The Fabulous Food Show is indeed that, a fabulous celebration of good food, celebrity chefs and innovative vendors. It was an incredibly busy week for me, making good use of time and access to some big players.
I got some one on one time with Cleveland’s own Iron Chef, and cast member of The Chew, Michael Symon. We chatted about how the food show is evolving, his new cookbook (5 in 5 For Every Season) what Cleveland needs to do to continue its trajectory into the upper echelon of the food world, and spoke about the long-awaited Mabel’s, (a sore subject!) Symon’s East 4th St. barbecue joint. He tells me it is about a year behind schedule and way over budget, but yet still on track to fill a void in the local food scene. This will mark his 12th restaurant-he has 8 B Spot locations, Lola Bistro, Lolita, Roast (plus 2 Bar Symon locations) The man is busy but still as gracious, and down to earth as you’d expect.
I was also an honorary table host at the Cleveland Culinary Awards Gala, which recognized industry leaders and icons.
Culinary Ambassador: Michael Symon
Restaurant Vangaurds: Parker Bosley from Fresh Fork Market, and Sokolowski’s University Inn
Beverage Trailblazer: Paulius Nasvytis of The Velvet Tango Room.
I was treated to a four course meal and the company of some of the most creative and delicious dinner companions I could dream up.
The “main event” of the weekend for me was a Media Cooking Competition on the main stage, pitting WDOK 102.1 FM personality, Jeremiah Widmer and Chef Matt Fish, of Melt Bar and Grilled against me and Chef Matt Mytro from Flour Restaurant.
We were given a surprise “main ingredient” to work with, salmon, plus access to anything in the main stage pantry and fridges. Which, if I’m being honest, was pretty meager. It was the last cooking event of the last day of the show. The cupboards were awfully bare.
The pressure was on. The judges were Gail Simmons of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, Food Author and Host, Mark Decarlo plus newly minted judges from the World Food Championships.
We had 30 minutes. The instructions from my partner, “stay busy and entertain the crowd.” I did my best to assist in our salmon poached in chili oil, with a butternut squash puree and creamy apple/celery slaw… including trying to distract our competitors, and bribing our judges with ice cream.
When time was up, we tasted everything we’d made (the most important key to good cooking according to Mytro) and presented it proudly to the judges.
In the end, team “Euctownninjas” (we’re both from Euclid) came up short. But even as the loser, I still feel pretty good because I have to pay up on a bet I made with Jeremiah, and participate in their station’s annual charity radioathon, benefitting UH’s Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital.
To cap off a very busy and productive couple of days, I was invited to participate in a panel discussion about the Cleveland culinary scene. I got to sit alongside Chefs Michael Symon, Chris Hodgson, Jason Roberts, Izzy Schachner and Rocco Whalen to talk about what the city is doing right, what challenges they’re facing as restaurateurs and what they’d like see next for the local food scene.
After an eventful week filled with such incredible and talented people , I’m exhausted and hungry for more involvement in the local food scene and beyond. Look out, world.