How Long Michael Symon Has Really Been In The Restaurant Business

Michael Symon has been a fixture of the food television scene since 2007 when he first appeared on (and won) "The Next Iron Chef." But before the victory that propelled his stardom, Symon was named a Best New Chef by "Food & Wine" magazine in 1998 (via Food Network) and was profiled on Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" Cleveland episode. Moreover, he was "Cleveland's chef," as described by The Plain Dealer. Writer Michael Heaton summed up this soon-to-be superstar perfectly on the evening before his big win: "Symon is all Cleveland. He is as Midwest as the beef-cheek pierogis people clamor for at Lola ... Symon represents for Cleveland in a large and tall way. He has Rust Belt style and gritty grace to spare. He's blue-collar Greek/Italian/Eastern European, rides a custom '99 Night Train Harley-Davidson, is all about the work, and totally rock 'n' roll."

You might know Symon for his friendly, down-to-earth, everyman personality and cooking skills as seen repeatedly on network morning shows, as well as his appearances on Food Network programs including "Dinner Impossible," "Symon's Suppers," and "Beat Bobby Flay," just to name a few. Or, if you're a Northeast Ohioan with any interest in food, you've perhaps eaten at his Lola and Lolita flagship restaurants, B-Spot burger restaurants, and his Mabel's BBQ.

But before Symon was rewarded with fame and fortune came a lot of hard work, beginning very early on in his life. In an interview with Behind the Pass, Symon said he was predestined for the restaurant business from an early age.

Smoking ribs at 13

Symon grew up with a Greek and Sicilian mom who knew her way around the kitchen, as well as a father who brought his Eastern Slavic food traditions to the home. Symon told Behind the Pass he was "always in the kitchen as a kid."

What's more, Symon went to work at an early age, getting his first restaurant job at 13: "I fell in love with the business and worked in restaurants through high school. Shortly after high school I decided I wanted to go to culinary school, and that was it," Symon said.

Speaking to Thrillist, Symon elaborated on that first job, cooking ribs at a casual pizza-chicken-and-rib joint owned by a friend of his dad. Symon called the owner "a complete character" who represented what young Michael wanted to be when he grew up.

Symon added that he remembers pulling all-nighters, smoking ribs from 10 p.m. until dawn for the city's annual rib cook-offs. He recalls: "I was so instantly, spontaneously in love with the business that every day was fun for me. The all-nighters and stuff like that taught me at a very young age that the harder you work, the luckier you get. If you're willing to work harder than the next guy, you'll probably advance faster."

Advance he did. Today, Symon has television and cookbook deals, not to mention a portfolio of restaurants in Cleveland and in Las Vegas, and is worth an estimated $6 million (via Celebrity Net Worth).