Iron Chef Michael Symon was the 2013 special guest host at the annual Saint Martin’s University Gala in Lacey on Nov. 12, 2013. We chatted with him about his inspirations, his love of Sicilian flavors and his biggest Iron Chef challenge.
MS: I started working in a restaurant when I was 14. It was always something I enjoyed. Fate got me there.
MS: I am very influenced by family. I have a Greek-Sicilian mother. Food was huge for us growing up.
MS: Sicily inspires me more than anywhere else. Everything I love about food, Sicilian cuisine brings to the table. It’s salty. It’s spicy. It’s fatty. It’s acidic. It’s got all those flavors that I absolutely love.
MS: I always tell people Iron Chef is basically what I’ve been doing every day for 30 years. It’s instinctual. If someone were to throw a math problem on the wall and told me I had 60 minutes, I wouldn’t do so hot. But when it comes to cooking, it’s always come natural to me.
MS: The hardest one, and it’s going to sound weird, has been basil. The thing with Iron Chef is that the secret ingredient has to have a prominent role in every dish. Basil is a strong flavor. As a chef, intuitively you want to make a dish balanced. But when you have to take an ingredient that has a strong flavor like (basil) there’s a good chance it’s going to overpower the rest of the meal.
MS: If I had to eat something every day for the rest of my life, it would be pasta. I’d keep it very simple. But I could eat my mom’s lasagna bolognese for a lot of days in a row before I got sick of it.
MS: Always cook the food that you love to eat. I think if you’re cooking at home, you should cook what you like to eat. Things are going to come much easier to you.
MS: I do a lot of work with Autism Speaks. It’s the private charity I get behind the most. Two of my best friends’ sons are on the spectrum. I have a nephew on the spectrum. It’s something that I see up close and personal on a daily basis.
Watch chef Michael Symon compete on the Food Network’s “Iron Chef America” or on ABC’s “The Chew.” Next time you are in Cleveland, stop in and enjoy one of Symon’s restaurants (Lola, Lolita or B Spot) or check out Michael Symon’s Roast in Detroit.
About SAINT Martin’s Gala
The annual Saint Martin’s Gala has become one of the most successful fundraising events in the South Sound, with the proceeds going toward the college’s scholarship. In 2012, the gala raised $759,990 with special guest Guy Fieri. In 2011, the event brought in $607,634 with special guest Mario Batali. Last year’s gala with Iron Chef Michael Symon raised $960,000. More than 600 guests attended the 2013 gala where they bid on items like a trip to Rome featuring a private, after-hours tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican galleries ($16,000).