Chef dishes out advice at Skeggs

Celebrity chef Michael Symon gives advice and talked about his journey in the food business at Stambaugh Stadium.

By Sydney Stalnecker

Stambaugh Auditorium served a tasty lecture last Thursday, Oct. 7. Celebrity chef Michael Symon was introduced and interviewed by Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel for the first Skeggs Lecture of the semester. 

The Skeggs Lecture Series has occurred on YSU’s campus for decades now. It began in memory of Michael Skeggs in 1966 and has continued on to feature many guest speakers. 

University events director Jacquelyn LeViseur recounted the previous speakers YSU has invited to campus.

“[It’s] brought in, you know, many speakers from Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Toni Morrison, Jane Goodall, recently we had Anderson Cooper. Some really well known people who are experts in their field,” LeViseur said.

Tressel started the event off with an introduction of Symon. 

“Michael Symon, of course, is an American chef, restaurateur, television personality and author,” Tressel said. “He has been a regular on many Food Network shows including ‘Iron Chef America,’ ‘Burgers, Brew & ’Que,’ ‘The Best Thing I Ever Ate,’ as well as ‘Cook Like an Iron Chef’ on the cooking channel and ‘The Chew.’”

According to Symon’s website, he debuted on TV in 1998 on Food Network. He progressed to host more than 100 episodes of “The Melting Pot” and won the first season of “The Next Iron Chef.” He has been named the resident chef of ABC and is in the eighth season of “Burgers, Brew, & ’Que.”

He has published five cookbooks, including “Fix It With Food” which is a New York Times bestseller. It was published in 2019 and contains over 125 recipes to help those who experience inflammation and autoimmune issues. Tressel noted which of Symon’s cookbooks he likes the most.

“The one I really like I brought with me, Michael Symon’s ‘Playing With Fire.’ The only thing Ellen will let me do is grill,” Tressel said.

Besides his involvement with Food Network and other TV programs, the Cleveland-native chef owns a few different restaurants in Cleveland, Atlantic City, Detroit and Los Angeles. His wife has been involved with the restaurants from the start.

“I feel very blessed. I met my wife, like I said, over 30 years ago,” Symon said. “We worked together in restaurants [and] we opened our first restaurant together in 1997.”

Symon said he is proud of all he’s accomplished, but he’s especially proud of what he and his wife have been able to achieve as restaurateurs. 

“The thing that I’m most proud of [is] that we were able to build a business that at one time — pre-pandemic — employed about 1,200 people,” Symon said. “I’m proud that I was able to build that with my wife and one of my best friends from childhood.”

He shared what he’s learned and gave advice on how to succeed at running businesses in general, not just restaurants.

“You have to do your best to make customers happy, but you have to stick to your guns and stick to your vision,” Symon said. “Do what you feel is right because once you stop … is right then you’re trying to make everybody else happy but yourself. Eventually you’ll lose the love and the passion and you’ll fail.”

The rest of the fall 2021 semester and the following spring 2022 semester will be sprinkled with guest lecturers as well. These include CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Bill Nye the Science Guy.

“We have a wide range this year for 2021 and 2022,” LeViseur said.

The next lecture will feature Netflix’s chief marketing officer Bozoma Saint John on Oct. 20. at Stambaugh Auditorium. Tickets are currently available.

LeViseur is willing to take suggestions from students for future guest lecturers. Email LeViseur at [email protected] to leave a suggestion.