Professionally, chef Michael Symon crossed over a long time ago from spending most of his time behind a stove to spending most of his time in front of a camera. But it's clear even after countless gigs on the Food Network (Iron Chef America, The Best Thing I Ever Ate) and a continuing run on ABC's The Chew that he's still taken aback, somewhat, by the response he gets at personal appearances.
"The fact that people come to my book signings is always really humbling and flattering," says Symon, one of five cohosts on the daily talk-show/cooking-show hybrid. "I'm always super-excited."
Symon will be at the Williams-Sonoma store in the King of Prussia Mall on September 6, at 1 p.m. Fans can chat up the Chew chef and sample some of the 120 meal suggestions from his new book 5 in 5, which he will also happily sign. The delish dishes in his latest culinary compendium all require just five ingredients and five minutes of cook time.
"5 in 5 is a segment that I came up with for The Chew," Symon explains. "It is just based not only on other people's busy lifestyles, but my own. Being in the restaurant business, my wife and I would work anywhere from 10 to 16 hours a day. We also had a son we were raising. And often we would come home between the lunch and dinner service at the restaurant and want to get a meal on the table quickly. But we would also still want to cook from scratch and enjoy a sit-down as a family.
"So a lot of the recipes I started making were things that I could put together in quick order and that didn't have a ton of cleanup, just a pot of ingredients."
That's where the 5-in-5 concept started - both on the show and in print.
Thanks to his imaginative approach and deep culinary experience, none of the recipes demo'ed on the ABC talk show are repeated in the book and likewise, none of the creations in the book have been TV segments on The Chew.
Symon concentrated his efforts to ensure that the meals in 5 in 5 were not only sumptuous and speedy but that they were also economical. "I think that on weekends, maybe people tend to go all-out a little more budget-wise when it comes to eating. But during the week, if you can get a meal on the table that is made from scratch and doesn't cost a fortune and you know what's going into it, it's a huge bonus."
Prep seems to be the key to Symon's ability to pull off mouthwatering meals in minutes. In the book, he first teaches readers how to set up their pantries with essentials that then make whipping up dinner easy. Then he shares his secrets for pastas, skillet dinners, egg dishes, grilled mains, kebabs, foil packets and sandwiches, all illustrated in 75 photographs. The result is streamlined cooking for busy families and firmly solves the "what's for dinner?" conundrum for home cooks everywhere.
Streamlining life for greater efficiency seems to be a theme in Symon's life. He cites it as one reason behind his signature look, a shaved head that he finds simpler and faster to maintain than a more traditional hairstyle. "The good news for me," he laughs, "is that I met my wife 20-something years ago. So I got her commitment to a life together first, and then the hair loss started kicking in. It was all in the timing."
Much like his dinners in a dash.
Meet Chef Michael Symon at the King of Prussia Williams-Sonoma, which is located in the Plaza in the Lower Level, near Neiman Marcus, on September 6, 2013, starting at 1 p.m.