Best known for his fame on The Food Network, the chef and restaurateur developed his career long before the television spotlight and James Beard award, working in several of the city’s fine-dining kitchens before building concepts in his hometown, a town not previously seen as a “foodie” destination. “Cleveland has always had great food,” says Symon, referencing its rich Eastern European heritage. The rest of the country just didn’t know as much about it. While he says he “didn’t set out to put Cleveland on the culinary map,” he says it always has deserved to be. He has helped put it in the spotlight, though, and Symon says he’s grateful for the attention it’s received over the past decade or so.
Now, in addition to his active television career (where he’s often seen mentioning Cleveland on screen), he still is focused on growing his Midwest restaurant footing, bringing consumers in to hit the Michael Symon spots. His burger chain, B Spot, is expanding beyond its home of Cleveland into Michigan and now Indiana. And his latest, Mabel’s BBQ, is slated to start serving Cleveland-style barbecue later this year.
Others to watch
It’s not just Symon growing his own portfolio to help the Cleveland culinary scene. “The up-and-coming chefs in Cleveland have a strong work ethic and have earned culinary merit of their own,” he says. Here’s a look at who else is on the Cleveland food map (notably, most of whom are Cleveland natives):
The multiconcept operator and Symon protégé has launched successful concept Noodlecat, was named among Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurants for his Greenhouse Tavern, created Cleveland’s first pop-up restaurant group, opened multiple in-stadium restaurants and launched a retail vinegar line.
Dante Boccuzzi, Eric Williams, Rocco Whalen, Doug Katz