Food Festivals

Michael Symon Wants to Win the SoBeWFF Burger Bash for a Fourth Time

Michael Symon and the Burger Bash: For the love of meat.
Last year, celebrity chef Michael Symon shocked the throngs of meat lovers at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Burger Bash by winning the coveted People's Choice award three years in a row.

Symon's "Porky Burger," a pigfest made from pork and bacon, crowned

with a hunk of pulled pork, and served with a side of pork cracklins, combined with the chef's megawatt smile, proved a winning combination as thousands of hungry partygoers surrendered their voting token to the television cohost, restaurateur, and all-around genuine nice guy.

This year, Symon's back, and he's aiming to turn his three-peat into a lucky foursome. We spoke with the affable chef to talk burgers, The Chew, and all things meaty.

New Times: Michael, you're back at Burger Bash for a fourth win. And we've gotta ask, why don't you just retire victorious?
Michael Symon: I feel like at this point if I don't do it, then all my friends will give me

grief because they won't get a chance to whoop me. Of course, if I win I'll get

grief for winning. I'll get grief either way, so I figure I might as well

do it one more year.

Each year, your burger's had a theme. What's this year's burger?

We're going to do a burger inspired by French onion soup. It's going

to start with red wine and caramelized onions with bacon. Then comes the burger, then aGruyère-and-horseradish fondue. We'll top it with crispy onions.

This is what we always love to do with our burgers at my B Spot restaurants. We take classic

burgers and combine them with things people like. My Fat Doug burger is based on a

New York pastrami sandwich; then last year, we did a burger based on a

pulled-pork sandwich. That was a porkapalooza. This year, we're taking another classic, French

onion soup, and we're going to jazz it up a bit.

I think it's the tastiest burger we've ever done.

Do you create these specially for the Burger Bash?

Our first year at Burger Bash, we served the first signature burger at B Spot. The others we

did were originals, and they went on the B Spot menu after we won.

I don't mean to jinx you, but would you put a burger on the menu even if it

didn't win?

Even if it doesn't win, it will still go on the menu because this is the best one

so far.

A lot of people want to know your secret to winning Burger Bash. Do you slip people $20 bills in exchange for their token?
We try to give them the best burger, and we're nice to the people in line.

I've seen people hugging you, kissing you. What's that like?
It gets a little crazy. It's fun, though. It's better than having people

throw stuff at you or having nobody in your line.

Some of the other chefs put on a real show. Guy Fieri was at the top of his station. Spike Mendelsohn had girls dressed in bikinis,

We don't do that. We just try to give them a good burger and be friendly.

You're also hosting the carnivorous dinner with Peter Vauthy

from Red the Steakhouse in Miami Beach. Can you tell us about that?
Peter's a sweet guy and a wonderful chef. I've known Peter and his

business partner for 30 years now from Cleveland. I go way back with those guys. I'm going to do a couple of courses and Peter's going to do a couple

of courses. A few dishes we're doing will be a cavatelli with lamb Bolognese and fresh

mint, and slow smoked short ribs over some creamy polenta with a salad of

shaved fennel, oranges, and watercress.

The Chew became a breakout success. What's that like?

It's great. Mario and I have known each other 15 years. We have fun. We make each other breakfast every day. We've

all gotten to be friends and we do a lot outside of the studio together. We actually found

out we had the highest rated week since we started the show, so it's

been an overwhelming success.There had never been a cooking talk show on

network television and we took the place of a show that had been on for 41 years. It was a challenge,

but it's been even more successful than we ever thought. I can't even put into words how much I enjoy it.

What are you looking forward to the most at SoBeWFF this year and where in south Florida do you like to go when you have a free moment?

Day one I'll make sure I'm at

Michael's Genuine. I always make sure I have lunch at Joe's Stone Crab -- I can

eat my weight in those claws. The festival gets us out of the cold. It comes

at that time of the year when I am so sick of snow. Look, If it were the

Cleveland Wine and Food Festival

It would be a tough draw to get all those chefs together in February.

If you could create your own party at next year's festival, what would you do?

I would do sausages. The world's greatest hot dog and sausage sandwiches.

You want to do a sausage fest in Miami Beach?
I wouldn't word it that way, but yes. It would be themed around sausage

and beer, because there's nothing better. The hamburger is an American classic and you can eat it on the go The hot

dog or sausage is the same exact way. You can grab it, and walk and drink while eating you customized hot dog.

Michael Symon is co-hosting Saturday evening's sold-out

Carnivorous Dinner at Red the Steakhouse on Saturday, February 23, at 7

p.m. with Red's chef/partner Peter Vauthy, in addition to participating

in the Burger Bash on Friday, February 22, at 7:30 p.m. (also sold out).

Symon will also participate in Sunday's Grand Tasting Village

(tickets $125 and $225).

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times, covering the restaurant and bar scene in South Florida. She has been featured on Cooking Channel’s Eat Street and Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race. Doss won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature on what it’s like to wait tables. In a previous life, she appeared off-Broadway and shook many a cocktail as a bartender at venues in South Florida and New York City. When she’s not writing, you can find Doss running some marathon then celebrating at the nearest watering hole.
Contact: Laine Doss