Michael Ruhlman and Michael Symon
2008 MARTHA JOSEPH PRIZE
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. And for the first time in its history, the Cleveland Arts Prize recognizes practitioners of the culinary arts.
The literal spotlight is often on Michael Symon, now a national TV personality. He 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). 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. But last year, after a long televised “reality” TV series battle, he emerged victorious as the Food Network’s newest Iron Chef, now appearing on the Iron Chef series semi-regularly.
Symon helped bring people from all over Cleveland to the Tremont neighborhood in the early days of its revitalization. More recently, he took another chance, this time in the newest of downtown Cleveland’s neighborhoods, East 4th Street, opening a second location there, at the time one of few businesses in that burgeoning district.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Symon worked his way up through several Cleveland restaurants. A champion of fresh, natural and locally grown foods, his culinary creations are always exciting. Internationally known food author and food TV personality Anthony Bourdain 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 is a nationally recognized author who has written several non-fiction books about food preparation, including The Making of a Chef, The Soul of a Chef and The Elements of Cooking, and collaborated with the esteemed chef Thomas Keller on The French Laundry
Among his acclaimed non-fiction works, he has written four books about chefs and cooking and four cookbooks. His book The Making of a Chef was chosen as the one book for the entire Case Western Reserve University campus community to read several years ago. Ruhlman has collaborated with esteemed chefs on important cookbooks, such as Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry Cookbook, and has now added The Elements of Cooking, a reference dictionary for home cooks, to his growing list of books.
Through his writing, including The Making of a Chef, which focused more national attention on Michael Symon, and in TV appearances and in articles he’s written for national publications, Ruhlman has done much to promote Cleveland’s growing and improving culinary landscape. He has also donated many hours of his time to encouraging young people in the culinary field.
Anthony Bourdain 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 [Bourdain’s national TV show] 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.”
And not only was he instrumental in bringing that show to Cleveland, but he appeared on it with Bourdain, as well as serving as a judge on the Food Network’s mini-series The Next Iron Chef. His blog is read by faithful fans and he is a source for journalists who want an inside view of the world of food.
Both Symon and Ruhlman have brought much national attention to Cleveland’s food scene and have taught Clevelanders and the world something about food as well.
Cleveland Arts Prize
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