The New York Diet

Michael Symon Challenges David Chang, Joins Flay at the Standard

Michael Symon at the Breslin.
Michael Symon at the Breslin. Photo: Melissa Hom

Usually New Yorkers head to Cleveland to sample the work of James Beard’s Best Midwest Chef 2009, Michael Symon, where his American flagship, Lola, sustains critical praise after twelve years of service. But this week he’s in town for an Iron Chef taping, a demo at the Cook. Eat. Drink. Live. benefit tonight, and a little promotion of his first cookbook Michael Symon’s Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen, co-written by Michael Ruhlman. The book mixes stories and dishes drawn from Symon’s Greek, Sicilian, and midwestern heritage: “Recipes come from my mom and grandparents, things that I make with my wife and son, and things that I do at Lola and on Iron Chef,” he says. Symon, who says he’s considering opening a casual bar with homemade sausages and beer in New York, gets to tour the restaurants of friends like April Bloomfield and Bobby Flay during his trip. Apparently he’s learned that the quickest way to get some press here is to take on David Chang: “I think David Chang should go on Iron Chef, but he won’t do it. He’s a good man and a great chef. We could have a little porkapalooza, since he likes his pig as much as I do. That’s a challenge.” Game on.

Sunday, November 1
My flight landed at about 10 p.m.; Sunday night I ate at Fatty Crab. I think it’s spectacular. I went to the one in the meatpacking. I was doing Iron Chef the next day, so I went with two of my sous-chefs. We had the fatty tea sandwiches, pork-belly buns, the fatty crab, a big bowl of spicy noodles, and we just shared everything. With that, I had a beer. We were probably gone by 11:30 or so.

Monday, November 2
Monday morning I had a 6 a.m. call time, so I skipped breakfast. As soon as it opened, I went downstairs to that awesome coffee shop they have in Chelsea Market, Ninth Street Espresso, and had two lattes. They only serve one size there, so I got two. I had a long day. I had two battles to do. No snacks, just the coffee.

After the coffee, I did an Iron Chef battle and then another Iron Chef battle, two in a row, so I didn’t eat anything until dinner. I mean, I tasted my food, but I had no meals that day. I got back to my hotel at ten at night. For dinner I went, with my sous-chefs again, to the Spotted Pig. I’m very good friends with April [Bloomfield]. We met right around the time the Spotted Pig opened. I’d known Mario for a long time, so I met her through Mario. She’s done some dinners at Lola with me. Last year we had a Best Women Chefs in America dinner, and she was one of the chefs. It was April, Tracy Dejardin, Anita Lo, Michelle Bernstein, and Koren Grieveson from Avec in Chicago. We had the the chicken liver with the grilled bread, devils on horseback, grilled sardines with lemon, a burger. It’s always one of my favorite burgers. And the gnudi; I believe that was it. Well, more beer. I actually had the Spotted Pig Bitter Ale. It was great.

Tuesday, November 3
Tuesday morning, I had breakfast at the Standard. I’m staying at the hotel. I like the restaurant a lot. I’m actually surprised it didn’t get two stars, to be honest with you. I certainly think that the times I’ve eaten there it’s as good as a lot of other two-stars.

All the rooms that I’ve stayed in at the hotel are very glassy, yes. A lot of glass. Actually, the first time I stayed there with my wife, I got out of the shower and I’m looking out and I’m like, “Oh, these windows must be tinted.” It was right after the hotel opened and she was laying in bed reading the paper, and she said, “Put your robe on right now.” And I go, “What?” And she goes, “There’s an article today in the paper that says how you can see in from … ” And I was like, “Oh, shit!” So, if anybody got a picture of a pasty guy covered in tattoos, I guess that was me.

For breakfast, I had an egg sandwich. They do an over-easy egg with double-smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion, a little bit of mayonnaise. And a latte.

I had a few interviews that day. Stuff like that. Lunch, I had at the Breslin. I had the beef-tongue sandwich, roasted pumpkin, the triple-cooked fries, and the mixed greens with the anchovy dressing. I also had their charcuterie, which was delicious, with different terrines on it. It was open to the public. It was packed. I ate with Ken [Friedman], and Kate Krader from Food & Wine. Ken had a lambburger sandwich and Kate had a grilled cheese with lentil soup.

I had dinner at the Standard with a chef friend, Bobby Flay. We had a lot of stuff. We had the jamón, Brussels sprouts with bacon, a whole roasted chicken, fried potatoes with the chili mayonnaise, let me think here. We had more than that. Octopus. And to drink I had their version of the Pimm’s cup. I had milk and cookies for dessert. They have baked chocolate-chip cookies with a big glass of milk. Nope, I didn’t go out. I’m old and boring.

Wednesday, November 4
Wednesday morning, I had yogurt and granola for breakfast at the Standard again, with a latte. And then for lunch I had Barbuto with Bruce Seidel. I had roasted cauliflower with anchovy dressing, the gnocchi with the veal-and-pork ragù, grilled octopus with white beans, bruschetta with roast squash and a fried egg, Brussels sprouts with guanciale, and rigatoni with nutmeg cream and caramelized cauliflower. That was for just the two of us. I’m a professional. And I’m on the elliptical every day before that yogurt and granola. I work out a lot. I had just bottled water. And then a double espresso.

Dinner, I went and sat at the bar at little owl. I had meatball sliders and the pork chop, just by myself.

Thursday, November 5
I had granola and yogurt again, and no lunch.

No big plans as of yet, but you never know. I’m sure I’ll eat somewhere. I might go sit at the bar tonight at Mesa Grill and get some dinner. I love all the different tamales, and I’ll get a margarita.

Michael Symon Challenges David Chang, Joins Flay at the Standard