Michael Ruhlman and Michael Symon, Culinary Stars
2008 MARTHA JOSEPH PRIZE FOR DISTINGUISHED SERVICE TO THE ARTS
Michael Ruhlman and Michael Symon don’t often work together, but together they, probably more than anyone else in the past decade, have helped to define this region’s culinary landscape and bring it into a national spotlight.Symon has been at the leading edge of Cleveland’s latest culinary revival with his popular restaurants in Tremont and downtown, Lola and Lolita, respectively. (He also opened a successful restaurant, Parea, in New York City, with which he is no longer involved). Ruhlman is a nationally recognized author of four books about cooks and cooking and four cookbooks. Friends and occasional colleagues, the two men were the first practitioners of the culinary arts to be recognized by the Cleveland Arts Prize.
The spotlight is often literally on Michael Symon, now an exuberant TV personality. He has been recognized in national publications, including Food and Wine magazine, which named him one of the 10 best chefs in America. Over the course of several years, he made guest appearances on several Food Network cooking shows. In 2007, after a long, “reality TV" series cooking competition called The Next Iron Chef, he emerged victorious as the Food Network's new culinary giant. He now frequently appears as an Iron Chef on the Food Network's series of the same name.
Symon's excellence as a cook helped bring people from all over Cleveland to the Tremont neighborhood in the early days of its revitalization. More recently, he took another chance, opening a second restaurant in the newest of downtown Cleveland’s neighborhoods, East Fourth Street, at a time when there were few other thriving businesses in that now-burgeoning district.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Symon worked his way up through the ranks of several Cleveland restaurants. He is a champion of fresh, natural and locally grown foods. Internationally known author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain, an outstanding restaurant chef himself, said that Symon “is quite simply, Cleveland’s best known, highest profile and most influential chef. His restaurants are and have been for some time, reason alone for an outsider to visit.”
Michael Ruhlman's food-related books include The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef and The Elements of Cooking, a reference dictionery for home cooks. Several years ago The Making of a Chef, which focused more national attention on Michael Symon, was chosen to be read by the entire campus of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. Perhaps his best-known work, The French Laundry Cookbook, was written in collaborated with the esteemed chef Thomas Keller.
Through his books, articles for national publications and occasional TV appearances (on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and as a judge on The Next Iron Chef and Iron Chef), Ruhlman has done much to promote Cleveland’s growing and improving culinary landscape. He has also donated many hours of his time to encouraging the aspirations of young culinary artists. His blog is read by faithful fans, and he is a source for journalists who want an inside view of the world of food.
Ruhlman has received awards from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and won a James Beard Award for magazine writing. Bourdain has said that Ruhlman “is one of the most important, if not the most important writer on the subject of chefs and gastronomy working in America today. He is also single-handedly responsible for bringing No Reservations, which reaches 120 million households worldwide, to Cleveland. His unflagging boosterism and earnest enthusiasm for the people, the chefs, the food and the city of Cleveland is contagious. Both at home, through his written works, and when visiting elsewhere, he is a virtual ambassador for his beloved city.”
Not only have Symon and Ruhlman brought national attention to Cleveland’s food scene, they have taught Clevelanders and the world much about the joy of cooking as well.
Cleveland Arts Prize
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