Michael Symon

Cleveland native Michael Symon is best known for “thoughtful Midwest cooking style.” Around these parts he’s best known as the 2010 Burger Bash winner. Symon’s pastrami-topped Fat Doug burger seized the crown last year – can he make it two in a row? We chatted with the chef about meat on meat, Festival favorites and the secret to a great burger.

What are your plans for this year’s Festival?

This year I’m busy – no goofing around. Burger Bash Thursday, then BubbleQ then I’m doing the dinner with Michael Schwartz (Saturday’s Wine + Dine + Design). It was the perfect storm for me this year – I’ve got like ten really close friends in the business and two wanted me to do their events. I won’t be celebrating as much as I have in the past – but don’t worry, I’ll figure it out. That’s why they invented coffee.

You’re clearly a Festival veteran, what are your favorite events?
Burger Bash & BubbleQ are my personal favorites. Burgers and beer – that’s just American heaven. And then BubbleQ with smoked meat & champagne – it doesn’t’ get better than that.
Your Fat Doug burger with pastrami won Burger Bash last year, any sneak peaks at what you’ll be defending your title with?

We’re staying with the meat on meat world.  This year it’ll be our Yo! Burger topped with fried salami, hot peppers, some nice aged provolone and some hot sauce.

What’s the secret to a great burger?
The burger to bun ratio – I don’t think it can be expressed enough how important that perfect amount of meat to bread is. Also, getting the proper amount of meat in your burger – you see burgers with 10% fat at the grocery store and they’re horrible, they have no happiness in them. We amp our burgers up to 25% fat and we do a course grind – it eats more like a steak than a burger.

Smoked meats and BBQ seem to be everywhere at this year’s Festival
I think everybody is finally catching up with us in the Midwest. We’ve been doing that for decades. It’s so funny, everybody looks to LA & NY for the food trends, but pork, smoked meats & sausages is definitely a trend that has come from the Midwest.

Michael Symon’s Top 10 Burger Toppings

  • Pastrami, because it sealed the Burger Bash victory for me last year
  • Bacon
  • Salami
  • Any cheese that has a good amount of fat on it & is melted correctly on the burger
  • Pickled onions – key & delicious, I like a fatty burger so something that’s a big acidic
  • Hot peppers
  • Stadium mustard on a burger (being a Cleveland guy)
  • Mayonnaise – gotta have mayo
  • A bun with a little bit of sweetness that has some resistance, it has to be properly buttered & be toasted
  • Sriracha – little bit of kick



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