwest, we're able to get the highest quality meats in the country. A lot of people don't think meat is healthy, but life is all about balance. I eat a ton of vegetables and greens and I very rarely serve meat with a lot of starch. People should know that animal fats are not bad for you — the hydrogenated fats are the bad ones.
Q: In this book you dispel myths about popular cuts of meat and how they should be served. What are some typical mistakes?
A: It's about quality, not quantity, and I'm going to buy the best meat that I can. A dry-aged rib-eye with vegetables is so much better than a filet and a baked potato. Ribs should always be smoked, and I think St. Louis ribs are much more flavorful than baby backs.
Q: When you first began with Lola, did you envision having 10 successful restaurants 16 years later?
A: We've been so fortunate. The restaurants are jamming. Downtown is rocking and the B Spots have been incredibly busy. We're looking for more B Spot locations in Akron, Columbus, Detroit and Pittsburgh. And we just bought the building next door to Lolita where we're going to have an old-school, real-deal butcher shop.
Q: In Carnivore, you reveal a barbecue sauce with a flavor near and dear to the hearts of Clevelanders. What's the secret ingredient?
A: I do a lot smoking and barbecuing, and my favorite sauces are mustard-based sauces from South Carolina. My Cleveland Barbecue Sauce has Bertman Ballpark Mustard. I'll put that mustard on just about anything.