“Chef Michael Symon lives to cook” is the tagline that can be found on the homepage of Michael Symon’s site. He cooks with soul, but also spirits, and is known for his boldly flavored dishes that often pay homage to his Mediterranean and Eastern European heritage.
Michael has authored six award-winning cookbooks, is an Iron Chef on the Food Network, a former co-host of the Emmy award-winning show The Chew, among other television appearances, and he has opened several restaurants that have been in operation starting in 1996.
He continues to enjoy working in his restaurants as well as developing next TV projects and cookbooks. Chef Symon discussed his background and the success he has found over the years in the culinary world. He also shared a favorite recipe with Hamptons.com—seared scallops with an orange rum sauce—that can be found below.
What are some of your favorite dishes with rum to create?
MS: Smoked spatchedcock turkey basted in a Diplomático rum cider glaze.
What is your process like when you create a new dish or recipe?
MS: I start at the market or grocery store, find the products that look best that day, remember things that grow together, go together. And I always love contrasting flavors like sweet and salty, fat and acidic, etc. I also enjoy infusing spirits into my recipes to add a more robust flavor, which is why Diplomático has been such a great partner for me – their rums bring an elevated taste to many of my favorite sauce recipes.
Can you talk about your different restaurants? What led you to open them, how are they unique from one another, and what has the evolution been like?
MS: We opened our first restaurant in 1996, Lola, which was open for 26 years. It was a fine dining American restaurant with a midwestern spirit. All of our concepts are different but always ingredient and seasonally driven with respect to classic technique.
Did you expect to keep growing and expanding the way you have over the years? Was that always your goal?
MS: No. Our goal was to open one restaurant.
What’s your affiliation with the Hamptons?
MS: First started coming out here 20+ years ago with Bobby [Flay], my business partner did a lot of consulting at Amagansett Square with Randy Lerner. We have owned or rented out here for almost 15 years. Our son Kyle owns Grindstone donuts in Sag Harbor and lives in Springs with our daughter-in-law and two grandkids.
What are some of your favorite pastimes or ways to spend time in the Hamptons and the East End?
MS: I spend a lot of time in my garden. Play as much golf as I possibly can at Noyak, Montauk Downs, and some of the other local gems. I love shopping at Balsam Farms and Amber Waves. I enjoy seafood at Bostwicks, and meatloaf in the winter at 1770 house.
What are your strategies for keeping up with day-to-day demands of your business?
MS: Communication, hiring people that are smarter than me and trusting them, and staying involved not only in my own restaurants, but staying up to date with other chefs and what is going on around the country so we can stay relevant.
What is the top quality or value that you feel helped you become a successful chef?
MS: I have always been a good leader. I was blessed with a strong palette and an endless curiosity about food and life in general. I am not fearful of taking risks and trying new things.
What has been your greatest accomplishment working in this industry to-date?
MS: Watching the people I have met and mentored succeed has been my greatest joy.
Can you share some favorite Diplomático recipes?
MS: Espresso rum-tini and In-Fashion are two of my favorite cocktails with Diplomático. If you know me, you know I love espresso and the old fashioned-style cocktails are a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. You can find those recipes on my Instagram. As for something a little different- seared scallops with an orange rum sauce is delicious. See the recipe below.
Seared Scallops with Orange Diplomático Rum Sauce (Serves 2)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound sea scallops, cleaned
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 oz. Diplomático white rum (Planas)
Zest of 1/2 orange
1/4 c oj
2 Tbl. unsalted butter
2 Tbl. finely chopped cilantro
orange segments, to serve (from the zested orange)
Preheat a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium high heat.
While the pan is heating, dry the scallops on paper towels then season with salt and pepper. Add a film of olive oil to the pan, coating the bottom.
Add the scallops, leaving spacing in between.
Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, developing a golden-brown crust.
When the scallops are firm and opaque, remove to a plate while you finish the sauce.
To the pan add the jalapeno and a pinch pf salt. Briefly cook until softened then add the Diplomático rum. Reduce the rum by half then add the orange zest, orange juice, cilantro, and orange segments. Bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and add the butter, stirring vigorously until melted. Spoon the sauce and orange segments over the scallops and serve immediately.
What’s next for you?
MS: Continue to enjoy working in the restaurants and developing new TV projects with Food Network. I’m excited about my next cookbook, Simply Symon’s Suppers, and working on some fun new brands, which should happen soon.
To learn more about Chef Symon and find some great new recipes visit http://www.michaelsymon.com.