Diep2michael_symon_james_otto_1                                                                                                    Photo courtesy of the Food Network
Taking over for the defrocked Robert Irvine, Michael Symon debuted last week on the Food Network's "Dinner Impossible," a show that places the chef into an "impossible" cooking situation and watches him and his sous chefs sweat as they feed hundreds of people highend amusement park food, deliver a VIP dinner to Alcatraz, or in tonight's show (10 pm eastern), feed 350 country music fans and musicians country music-inspired food.

I saw Symon upon his return from one of the shoots and he shook his head and said, "It's one of the hardest things I've ever done."

Symon is allowed to bring two of his cronies to work as sous chefs, and on tonight's show country star James Otto. Tim Bando, chef of The Meeting House in the Hamptons, is a brilliant comic foil (recently seen searching for his reading glasses—Tim, how long before you join the AARP?—and losing his tongs in the fryolator).

And Symon is in good carnivorous form.  When the nice lady from Alcatraz last week said, "How about some vegetables?" during the menu planning, Symon responded, "I don't like people who like vegetables … just kidding …  not really."  Voice Over: "Why would you want to eat a vegetable unless it was wrapped in bacon?"

Truer words were never spoke.

(From Mark Summers Productions. Above photo of Symon with, from left, Todd Downs, James Otto, and David Lowe.)

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41 Wonderful responses to “Michael Symon’s Dinner Impossible”

  • Mark S

    I recall that comment about vegetables too. It was very funny. I’ve heard a number of celebrity chefs make similar comments.

    I am an unwilling vegetarian – I have a medical condition that is successfully treated in many ways, amongst them becoming a vegetarian. (I do still eat fish.)

    I do miss meat. It’s a good food. But there are many more vegetables out there than some chefs, like Chef Symon, give credit to. It’s the same lack of emphasis that I found in Elements: a great book, and I loved reading it, but it sure wasn’t written with vegetarians in mind. (But the night I started it, I dreamt of veal stock…)

    Sounds like a perfect Dinner Impossible is to make Chef Symon cater a Vegan convention. He’d go crazy. :-)

  • Char James-Tanny

    I really like Symon’s new role and I like what he brings to the show. I’m hoping he settles on one or two permanent sous chefs for the show…or maybe I just need to watch more shows, because I feel like I’m trying to learn about them as much as anything else. (After watching Irvine’s show for several years, I felt like I knew his sous chefs as well as I knew him…it was comforting.)

    I’d love to be a volunteer in his kitchen just once, even though I’m just an amateur who cooks at home :-)

  • Amy

    Don’t forget that he made the vegans eat out of whatever it was that the prisoners ate…or attempted.

    I’m still trying to get used to Symon (tho’ I did see him on the Next Iron Chef show) on dinner impossible….I too, have watched Irvine for some time.

    I agree with Mark S…How’s about a Vegan convention? : P

  • craig

    I enjoyed Michael’s “Boardwalk Dinner”. I have spent numerous weekends in the Wildwoods of New Jersey and really liked seeing familiar places and foods. The chocolate covered bacon got me. As my wife told me years ago when she first took me to the Mecca of The Frialator Arts: “Its about the food”. “Watch the tramcar, please.”

  • Phil

    I really like Symon. I’ve liked him since reading Soul of a Chef, and I think he’s a much needed breath of fresh air for the Food Network, which as a whole I can’t stand. But after winning The Next Iron Chef America competition, I was hoping to see him compete more than three times as an official Iron Chef before seeing them push him with another show.

    Mind you, I think he’s perfect for Dinner:Impossible (or as Tony calls it ‘Dinner Slightly Difficult’) but it would be nice to see more Iron Chef challenges. Wasn’t that the point of Next Iron Chef?

    After all the pomp and circumstance of Next Iron Chef, only three appearances in two seasons seems like they’re underutilizing him on that show.

  • Kate in the NW

    Okay, since blogs beg for people to pitch in their 2 cents, here’s mine:

    The few times I’ve seen these sort of shows (I will admit to a brief, intense, one-season affair with Top Chef and a few one-episode stands with Ace of Cakes and Iron Chef, etc, just to see what the fuss is about). They always stress me out! And I find it frustrating that such talented chefs are forced – for the sake of viewers’ schadenfreude and, I guess, ratings – into situations where they’re probably turning out food that falls far below their potential.

    I recognize the entertainment value, and I guess the chefs probably enjoy the challenge, but couldn’t someone make a really beautiful show that ends with a happy chef and an exquisite, top-of-the-line meal instead of a sweaty mess and food that was produced under sub-optimal conditions and ridiculous pressure? And do it all in a way that’s not boring? Maybe this is your project, MR?

    Not instead of the other sorts of shows, just in addition to it. Or maybe it’s already out there and I just don’t watch enough TV to know about it. If so, please advise. I like the wit, snark, and hustle of those shows, I just get a little frustrated with the same sort of formula again and again. Maybe I’m really just too much of a “slow food” person…

  • EY

    “Why would you want to eat a vegetable unless it was wrapped in bacon?” Pshaw. As I read this, I’m eating some lovely roasted beets adorned with olive oil and a little sea salt. I love them. I have been completely smitten with beets since I got a bunch from a local farmer (same local farmer who grew these).

    I’m in love with a vegetable and though you may not share my love (the tomato post suggests otherwise, however), please do not scorn it!

  • JoP in Omaha

    It’s so much fun to watch Symon in action. I’m glad they gave him the D:I gig so that we viewers get a weekly serving of Symon! I’ve enjoyed all the episodes.

  • bmod

    I too am in love with vegetables (couldn’t possibly commit to one) and though I respect Symon, I confess I’m suspicious of any chef who thinks bacon is critical to the successful preparation of vegetables. That’s wack.

  • Ms. Glaze

    I agree with Kate in the NW.

    Also, vegetables are more time consuming to prep than meat and that is why I think so many cooks make jokes about it. Besides, it feels so manly to pick up a cleaver bigger than your head and cleave through the chain bone of some critter rather than turn carrots and potatoes into 7 sided perfect cylinders. I’d much rather hack away than be hunched over a 10 carts of artichokes that needed to be turned. Nonetheless, beautiful vegetables always steal the show.

  • Natalie Sztern

    you know, i would not mind seeing you on television using your various books and cooking style on a television show with your books as a companion rather than the usual other way around.(book writing to be companion with show)

    i bet your show would be a down-to-earth-i-have-a-lot-to-teach kind of show; cause right now i am making my mother in law a huge pot of chicken soup and your words are reverberating in my head: use water as a base…

  • Dot

    I must admit when they were setting up the dinner event at Alcatraz in the bathroom and showers , I was completely horrified. Love the show though and Bravo to Chef Symon for all his hard work….may I suggest a theme of Pork belly for Iron Chef…David Chang vs Mike Symon…Let the Battle begin!!

  • DJK

    I too agree with Kate in the NW.

    One difference, though: I really like Iron Chef, and it appears to me that they’re delivering some pretty outstanding food on that show (did you happen to catch Batali’s meal for Battle Parmesan? I REALLY wanted to be a judge that day).

    What I disliked about Dinner Impossible the one time I saw it (not a fair sample, I understand) is that it seemed to me to take the last 1:00 or so on the clock of Iron Chef and expand that to an entire show. The focus doesn’t seem to be on the food but rather on getting to see your favorite chef…movingreallyfast! There’s Chef Symon on a bike…movingreallyfast! There he is again taking the food to his guests…movingreallyfast! Boy, that Chef Symon sure can move FAST, can’t he?!?!

    What a waste.

    I believe Chef Symon pitched some ideas to Food Network that were apparently rejected (I’d guess) because some suit thought that him movingreallyfast would make for better ratings than a more genuine look inside the work of a great chef.

  • LorainLouisville

    OK, so Wed the 3rd hubby and another foodie couple were supposed to head to Nashville for 2 day and 2 days in Memphis for BBQ,Beer,Blues and(us girls were the “babes”–Found out last night other couple cancel last minute, so–Hubby and I say “Let’s go to Cleveland” all right, all right, know there is much on MR’s site. We have 3 nights Thursday reservations at Lola’s. What else should we do? On our way home, we will stop in Cincy to see Jungle Jims. BTW hubby is a former Chef from Indy and has not been to either destination. Help! Lora in Lou-a-vull

  • Jacki

    I was excited to see Chef Symon on Dinner Impossible. I was a huge fan of his on the Next Iron Chef and I’m glad his win has opened more doors for him. Though I have never had an opportunity to taste his cooking, he seems like a knowledgeable and creative chef as well as a good guy.

  • luis

    Honestly, I like Simon. Loved him in the “New Iron Chef”.

    I don’t like the programing of the food network anymore. The exagerations of Paula and Guy… the fact you can’t learn squat from most of the shows the most ridiculous being the “Ace of Cakes”(and all things/shows cake). Totally appalling reality wanna be chef shows…bad content.

    There are a few shows left that teach you something… Brown’s , Contessa’s, Flay’s…re-runs of similar..others I am sure but I don’t watch the network anymore.
    Ditto for the “Dinner Impossible” show. I watched it last week and I didn’t learn squat. A waste of an hour. The internet, the PBS, the Blogs such as Michael Rhulman’s, Eric’s, Ms Glaze’s…Amateur Gourmet’s Hunger Artist..French Laundry’s and others are way more fun and teach me more and introduce to books about cooking and food really worth reading.

    Also I am pretty sure Simon is wrong about veggies. I think vegetables are something most chefs do not prepare well at all. Because there are NO RULES other than color.. Not even proportion rules I have figured out??or stumbled across???
    It has to do with combining them correctly, cooking them using the right technique and Herbing and SAUCING them properly.
    I just made cassabe in chicken stock in a pressure cooker. I took the trouble to dig out the inner hard fibers, peeled the yuca’s smooth like a baby’s behind Then I sauced them with olive oil and crushed garlic (Mortar/pestled garlic in olive oil) and they tasted better and sweeter/savory than any fatty greasy bacon or defated crisped bacon from any heavenly hog you ever tasted.
    Leeks… peppers… tomatoes…fruits…done to perfection to die for.
    Its three things. One combining the right veggies. Two using the right cooking technique and three serving them in the rigth sauce. Vegetables need their own sauce..or a sauce which goes well with both the protein and the veggie.. usually they are served accompanying fish or steak(read filling in plate/stomach space) and getting splashed with the Protein’s sauce or gravy wether they should or not eeeewwwwww!!!… bad cooking.
    You can argue olive oil is a sort of fat…maybe this is what Simon should have said but he was too busy driving the audience nuts rushing here and there… The show took on a video game character many new gen directors like to put out.. but (HERE IS A CLUE…) that old timers CAN NOT STAND!.
    At a time were I/we are better able to discern the nice details of the subject at hand Freaking Simon is caugth up in a video game masquerading as a cooking show. NOOOOOO!!!! I HATED IT!!! my brother changed the channel and I was like bravo glad he did.
    Good riddance. You can almost say the same for Iron chef but…. I won’t because I still enjoy it.

  • NYCook

    First a little personal buisness but DJK Did you catch Chef Carmelini’s food on battle PARM? One of the nicest most talented guys you could ever hope to work for. His pallet is unparelled and his working knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge to food is ridiculous. Hope to jump ship to wherever he opens up next.
    Anyway, vegetarians WE COOKS DON’T GET YOU, and never will, to say you only want to eat vegetables when there are things like pork in life to us is ridiculous and a little insulting to our craft. It’s so personal with you guys “Why isn’t there a veg option on the menu?” “Why aren’t there MORE vegetarian menu items?” or “How can you eat veal, man? Don’t you know how it is raised” Most chefs show more care about animals and do more to honour those animals then any non-eating vegetarian or PETA member.

    As for Chef Symon I now have one more show to add to my previous list of one show I will watch on food network. Any man with a pig tattoo, who pushes eating the whole beast, as proudly and loudly as him is doing gods work. And who says you have to learn something from the show all it is is meant to be entertainment not culinary school if you guys care so much go and stage at your local gourmet restaurant.

    Another thing Alot of times veg cookery is usually what seperates the big boys from everyone else. Anyone can wave a steak over a grill and make a sauce say bordelaise, but to handle a vegetable properly takes real skill. As for PROPER veg cookery there are plenty of rules and ratios (see big pot blanching). Just another thing that seperates what we do from home cooks.

    Sorry for dominating the board MR but I could write a thesis on this post tonight. I am sure you agree.

    But I will place this carefully fed pig
    Within the crackling oven; and, I pray,
    What nicer dish can e’er be given to man.”
    Aeschylus, ancient Greek poet

  • Matt W.

    LorainLouisville – I’m not a Cleveland native, but I would say that if you hit Sergio’s on University Circle or Fire, Food, and Flavor (yes, that’s the name of the joint), you won’t go away disappointed. :)

    I like watching Chef Symon cook – I get the impression that as long as you’re not dubbing off, he’s a fun guy to work with even under pressure.

    That said, while I thought his food looked great on D:I, I keep getting the impression that they’re tossing roadblocks at him for no other reason than to make him look like someone shat in his demiglace on camera. Silly. Making the food in his quality at those amounts is a challenge in and of itself, especially with the time limits. Why keep piling on?

    I suppose someone says it’s good TV, but I just don’t see it.

  • Ben

    I can’t get into this show either. The emphasis of the show is primarily on the need to hurry rather than on the food itself. At least with ICA, the food is still central to the show. I’m glad to see Symon getting more face-time on the FN, but I wish for his sake that they had given him a show that features his food.

    Lora,
    While you’re in Cleveland, visit the West Side Market. Better yet, take a cooler and visit the market on the day you leave for home. Take cash, most booths don’t accept anything else.

    Too bad you won’t be there on a Tuesday. I travelled through Cleveland a few weeks ago and scheduled my flights around dinner time so I could visit Lolita. I was delighted to find that the evening I visited (a Tuesday) was the night they usually serve roast pork. It was soooooo good. Flavorful and succulent, and served atop a layer of mascarpone polenta that was out of this world. My visit was shortly after one of Michael’s posts that stirred up a conversation about Great Lakes beer, so I tried the Dortmunder Gold. A good beer, and it went well with the pork.

  • ruhlman

    NY Cook makes a good point. When I was at the CIA, it was often noted that how you cooked a green bean said more about you as a cook than anything else.

    Matt: Fire Food and Flavor? Perhaps you mean Fire Food and Drink at Shaker Square? Doug Katz’s excellent restaurant.

    There’s also Jonathan Sawyer at Bar Cento, across from the West Side Market and the adjoining Bier Markt, excellent Belgian beers. Great Lakes beer around the corner and Flying Fig across the street from that.

  • Joe

    I’m waiting for Michael Symon’s real diner impossible episode when you and Bourdain show up as his sous chefs.

  • Matt W.

    Whoops! Yes, you’re right, I misremembered the name. I went up there after hitting the Arms and Armor exhibit at the museum of art last spring and had an excellent time.

  • rockandroller

    For what it’s worth, at least half of my regular vendors at WSM take credit cards. [Kaufmann poultry, Jim’s meats (for pork), the greek grocery, DH Russ (for bison)]. Some do require a min, $10 or so. But you can usually see their Visa/MC signs posted clearly at stands that take cards.

  • Darcie

    I watched the D:I last night because of this blog. I just can’t get into it. It’s all about the deadline and pressure and we only get snippets of the actual food. (Although Michael Symon is a hoot to watch. I love that laugh!) I’d like to learn more about the seasonings and techniques used, and less of “oops, we said serve at 10:00 but now we need it an hour earlier.” Also, I noticed no bleeps – a chef who doesn’t swear? Really?

    @Lora: I’ve eaten at Lola once and it was great, as was the Flying Fig. Beers at Great Lakes are OK but food is so-so. I’ll be back in CLE this weekend but probably won’t have time to go to any good restaurants. (Stupid work.) Hopefully I’ll at least have time for a beer or two.

  • maddux

    Dinner Impossible. Uuhg. this show is marginally fun to watch ONCE, it’s a one trick pony. Good luck chef Symon. Despite his insanely grating laugh I’ve warmed up to Symon…he’s the lovechild of Gilligan AND The Skipper.

  • Matt W.

    @Darcie – Something tells me that Mario Batali probably taught Symon a few tricks about how to swallow his choicer bits of language when on-air. I’ve heard he has one hell of a vocabulary when he gets going, but you’ve never seen him pull it out on ICA or Molto Mario. :)

    Plus, those Editor guys do a pretty good job….

  • Randy Martinez

    I love Chef Symon, but Robert Irvine will always be “Dinner Impossible”. Food Network simply should have left it alone. Yes, Robert lied and it was wrong. However, the simple fact is that a lot of people lie about their resumes. He should have been forced to apologize, but that is all. Frankly, this is why no one watches food network any longer.

  • stephanie

    Put me in the camp that is loving Symon and his personality lighting up my screen once a week. I will admit, I thought his V.O. on the first episode was very strained, but by the Asbury Park one, he’d settled in quite nicely, in my opinion.

    One nice touch at the end of last night’s ep was showing more of the cooking (while playing the Devil Went Down to Georgia as the VO for that.) If I have any complaint about the show, it’s that I would love to see more of the prep and less of the fluff inbetween (though Symon’s “I’m like the wind!” had my boys and I in stitches!)

  • luis

    NY,…”As for PROPER veg cookery there are plenty of rules and ratios (see big pot blanching).”
    Thank you for the tip man, I have been searching in vain for such. I hope this is not another dead end.

    and I love you for…”Another thing Alot of times veg cookery is usually what seperates the big boys from everyone else. Anyone can wave a steak over a grill and make a sauce say bordelaise, but to handle a vegetable properly takes real skill. ” This is basically and conciselly what I meant to say.
    This is what separates the 30 dollar plate res…and the 75$. Which is to say the vast majority of chefs do not know how to handle a vegetable. So if there are rules…they don’t know them.
    I am in my best day a home cook. Believe me when I say I can do better veggies and fresher proteins and sauces than I enjoy eating in 75% of the restaurants out there.
    My God man, the last after dinner tab for four reached over $250 and my veggies were bland and tasteless… The comment by Simon is suspect because you can not screw bacon or much of a pig or protein. But make a memorable vegetable…. chef’s CAN’T…or won’t. That is not to say they can not make delicious salads? go figure. I just think it’s the sidekick syndrome of the third wheel veggies in a protein/bread/sauce plate vs the star of the show ‘salad x’.
    But thank you very much for the tip, I will be sure and follow up… I also think Kafka, Chessman and others do love vegetables enough to write books on them. The Chinese, Koreans,Japanese and most orientals honor vegetables pretty well as well. I think economics and other issues interfere with the popular eateries that employ generic cooks when it comes to cooking vegetables.
    They pretty much leave it at mashed potatoes, french fries, baked potatoes and green beans.

  • luis

    NY…”(see big pot blanching).”
    Seen it and this kind of thing might work for Kellerman…maybe there is something to it. But it’s what I consider a non-starter in my kitchen. All that salt???? Please!!!!!!!!
    Also either use sea salt exclusivelly or kosher salt or what ever salt of your choice.. but do not mix and match salts. Hell no, this can’t be done properly in my opinion unless you are a master on top of your game.
    Remember any minor sinus condition or onset of a cold etc and you are up the shit creek without a paddle.

  • Sal Monella

    Hey thanks for providing coverage and this story on Symon. I heard the FN brass decided on him to replace Irvine on DI.

    If I was Symon, I would not have accepted and politely refused. Why? Well Irvine padded his resume a little bit and as many have stated, Dinner: Impossible was Irvine, should still be Irvine and the unruly hacks at FN who call themselves “executives” should be ashamed at how they responded. Hypocritical much ?

    I’ll bet any money these weasels like Tuschman and Brooke Johnson have some good skeletons in their closets, but decided to make an “example” of Irvine. I hope the show tanks and Symon if he had any stones, would have stepped away. I think this dude has the fame disorder like many of you FN glory junkies.

  • Kanani

    I’m finding it impossible to keep up with TV these days. But, I did happen upon his first DI. I liked his humor, and I loved the guy who searched for his reading glasses and lost his tongs.

    Chocolate-covered bacon pretty much beats every Food Network chef out there. It’s (CCB) destined to join deep fried Snickers, and become a secret hankering. When CCB hits Costco and 7-11, it’ll be big time. I just hope Symon plasters his face on the packages (sold next to the jerky and Bic lighters) and cashes in.

    As for the show, it’s fun. And in all the “reality TV” shows, at least this one doesn’t factor in any weird dates or unruly parents. At least, not yet.

  • luis

    kanani…ooh please…. it’s bullshit!. Read the thread and folks have politely labeled it so. I am not happy about it. The Urban Peasant on IONLIFE is the preffered show… Anyone…at all… trying to pass on some legit cooking info and trying their best to share their skills with us chickens is to be elevated. DI is crap. Comes across as crap and I am trying to be objective here. God bless enough said.

  • luis

    Ok, folks a small confession here. I am not retarded but each and every day I am reading the “Making of a Chef” by Michael Rhulman…and I am up to the bread chapter.. Fascinating stuff…each and every page I turn on this book I footnote and mark and I don’t know if its Michaels doing or if it just happens to be Michael is loose at the CIA… but IT’s SOLID MAN.
    The validation of so many small things I have noted along the way in my cooking…. it’s an amazing convergence of interests in common and techniques and cooking….that you just won’t easily find in most of the FN crappy venue.

  • Kanani

    Oh, Luis.
    Lighten up.
    Here, have some CCB and a Budweiser as I put together a pitch to write the press packet for Symon’s new CCB company.

  • nondiregol

    At the moment I’m helping Robert Irvine write his new resume, because at one time he apparently was King of Prussia.

    Two weeks ago I attended a food event in California where Duff Goldman had a hockey stick out and was slapping cup cakes into the audience.

    I do love Michael Symon and his giddy laugh.

  • Chris

    Symon seems like such a warm and genuine guy and a talented chef to boot, esp compared to Irvine.

    He’s like one of those dudes that i’d want to grab a beer with and talk about food. Hope he experiences continued success in his career.

  • Pie Susan

    All the vegetable comments really aren’t based on truth. Although it is true that there are no vegetarian dishes on the menu of Michael Symon’s restaurants he does serve them and when requested, he will happily create a special meal for a vegetarian who wants to dine at his restaurant. This is know because he said so at The Fabulous Food Show yesterday at the last show.

    We shared a friend in common, Andrew Goodwin, may he rest in peace, and I can honestly say that all the success has not changed this man. He proved the old adage that if you are good at what you do, people will beat a path to your door. More power to him! I am soooo happy for him.