MS comp for MR blog_2
Photos by Donna

Been so busy and so behind I've yet to make this announcement!  Tuesday saw the publication of Michael Symon's debut cookbook—Michael's motto and M.O.—Live To Cook!  He does indeed, and I'm thrilled to write about it here.

Michael and april Before I went to the CIA to speak with president Tim Ryan about a book project, I introduced myself to Michael so that I wouldn't be going into the interview blind and stupid. He was friendly and helpful and I spent a couple nights in the tiny kitchen he happened to be working in (it was so small he and his sous chef simply stood in one place and cooked all night long, no room for another soul, nowhere to go).

He quickly made a name for himself there, and by the time his first restaurant, Lola, was a couple years old, he'd received a Best New Chef award from Food & Wine. That award gave him the credibility that allowed me to write about him as one of the three chefs in Soul of a Chef, and there I really got to know him and his wife Liz and the whole family.  That was what was so great about reporting that part of the book. Feeling like a part of his big exuberant restaurant family. (Above, he's with April Bloomfield before an SOS dinner at Lola.)

What I admired about him then is on full view in his book which I was honored to help him write: He's an ingenius cook, bringing huge flavors out of common ingredients, and creating complex meals with a simplicity that often made me do double-takes.

His Mac and Cheese (recipe below) is so popular, he can't take it off the menu at his restaurants, there's too much of an outcry when he tries.  Takes twenty minutes or so start to finish and is awesome.  And he's got the fabulous beef cheek pierogies and other signature dishes in the book.

But why I really love the book?  Pig ears.  He put his cripsy pig ears technique in here, and they are sooooo good.  Will I offer the recipe and technique here?  Can't!  Gotta buy the book for that one!

Another reason I love the book (and loved writing it): Michael is able to explore his culinary eccentricities, his love of coriander, the bench scraper, his no-knead egg-yolk pasta (for the sheep's milk ravioli, above).

It's a chef's cookbook that doesn't talk down to the home cook but is completely home cook accessible. One of his old cooks said this to me, I've never forgotten it, and it remains true: "You know what I like about Michael's food? It's the kind of food you can do at home."  So true.  He got a Best New Chef award, and last year Best Chef Midwest from the Beard Foundation, by serving do at home food. That's what I love about his style and the food in this book.

Congratulations, Michael, the book looks fastastic!

Mac and Cheese with Roasted Chicken, Goat Cheese and Rosemary

from Live To Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen

Kosher salt as needed

1 pound dried rigatoni

1 quart cream

2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

8 ounces goat cheese

2 cups shredded roasted chicken

Bring a pot of water to a boil (add enough salt so that it tastes seasoned). While it's heating, pour the cream into a large sauce pan, add the rosemary and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring it to a simmer, careful not to let it boil over.  Reduce the cream by about half.  Add the goat cheese and chicken and keep cooking it till the cream coats the back of a spoon.

Cook the rigatoni till it's al dente, about ten minutes.  Drain the pasta, add it to the sauce.  Toss the pasta in the sauce till the sauce resumes a simmer, then serve.

Serves 6 to 8

MS Book Cover_3


28 Wonderful responses to “Introducing:
Michael Symon’s Live To Cook!”

  • Ninette

    I’m a born and bred Clevelander, even though I don’t live there anymore, so I’m all for my compatriots!

  • mel

    love him– he has heart. my 4 year old and i watch him when he is on tv, just to hear him laugh. it cracks us up. my daughter just laughs and laughs and laughs

  • Maria at Fresh Eats

    We bought the book tonight — so excited to dig into it. We live near Roast and it’s quickly become one of our favorite restaurants. We’ve also been lucky enough to meet Michael S. a couple of times and he was friendly and gracious.

    Congrats, Michael R. on what I’m sure will be another terrific book.

    Mel, love the comment about your daughter!

  • luis

    Delicious recipe. A no brainer. Again this recipe will be used in a pot luck were one strives to knock the socks off the dinner.
    Were you bring that one pot dish that will make you famous. What hits me about the recipe is that he doesn’t bechamel it…like every other recipe out there. and he doesn’t chedar it either. Instead he goes for reduced cream, goat cheese and roasted chicken.
    Only worry is the rosemary?? I am so used to just reach for the dill or the oregano. The book has got to be a treasure. Simon is a big flavor cook which when you come to think of it … is the only reason you would ever wish to eat out.

  • Josie

    THE PIG EARS ARE IN THE BOOK?!?!? It was already on my wish list but the pig ears put it over the top. I might have to just buy it for myself. The pig ears I ate at his restaurant were perfection. Amazing porky deliciousness… I am so excited!

  • Victoria


    Along with Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking and More Home Cooking, Soul of a Chef is always where I can grab it to read before I go to sleep. It’s one of my favorite books of all time.

    I went to the Barnes & Noble in my neighborhood last night specifically to look at this book (and Salt to Taste). It is fabulous; great job AGAIN. Congratulations to you both.

  • Karin from Cleve and missing it in VA

    I’ve been following Michael’s talent since his days at the Caxton Cafe.

    His talent and unassuming charm have shown everyone how good it is to be from Cleveland.

    Congratulations to you both for helping others to know it too.

  • rockandroller

    Love the pig ears, which is certainly something I never thought I’d say prior to eating them.

  • Victoria


    Regarding the Macaroni and Cheese recipe, will you please elaborate as to whether to use aged or fresh goat cheese? I want to try this recipe this weekend and won’t have the book by then so I will use your recipe.


  • Debbie

    I was in the book store last night and spent at least half an hour looking through “Live To Cook”. But I’m going to be patient and put it on my Christmas wish list. My sister asked if the Mac & Cheese recipe was in there, and lo and behold here it is on your blog! Thank you so much, both Michael’s, for bringing this cookbook to us, and the recipe! I love it!

  • JoP in Omaha

    My copy arrived yesterday, and I spent all evening reading it. It’s just cool.

    Symon’s personality shines through. I like his discussion of balance…fat needs to be balanced with acid, etc. I sort of know those things, but none of my other books address it directly as does this one. How cool to have a variety of pork belly dishes. And the sides and sauces look interesting–like the Lola ketchp and steak sauce.

    Until I can get to Cleveland to try Symon’s food first hand, this is an aweomse alternative. Well….I’ll miss out on that laugh. Oh, well. This is going to be a fun book.

  • Darcie

    I’ll definitely put this on my Christmas list. ( I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner at Lola – I had never had sweetbreads before, and they were great, as was the rest of the meal. Somehow they decided that our group was “special” because they offered us the table/bar by the kitchen without us asking, and offered us “extras” throughout the meal.

  • mike

    “Regarding the Macaroni and Cheese recipe, will you please elaborate as to whether to use aged or fresh goat cheese?” Not M.R., but I did buy the book. Recipe calls for fresh goat cheese.

  • Wilma de Soto

    Ooh! OOH!

    The Cauliflower recipe sounds like a go in addition to the long-awaited Fried Brussel Sprouts.

    Perhaps I’ll try his “Smacky Cheese” recipe as well.


    PS. The cover photo screams one who is up to no good, BUT in a good way.

  • Kurt Eye

    Holy crap! I just made this mac and cheese. It’s delicious, but so rich that this recipe could feed, like, 12 people.

  • L2K

    Try adding dried cranberries and shaved fennel to brussel sprouts for the holidays.

  • green tea

    I liked your Cheese and Macroni recipe. It’s delicious, but so rich that this recipe could feed, like, 12 people. How cool to have a variety of pork belly dishes.

  • Tamara Mitchell

    Mine just arrived from Amazon. Can’t wait to dig in and looking forward to seeing him at the Fabulous Food Show next week.

    And hopefully hearing him laugh.

  • Jeannie

    Not that you had to sell me, but when you said it doesn’t talk down to the home cook but is home cook accessible, that is what at this point I want in a cookbook, so when I get the cash I am getting the book!!!!! Can’t wait to see it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Michelle

    Thanks for letting us know about this book – he seems like such a genuine, likeable, hardworking guy on TV – and my college age daughter thinks he’s adorable. Looking forward to trying the recipes, especially that mac & cheese.

  • Scott Lilley

    I just got this as a birthday gift, and I spent an hour last night reading through. I’ll second the praise for multiple pork belly recipes. I’m looking forward to trying the pierogies, the corn crepes w/ duck, and the pig ears, of course.

    Nice nod to you, Ruhlman, on the pickle recipe!

    It’s also a great looking book. Donna’s food photos look terrific, as always.

  • Paul Kobulnicky

    My older son and I have the “home cooking” debate all of the time. He is a commercial artisan bread baker and I am the home amateur/enthusiast. He always says that my bread is really good, “for home made” and I keep arguing that this is the essence of artisan and he doesn’t buy it. Obviously I agree with Simon. Thanks for the insight.

    My wife and I eat regularly at Lolita.

    My cookbook shelves are crowded but maybe it is time for some weeding and acquisitions.

  • Kelly

    One of my fondest memories is having my fourth anniversary dinner at Lola and then off to watch the Tribe get soundly beaten by the Yankees. Being from Seattle, it was a real treat! (Not the Tribe getting beaten part, we hate the Yankees, too!)

  • luanda

    Made Symon’s Mac and Cheese yesterday. I split the finished product in half and added a “square” of rind from a freshly smoked slab of bacon from Charcuterie. In the words of Homer Simpson:
    “Glurrrgghhh” (in a good way)