Face Time: Michael Symon

Call Michael Symon a meathead and he’s more likely to shake your hand than punch you in the face. Along with other culinary bigwigs (Giada De Laurentiis, Gail Simmons), the Cleveland-born restaurateur will be headlining the Metro Cooking & Entertaining Show on Sunday and Monday (Metrocookingdc.com) at the Washington Convention Center (801 Mount Vernon Place NW) where he’ll dazzle with cooking demonstrations and discuss “Carnivore,” his new cookbook and love letter to all things meaty ($35, Clarkson Potter).

Why do you think so many people are afraid to cook meat?
I think when people go to the grocery store, they get overwhelmed by all the different cuts. With the cookbook, I wanted to explain them all and the best way to cook them. It takes an intimidation factor out.

Many of your recipes have four steps or less. That’s got to help.
I don’t believe in difficult cooking. There’s always going to be someone who wants to make their own sausage or hot dogs, and those recipes are in there. There’s also a roasted chicken recipe and other dishes that are intended for people who are a little more busy.

What are some misconceptions people have about meat?
Americans are afraid of fat, but it’s needed for tenderness and flavor. Boneless skinless chicken breast sells better than any other type of chicken, yet the thighs have three times more flavor for a third of the price.

Can you explain your eating less-but-better philosophy?
We’re preprogrammed to think more is more. If you get a 5-ounce prime, dry-aged rib eye, it’s going to satisfy you, whereas if you buy a steak that has no fat, it’s going to take 12 to 14 ounces to fill you up. Meat of a higher quality is more expensive, but it has more flavor.

You don’t include any tenderloin recipes in the book. Why’s that?
Tenderloin is a flavorless cut of meat people pay an exorbitant amount of money for. You will never see a butcher or a chef order a beef tenderloin. In my 25 years of going to dinner with chefs, I have never seen a chef order a tenderloin. Not one.

The side dishes in your book tend to be more veggie-based than the typical potato. Why is that?
[Potatoes with meat] is rich on rich and not delicious to me, even though it’s an American classic. You want something to cut through the meat. For example, I paired the bone-in prime rib with horseradish beets. They complement the dish but don’t weigh it down.

What can people expect at the Metro Cooking Show?
I’m doing a cooking demo with Carla Hall. We’re making biscuits and gravy. It should be fun. I love doing live cooking demonstrations and getting people involved. As a chef, there’s nothing I enjoy more than cooking in front of a live audience.

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