Talking beef, Burger Bash & the South Beach Wine & Food Festival with Michael Symon

One of the Festival’s most visible carninvores, Cleveland native Michael Symon casts a wide net this year. The Iron Chef, television personality, author and chef is speaking on a panel, cooking at Burger Bash, hosting a Carnivorous dinner and doing a cooking demo. We caught up tiwh the busy chef to talk beef, Burger Bash & the South Beach Wine & Food Festival…

You’re back at Burger Bash! You promised to retire after winning last year.
I got sucked back in. It’s like a lose-lose. If I don’t do it, everybody gives me grief, but if I do it and win, I get grief for winning. If I lose everyone’s happy – but me.

You’ve done salami and pastrami – what’s on tap for this year?
Truffle fondue, crispy onions & bacon –it’s going to be great.

What makes the South Beach Festival unique?
It’s like a party. You do the demos like you do at all festivals, but the atmosphere is very celebratory & party-like. It’s very much like the restaurant business – when people come to our restaurants we want them have a blast.

You just released your cookbook Carnivore & you’re hosting a big steak dinner at Red – lots of beef on tap.
It’s going to be a meaty year. good Midwestern boy, Carnivore is my pilgrimage to meat. How to shop for different cuts and how to cook them.

Where do you like to eat in Miami?
I hit up Michael’s Genuine at least once, maybe more.  I always look forward to Bobby’s big lunch at Joes. Every year I seem to be busy, but I have no problem sneaking in the fun. I just stay up a little later and wake up a little earlier – it’s worth it.

What’s the secret to a good cooking demo?
Getting the audience involved. It’s about finding the happy place between the crowd being happy & involved and also going home with some tips to make a better meal.

How has TV changed cooking?

It’s brought a focus on food that when I was growing up didn’t really exist. Food Network has enabled the consumer to go to the store and find ingredients that you couldn’t get before. Once Emeril blew up, the whole experience changed.

How has it changed being a chef?
When I started doing Food Network in the late 90s it was all chefs who cooked on TV. Now there are a lot of people who cook on TV who aren’t chefs. Now you see kids who go to culinary school to be on TV – it creates a different kind of cook. My question is always  – what are you a chef of? Just because you’re on TV, doesn’t mean you’re a chef. To me, a chef has to run or be in charge of a kitchen.

What food trends are you seeing?
The farm-to-table trend continues, which makes me very happy. And a lot of the molecular stuff is going away, which also makes me very happy. I think food is getting micro-regional. It isn’t Italian, it comes from Rome or a certain place in Sicily.