Over the years, Michael Symon has delighted guests at his restaurants and captivated viewers on food television. While his extensive culinary knowledge is impressive, it is how he connects with people that makes him endearing. Symon might make a nuanced sauce for that Sunday Supper, but it is how he uses every day ingredients that makes him relatable to a wider audience.
Recently, Symon joined PepsiCo to showcase some innovative recipe ideas using some its snacks beyond the snack bowl. During the Stir It Up! Cooking Competition, the Doritos Dinamita and Starry Sweet and Spicy Shrimp recipe is one that is a game changer for any big game gathering. While those Doritos Dinamita are a bold, cruncy snack that can keep the nerves calm during 3rd and 10, those sticks can be the perfect, edible skewer, too.
During a recent conversation with Symon, he shared some ways that he incorporates Frito-Lay snacks into this big game recipes. A theme that seemed to flavor the whole conversation is how food influences memories. From that favorite snack that is always in the pantry to creative ways bring that taste to the table, it is the ability to look beyond the bag which is important.
As Symon shared, “for a chef like me, it is always interesting to take an ingredient that maybe people don’t think about at home and working it into a dish. The great thing with all these products is that you can do that idea in fun ways. Years ago when I originally partnered with Lay’s, I used Lay’s Salt and Vinegar Chips to do a fish and chips dish. The chips were the crust. It was a fried fish, but without the chips.”
“It is always interesting to me because so many people have childhood memories with these specific products. When you are able to work them into a dish where it does not look exactly like the Ruffles or the Doritos, it brings them down memory lane. That flavor pop is familiar and confuses them all in the same bite, which I love. It is what makes food so fun.”
That blend of familiar and new keeps people hungry for more. Although Symon appreciates that tailgating and football food have been around forever, it is those moments where innovative and different keep the excitement on the table.
The Doritos Dinamata Shrimp recipe is a great example. Even if Symon happily would just empty the bag directly into his mouth, there are endless recipe opportunities in that bag. Crusted proteins, snacks as sticks, or some innovative idea waiting to be discovered, people just need to open themselves to that food possibility.
Since this particular recipe was part of the Stir It Up! Cooking Competition, the event was more than just cheering for the food champion raising the trophy in victory. The event raised funds and awareness for the FMI Foundation and its initiatives to address food insecurity, health, well-being, and nutrition.
While larger organizations have big platforms for these issues, Symon has long believed that personal action does and will continue to make a difference. He shared, “when I started out as a chef, I made a promise to myself that if I had success on any level, I would use my voice to help raise awareness about food insecurity, health issues, and all those concerns. When you get a company like PepsiCo that gets behind foundations, it takes the power of one and multiplies it by the thousands and thousands.”
Choosing to make the world a better place is not limited to one night’s event or a single moment in time. Symon, PepsiCo and others are committed to making changes. It might start with a spirited snack competition, but it is the desire for people to act long after the plates are cleared which is what makes a true difference.
Symon suggested “get involved in local food banks. It is easy to do and every community has one. It helps people realize that the face of hunger is not necessarily what people might think it looks like. It can happen to anyone at any time.”
“Being self-aware, patient, and understanding what is going on in the world around you is important. More importantly, being thoughtful and kind can help put a lot of things in perspective.”
While Symon aligns with brands that share his passions, that support extends beyond these special events. He mentioned that there is usually a bag of salt and vinegar chips in his house or a bag of Doritos. Whether it is the big game or just an occasional snack, the PepsiCo brands always deliver that classic, craveable flavor.
Big games can foster big conversations in and around food. Creativity, competition, and compassion can all come together to make viable change. Michael Symon, Stir It Up! Cooking Competition, and PepsiCo did it on a large scale. Now, it is time to take their example and serve a difference in any and every community one meal at a time.