Michael Symon is a home cook’s home cook. He’s unabashed about his desire for affordable food that can be prepared quickly, with as little fuss as possible.
And who can argue with that? Combined with his quick-to-laugh Clevelander demeanor, it’s a one-two punch that explains his wide-spread appeal, which stretches from myriad Food Network shows to co-hosting The Chew on ABC.
The home cook is also the foundation of his newest cookbook (out today), 5 in 5 for Every Season, a companion to his 2013 cookbook 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. The book follows the same equation as the first (minimal ingredients; quick cooking time) but speaks to each season in delicious depth, from Rigatoni with Mushrooms and Sage for fall to Grilled Chicken Thighs with Blueberry Salad in summer.
How refreshing, then, to discover that Symon’s “eat simply, think seasonally” mantra isn’t just for his professional life. When we asked him to talk about his Perfect Food Day, he stuck to what he knows: his everyday life. He’s living his dream, proving that his preferences are part and parcel with all those talked-about traditions: simple, wholesome, local…and for an outsider, still entirely enviable.
Breakfast: On a workday for The Chew I am usually up at 4:30 or 5:00 a.m. I need to walk Ozzy the Wonder Dog and try to get a quick workout in before heading to work at 6:30. I usually don’t make breakfast at home but when I get to The Chew I usually have some oatmeal with toasted almonds, fresh berries, and a little bit of chestnut honey, and a slice of frittata with seasonal vegetables and a green juice. All of this happens before, during, and after three to four espressos. On an off day, I usually make simple French-style scrambled eggs finished with a bit of crème fraiche and butter and some toasted whole-grain bread with butter and some fresh fruit. I also love a classic egg sandwich with double bacon and American cheese on a soft roll with a good splash of Secret Aardvark hot sauce.
Lunch: It really depends on the season. In the summer, it’ll usually be my biggest meal of the day and most of it is cooked outside on the grill. Because [my wife] Liz is a vegetarian I mix it up pretty good with a lot of grilled vegetables. For me, it’s a big grain salad and a whole bunch of grilled or smoked protein—my favorite is spatchcock chicken with a brushing of mustard and fresh herbs, like tarragon, mint or parsley. During the rest of the year, when we’re filming The Chew, lunch is whatever recipes we are making that day.
Dinner: Dinner is always my lightest meal, and because I’m always with Lizzie, it usually contains a lot vegetables and grains and very little (if any) protein. This works out great for me since I eat so much meat the rest of the day! In summer, I love a big tomato, farro, and corn salad with some fresh mozzarella and grilled bread. In spring, I love grilled asparagus, ramps, mushrooms with quinoa and almonds, or a simple pasta with some of these same ingredients. For fall and winter I like to slow-roast some root vegetables or squash and serve them with a simple risotto or some barley and wash it all down with a big glass of wine.