July 14, 2024


Welcome to the Food

Food Network stars Michael Symon, Geoffrey Zakarian dish on golf

A 30-year career in the culinary industry has allowed chef Geoffrey Zakarian to travel the world. The one constant in each kitchen, no matter the country? He was probably working on his golf game while cooking.

Before he was an author and Food Network star, Zakarian was a caddie as a kid and is still passionate about the game to this day. That’s why it’s no surprise to see he and Michael Symon – a longtime friend and not to mention fellow golfer, Iron Chef and Food Network star – featured in a hilarious holiday video for Golf Galaxy.

“We’re frustrated golfers, we just are,” said Zakarian of he and Symon, his friend of 25-plus years. “We were talking about lessons, he talked to me about his coach and I talked about my coach, what he’s trying to do and what I’m trying to do, it’s so funny because it never ends, right? It’s the kind of game that is constantly on your mind. You’re constantly focusing on it. I don’t know if there is another game like it.”

“Geoffrey and I like to go at it quite a bit and it was fun to do it with him,” explained Symon, “because we are so competitive with each other and we do like to talk some trash and even when we’re doing it with Golf Galaxy, he’s buying me gifts, and we’re still talking trash.”

A $5,000 donation was also made to the First Tee.

“To be able to do something and donate to the First Tee, it’s great because it gives the next generation a fantastic chance to learn the game and see what how it can be so special,” said Symon. “I’ve learned a lot of lessons in golf. I always feel you learn so much about people on a golf course. How they carry themselves, what their temperament is, if they’re honest, I just think there’s great lessons to be learned there.”

“Anything we can do to get children into this game is amazing because what this game teaches you, it’s about integrity, honesty, and being in control of your own vision of who you want to be,” echoed Zakarian. “It’s a game that has such an ability to do so much more than just teach you a past time, and that’s why I love it.”

Cooking connection

Both chefs noted the tangible similarities between cooking and golf, most notably how you’re largely on your own and there’s not one single way to put the ball in the hole or the food on the plate.

“So when you’re at the range, it’s a comfortable game for us because embedded in the repetition is what we do as chefs every day,” explained Zakarian. “We make an omelet. And another one. And another one. And now we break some eggs and make a chicken and make another and make another, and we don’t mind doing it over and over again.

“It’s eerily similar to being a chef.”

Symon sees it as more of a, “if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” situation.

“Whether it’s getting food out and having it perfect in a restaurant setting or whether you’re on Iron Chef, there’s intense pressure. I will tell you, I rarely, rarely, rarely miss a putt when money is on the line, and I feel it’s because – Geoffery’s the same way, (Bobby Flay) is the same way – we have grown up in a business where pressure is the norm, you know?” said Symon. “So, like a big putt for me, it’s a pressure moment but I know how to calm myself in pressure moments. Not only myself, but I would say most chefs are not going to choke on the golf course.”

If your golf game was a dish it would be …

“Roast chicken, because I’ve made a lot of roast chickens and every one has come out different,” said Zakarian. “They’re all different, but I get the job done. The chicken’s delicious, I get a par.”

“Porchetta, because it’s big and bold, but slightly wild,” said Symon with his signature laugh. “Distance is not a problem for me, ever. I can pound it, but sometimes things get a little willy-nilly. Porchetta’s like that, it’s big and bold but you’re rolling the whole pork belly up and trying to get that tender and the skin crunchy, things can get a little awry sometimes.”

Sir Nick Faldo

When you’re at the top of the food chain, you get the chance to not only meet, but play golf with some interesting people. Over the years both Zakarian and Symon have played with Sir Nick Faldo, the six-time major champion and current CBS golf analyst, and each shared a story about the Hall of Famer.

Both chefs have done their fair share of charity events where a different chef will play with a different foursome and then afterwards each will have a cooking station. A few years back, Zakarian and Symon were playing with Faldo and on the first tee, Symon crushed a drive right down the middle, a good 10-15 yards past Faldo by his estimation.

Faldo proceeded to hit his second shot to a foot while Symon hit a rocket a foot off the ground into the trap, took two shots to get on the green and then two-jacked for a double bogey.

“We walk off the green and he looks over at me and he goes, ‘You know what you were thinking on that second shot?’ I said no,” Symon recalled, “and he said, ‘You were thinking, ‘I can’t believe I just out-drove Nick Faldo.’ I got a three, what did you get?’”

For Zakarian, a lesson with Faldo opened his eyes to the importance of having a great teacher in golf and how the same is true in life.

“So what golf is great about is it teaches you how to repeat something strategic,” said Zakarian. “In life if you can repeat something strategic, you’re going to do very well in other parts of your life. So there’s a lot of parallels there and people I don’t think understand it.”