Michael Symon: I could never be vegan

Check your blood-pressure meds at the door. The South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s Meatopia is on, people. The host, carnivore extraordinaire Michael Symon, promises an evening of protein-packed indulgence. We spoke to the James Beard winning restaurateur who also cohosts ABC’s The Chew.

Can you describe the event? What will attendees be feasting on?

A bunch of different chefs will be cooking their favorite kinds of meat over a live fire. Nowadays the meat is way better sourced than it was in the past. So there’s that quality. In terms of preparation, we’re kind of going old school — whether it’s smoked 18 to 20 hours, or cooked over a spit. There are some great techniques of the old barbecue days from 80, 90, 100 years ago that are coming back. The long cooking times were meant to preserve the meat but we’ve realized that process is also made it taste so fantastic.

How do you enjoy SOBEWFF?

It’s a great weekend — like chefs’ spring break. I have some great memories, though some are a little hazy. We’ve had a lot of fun down there. There are a lot of people who come from the culinary world, and we don’t get to see each other very often because we work such crazy hours, like Bobby Flay. He’s one of my dearest friends, and I’ll get to go out with him three nights in a row. You have so much going on.

How do you tackle it all?

For me, it’s really the people I’ve been fortunate to surround myself with. I have 15 restaurants, and some of the staffers have been with me for years. I wear a lot of hats, but I need them because I don’t have any hair! I’m a four for five hours of sleep a night kind of guy. Every morning at 5, I’m up. I spend my week in between NYC shooting The Chew, and catching up on recipes and restaurant stuff in Cleveland.

Do you do a lot of cooking at home?

I do. It’s interesting. My wife [Liz Shanahan] bounces back and forth between being vegetarian and a vegan so, me, the ultimate carnivore, does actually eat a ton of vegetables. That’s kind of how I find my balance in this world. I tried not eating meat for like three weeks, but it didn’t work for me. I’m not gonna lie. I hated it. I didn’t feel good. You gotta do what works for you.