CLEVELAND — When it comes to opening new restaurants, celebrity chef and Cleveland native Michael Symon knows what works, and what doesn't.
The long-time restaurateur shared his advice for newcomers to the industry with me on my 3 Things to Know podcast, ahead of the recent release of his latest "Fix It With Food" cookbook and the premiere of his newest Food Network show, "Throwdown with Michael Symon."
Symon, who opened his first restaurant in Tremont in 1997 with his wife, Liz, says it's all about being authentic to yourself.
"Be passionate and cook the food and serve the food in the style that you love," Symon says, sharing that all too often people get caught up in crazes that don't necessarily make the most of their individual culinary styles.
"So many young cooks and restauranteurs, they say, 'Oh this concept works, I’m gonna do something like that.' Which is fine but really the most successful chefs and restauranteurs are like, 'This is something I’m very passionate about and I’m gonna do this and follow my own instincts and cook the food and give the style of service and make the type of cocktails that really make me happy.'"
Symon says that's what he's done over the years, and it's inarguably been a recipe for success for him.
Aside from encouraging up-and-coming chefs to embrace what makes them unique, Symon also had practical advice for running a business.
"It’s gonna be a little bit harder than you think, which is fine. You know, that’s part of the joy," he says. "Look for great locations, and there’s a lot of those available now. You know, negotiate the best lease that you can."
Symon mentioned that lease issues played a role in closing a few of his Northeast Ohio residents over the past year. Symon also had to close his flagship restaurant, Lola, which had been relocated to East Fourth Street in downtown Cleveland during the pandemic.
But he's taken on other projects, which are keeping the new grandfather more than busy during his semi-retirement.
You can watch Symon with his longtime culinary director Katie Pickens, who is also from Cleveland, on his late show, "Throwdown with Michael Symon," on Tuesdays on the Food Network.
To hear more about the show and get Symon's personal local dining recommendations, watch and listen to the full "3 Things to Know with Stephanie Haney" podcast. Find links to the episode here, on your favorite podcast platform and the WKYC YouTube page.