Michael Symon closing in on title of Next Iron Chef

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The odds of Cleveland being home to the Food Network’s Next Iron Chef improved last night, as hometown boy Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita) survived the 7th round of culinary challenges to move on to next week’s winner-take-all finale. He’s vying for the Iron Chef title – and the opportunity to star on the long-running television show along with Mario Batali, Bobby Flay, Cat Cora, and Masahuru Morimoto – against New Orlean’s John Besh. Symon and Besh are the only two contenders remaining from the original field of eight. Last night’s Paris-based challenge was to create a three-course, “definitive American feast” for 20 in the palatial residence of U.S. Ambassador to France, Craig R. Stapleton. Judges, including Cleveland culinary expert Michael Ruhlman (click here for his take on the proceedings), eliminated SF chef Chris Cosentino, but declined to pick a sole winner. Still, there was plenty of praise for Symon’s offerings, which included lobster hotdogs, veal meatloaf over truffled mashed potatoes, and a goat cheese ice-cream float, with fresh blueberries, strawberries, and lemon-lime fizz – a red, white, and blue creation that impressed the Frenchies at the table with its all-American flare. While both contestants and judges are sworn to secrecy on the final outcome, under penalty of a million-dollar fine, that hasn’t dried up the local foodie chatter on Symon’s odds of bringing it all back home. Symon pal and fellow chef Dante Boccuzzi weighed in last week: “I think he’s going to do it,” the owner of recently opened Dante in Valley View declared. “I know he can’t say, but when I asked him, he gave me this look, you know? I think he’s gonna win.” Find out for yourself, when the finale airs next Sunday, Nov. 11, at 9 p.m. on the Food Network. Just don’t plan to watch it at Lolita, where Symon has been hosting a Sunday-night viewing party for the past five weeks: The joint is booked solid. -- Elaine T. Cicora
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