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An Iron Chef Dishes on Family Dinners...and Mickey Ds

Last night, the first Food Network-branded video game, Cook or Be Cooked!, was rolled out at the studio kitchens in New York. (Check out our October School Years issue for a review of the brow-furrowing Wii game, which really simulates the race to get everything on the table hot—and at the same time!) The winner of the Next Iron Chef, the Food Network darling Michael Symon, cooked along with the game to prove just how realistic it is—it devolved into a man vs. machine Iron Chef competition in no time. During the demo, Symon mentioned his 22-year-old son, and two Parenting editors exchanged incredulous looks. (It’s the Greek skin, he later quipped.) We caught up with (okay, cornered) him afterward to pepper him with questions about fatherhood and family dinnertime.

Does your son cook, too?

My son is a baker, actually, so he definitely cooks.
Ah, so is being able to cook is genetic!?
No, no, it's not genetic; it's what you are exposed to.
My family was Greek and I was always around cooking growing up; we cooked everything from scratch. My wife is a sommelier [a person who builds a wine list at a restaurant], and we just exposed our son to the same thing. It’s important to him now because we were together every day, cooking. But--when he was growing up he always complained, "Daaad, why can't I just go eat at McDonalds."
What's your advice to moms who say, “I just don't have the time to cook from scratch”?
It takes no more time to just make some simple roast chicken with olive oil and rosemary than to go through the drive-thru.
So, the key is just to keep it simple?
Yes, keep it simple and invest in fresh ingredients. Every Saturday we go to the farmers market then it’s really easy to eat well because we have fresh, quality ingredients.