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Growing Pains 

Cleveland's celebrity chef says goodbye to New York.

In academia, it's "publish or perish." In the restaurant biz, it's "grow or dry up." So chef-restaurateur Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita) hasn't been using his downtime to unwind since he resigned from N.Y.C.'s Parea late last month. Instead, he and his partners (wife Liz Symon and colleague Doug Petkovic) are busy plotting their next moves.

"I'm sure we'll do another New York project in the next year or two," Liz Symon says. "We know the city, we know the vendors, and we have a lot of friends there. I can't see us not going back." Petkovic is more circumspect, admitting the partners have been cultivating a new concept, but insisting it's still little more than a seedling. "It's something that may show up somewhere sometime," is about all we could coax out of him.

Also coming up is next spring's project, Hush, and its upstairs annex, Hush Up, just two doors down from Lola, on East Fourth Street. Food won't be served, but expect a full lineup of cocktails and wines. And, of course, there's Symon's Food Network gig, The Next Iron Chef, which he has been taping in New York since the beginning of the month.

"I talk to him about 16 seconds a day," Liz says about his grueling, seven-days-a-week taping schedule, which is likely to extend through the end of July.

Symon was one of hundreds of nationally known chefs asked to try out for the reality cooking show, which will finally hit the airwaves October 7. The winner will become a fifth Iron Chef, joining Mario Batali, Cat Cora, Masaharu Morimoto, and Bobby Flay as the defenders of the Kitchen Stadium.

From the original hundreds, the field quickly was winnowed to 30. When it debuts, the show will focus on the final eight survivors, a select crop that includes Symon.

As for the chef's resignation from Parea, tight-lipped insiders say only that he struggled with the decision for some time. "He was working with four investors who didn't share his vision, and it was very difficult for him," says someone close to Symon. "He liked the guys; he followed through on his part, but finally he just thought he could use his time better elsewhere."

The restaurant remained open after Symon departed, but it eventually shuttered on July 10. According to Parea manager Paul Zappoli, the space will reopen in mid-September with a new name and a new concept.

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