Michael Symon's grilling obscurities are evident on-air. Whether it's on ABC's The Chew, The Food Network's Iron Chef America or any other TV cooking appearance, Symon hovers on the border between normal and wild grilling.
The chef is not all that different off the set. Take away cameras, and Symon might be even more creative. He says he's an avid tailgater on Sundays, and Symon has an exotic track record for game-day fare.
"Beef heart is one thing," he says. "Also, a lot of times, we smoke and grill whole pork heads because the meat in the cheeks is so delicious. It makes for a good scene."
The Cleveland-based chef is a die-hard Browns fan who says he has had season tickets for "the better part of 20 years." With the help of family and friends, the owner of Cleveland's Lola, The B Spot and a series of other Greater Cleveland restaurants brings flavor to the FirstEnergy Stadium parking lot.
"I love getting things done ahead of time," Symon says. "I'll smoke pork buns. I'll smoke ribs. I try to have things when I get there, so I don't have to be cooking from start to finish."
For novice tailgaters, preparing food in advance is just one of several tips Symon provides. To get the best bang for your buck, Symon advises tailgaters do the math before heading out to the game. Multiple racks of ribs may be necessary for large-scale tailgaters, but small families could make the economic choice of hamburgers and hot dogs.
As for tailgates featuring a number of parties, Symon insists the load should be distributed. Even at his tailgates, friends and family have responsibilities.
"Divide and conquer," he says. "Everyone can have a role."
Sundays are full of tailgaters, but Symon's imagination and skill put him in a field of his own. One could say Symon's tailgate crew is the Dawg Pound of grilling. They have a flair for the dramatic.
"What's the craziest thing I've ever put on a grill?" Symon says. "I guess whole pigs, whole goats, whole lambs. I don't necessarily find those super crazy but some do, "We smoke pig tails and then we go out to the game and I grill the pig tails. It's like a giant pork chicken wing. I never tell people what it is until they eat it.
"I've also grilled green eggs on the back of cars with smokers we drag down with us."
Despite his efforts on portable barbecues, the extent of uniqueness in parking lot can only go so far. Back in his restaurants and at home, Symon has even more options on the grill.
Picky eaters may draw the line at beef tongue or duck feet, but hearts and heads open up a whole other door. Symon wants eaters to have an open mind.
"Don't get freaked out, man," he says. "Remember, the whole animal's edible. Don't be shy!"
Symon isn't. Over the summer, Symon was among a number of Cleveland celebrities courting LeBron James back to Cleveland. A frequent visitor of Symon's restaurants, James is currently designed a custom burger with Symon. A portion of sales from the dish will go to the LeBron James Family Foundation.
Symon also spent his summer working close with Bank of America and the BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card, which offsets the cost of grilling with cash back, to produce a series of webisodes on YouTube called #123BBQ Summer Series.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.