Tragic Details About Michael Symon

Michael Symon closeup smiling
Michael Symon closeup smiling - Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

If you're a fan of food celebrity Michael Symon, you may not realize that he has endured several tragic circumstances over the years. While he has been able to bounce back and move forward with something positive after many of them, there's no doubt they have shaped his life. We looked through various interviews with Symon to get the real scoop on the tragedies in his life.

It's not all bad though; two tragedies from high school and college ultimately led to his career as a chef. Another couple have helped narrow his food focus, especially regarding his cookbook content. Still others have led to the loss of several of his most beloved restaurants, but he's even found the silver lining there and created more peace in his life. You may have also seen a false tragedy about Symon's wife floating around the internet, and we'll shed a little light on that one as well. Behind the smiling face you see on TV, here are a few stories that we think will give you deeper insight into who Symon is and where he's been.

Read more: Famous Chefs Who Are Jerks In Real Life

An Injury Forced Michael Symon To Stop Competitive Wrestling

two men wrestling on mat
two men wrestling on mat - Aleksandar Georgie V/Getty Images

During Michael Symon's early years, wrestling was life and he participated in the 105-pound weight class during high school. As he told The Wall Street Journal, "I excelled at wrestling, and the sport became my all-consuming passion. I expected to get a college wrestling scholarship and become a wrestling coach." Unfortunately, breaking his arm in his junior year of high school upended his wrestling career and future plans.

It was during practice with a teammate that everything changed. Symon said, "my right arm became stuck between his knee and the mat while he had me in a move called 'the cradle.' My arm broke in several places." Symon thought he would be able to return to wrestling after a surgery to have a plate inserted into his arm. While he did eventually get back on the wrestling mat his junior year, the plate in his arm broke, solidifying the fact that his future could no longer include his wrestling dreams.

While the loss of wrestling was tragic for Symon, it did leave him open to pursuing something else he ended up excelling at: cooking. Ultimately, putting aside his wrestling career led him to cooking school. Over the years, he's taken the lessons he learned from his wrestling coach and applied them to life, such as taking everything he knows about cooking and sharing it with the world.

He Had To Work Through Depression After His Wrestling Career Ended

Led Zeppelin IV album cover
Led Zeppelin IV album cover - Ralf Liebhold/Shutterstock

When the wrestling-related future Michael Symon had imagined was no longer possible, it put him into a tailspin. Suddenly, the sport that defined him was no longer a part of his life, and he was not okay with it. He told The Wall Street Journal, "My senior year was a mess. I became depressed, and I felt lost and angry." His depression continued into his college career, where he studied a subject he hadn't planned on pursuing. He also had to work at a restaurant to pay for college instead of enjoying a full-ride from a wrestling scholarship. His depression contributed to his horrible grades.

While Symon is among many celebrity chefs who have talked openly about their depression, he was eventually able to tame his. The breakthrough came when he was listening to Led Zeppelin's song "Stairway to Heaven." Symon shared, "Halfway into the song, ... Robert Plant's words caught me: 'Yes, there are two paths you can go by / But in the long run / There's still time to change the road you're on / And it makes me wonder.' The lyrics helped me realize there's always time to change course." He immediately changed directions, leaving his university and enrolling at The Culinary Institute of America, where he ultimately graduated as a chef in 1990. The rest is history thanks (oddly enough) to Led Zeppelin.

He Has Been Diagnosed With A Couple Of Autoimmune Diseases

person showing elbow arthritis pain
person showing elbow arthritis pain - - Yuri A/Shutterstock

Tragically, Chef Michael Symon was diagnosed with two autoimmune diseases when he was in his twenties. He told the Arthritis Foundation, "Literally one morning I woke up with these two enormous butterfly splotches under my eyes." So, he went to seek a medical opinion of what was happening to him.

It took more than one doctor to figure out what was wrong . A diagnosis with discoid lupus came first, and Symon's dermatologist advised him to stay out of the sun to help with his symptoms. However, when his joints kept hurting even after avoiding the sun, his dermatologist realized there was an underlying problem and sent him to a rheumatologist. The second diagnosis Symon received was that of rheumatoid arthritis.

Discoid lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have a variety of symptoms. The former affects the skin and causes thick patches of inflamed and thickened skin on the face or scalp (sometimes elsewhere, too) and causes joint pain. It can also cause some other symptoms as well as increased risk of skin cancer. Rheumatoid arthritis also leads to joint inflammation, and the damage it causes can move beyond the joints to other organs, resulting in chronic pain.

He Has Battled Chronic Pain With Age

Michael Symon's Fix It With Food book
Michael Symon's Fix It With Food book - Amazon

Michael Symon's joint pain from discoid lupus and rheumatoid arthritis only increased with age. With no cures in sight for these two ailments, he's had to learn to manage his symptoms. For decades he just lived with it, and by his fifties he was taking up to 10 Aleve tablets daily to keep his chronic pain at bay. Finally, he decided to eliminate certain foods from his diet to try to figure out what was causing additional inflammation.

As part of his elimination diet, he went vegan and cut out many ingredients, including sugar. The experiment left him extremely irritable, but it ultimately gave him positive results. He told Salon, "once I got through the 30 days, every week, I added something back to see what triggered my inflammation. And I got to the point where I found out that dairy and sugar were my triggers." As a result of eating an anti-inflammatory diet and introducing regular exercise into his routine, Symon has been able to manage his pain much better. Plus, he's lost a lot of weight in the process.

After understanding his inflammation triggers and changing what he eats everyday, Symon wanted to share his findings with the world. So, he ended up writing several anti-inflammatory cookbooks to explain what he learned and provide tasty recipes for those going through the same process. Among them were a couple of cookbook variations named "Fix It With Food" in 2019 and 2021.

There Was A Viral Hoax Claiming His Wife Had A Tragic Accident

Michael Symon and wife hugging
Michael Symon and wife hugging - The Chew / Facebook

The internet has been alight for years with news that Michael Symon's wife, Liz, was involved in a horrible accident. There are many full-blown articles about it that lack credibility and get weird.

Each account is more fantastical than the next. One story claimed that in November of 2018, Liz was out walking the dog around the neighborhood when a van hit her at a crosswalk. Supposedly, she was rushed to emergency surgery and spent time in intensive care with a concussion and multiple fractures in her right arm and ribs. The rumor grew to include the fact that she stopped working and lost clients while undergoing physical therapy. The story said Michael stopped work too to help her with her recovery. An even more bizarre version from 2023 has Liz out jogging when her arm mysteriously disappeared with a flash of light and high-pitched noise. The article blames extraterrestrials, while we blame AI for a poorly-written story.

Another article from 2024 states that the rumors stem from Liz actually falling and breaking her wrist. However, we're not even sure if this article is true either since we couldn't find anything about a broken wrist incident in Symon's social media feeds as the article stated. The article also suspiciously quotes and links to a personal injury lawyer who is concerned for her, making us think that even the rumor-debunking article is probably fake, too.

One Of His Restaurants Burned Down

Lolita on fire
Lolita on fire - FOX 8 News Cleveland / YouTube

In January of 2016, one of Michael Symon's restaurants burned -- the adventurous and hip Lolita in Cleveland, Ohio. The building held special significance since it was the original site of Symon's first solo restaurant, Lola Bistro, that he started in 1997 and which became Lolita in 2005. Nobody was hurt, but the restaurant itself was severely damaged.

The fire started on the first floor by a pizza oven around 2:30 p.m on a Sunday afternoon. Then, the fire made its way upstairs, where it engulfed the offices and almost completely destroyed them. The first floor mainly had water damage, but the roof was a total loss. Investigators ruled out arson as the cause of the fire, so it seems to have been an accident.

Symon told his Facebook followers that the "damage to [the] restaurant appears to be pretty significant but we will be back strong that I can promise you!" Unfortunately, the restaurant never reopened, and Lolita is permanently closed as of 2016. A few months after the fire, Symon said he planned to reopen the restaurant as Sherla's Chicken & Oysters, but he got so busy with his other restaurants that he ultimately decided to sell the space altogether in 2019.

He Had To Close Another Beloved Restaurant During The COVID-19 Pandemic

Michael Symon outside Lola restaurant
Michael Symon outside Lola restaurant - Michael D. Symon / Facebook

One of the biggest professional tragedies for Michael Symon was having to close down several restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first to close was Lola Bistro, which had been in business for over 20 years. Lola Bistro first opened in 1997, moving to downtown Cleveland in 2006 where it breathed life into the downtown area, causing new restaurants to pop up all around it. Unfortunately, the pandemic rules about social distancing made it difficult to provide the same level of service, and the food just wasn't as good to-go as it had been fresh from the kitchen. There were so many financial stresses that Symon ultimately decided to close the restaurant permanently by November of 2020. Several of his other restaurants followed suit eventually, like Roast in Detroit and all his B-Spot restaurants in Cleveland.

While Symon had 21 restaurants open at one point, there were only five left in 2022 and only three by 2024. The three still open are Angeline in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Mabel's BBQ in Las Vegas, Nevada; and Bar Symon in the Cleveland Airport. He explained the real reason for closing his restaurant in a post on X (formerly Twitter), saying that paring down has allowed him to "spend more time with family and grandkids," adding, "34 years of 80-100 hr weeks gave me very little family time."

Read the original article on Mashed