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2008 Guest Chefs

Michael Symon

Lola, Lolita

Cleveland, Ohio

Michael Symon

Renowned in the Culinary world and adored in his hometown of Cleveland, Michael Symon is the chef and owner of critically acclaimed Lola and Lolita restaurants in Cleveland, Ohio. Michael’s pedigree started upon graduating from The Culinary Institute of America in New York in 1990. Michael quickly began revitalizing the Cleveland pallet, while practicing in some of Cleveland’s up and coming restaurants, such as Player’s, Picolo Mondo, Giavanni’s and The Caxton Café. In these venues, he found success as well as a loyal following and fan base.

In 1997, Michael opened his own restaurant Lola, collaborating with his future wife, Liz. Lola opened just west of downtown Cleveland in the community of Historic Tremont, receiving glowing reviews. To compliment Michael’s menu, Liz brought an unpretentious elegance to both the design of the restaurant and unique wine selection from lesser-known boutique vineyards that made Lola Cleveland’s destination of the year. In 2005 Michael and Liz gave birth to a new concept for the Lola Space so they could open Lolita. They once again revitalized a new section of Cleveland with the re-opening of Lola in the heart of downtown Cleveland on E. 4th St. in 2006, becoming once again, the cornerstone and darling of the Cleveland dining scene.

Michael has earned much attention through the years for his thoughtful cooking style and his attention to detail. He was named National Rising Star by Restaurant Hospitality Magazine (May 1997 issue), He was named one of the top Ten Best New Chefs by Food and Wine Magazine (July 1998 issue), Americas Best Restaurants in Gourmet Magazine (Oct. 2000 issue), featured in Michael Ruhlman’s book “The Soul of a Chef” (2000), nominated for best chef-great lakes region by the James Beard Foundation (2006) as well as appearances on Local channel WKYC on ”Mondays with Michael, I-Village Live on NBC. He has hosted over 100 episodes of The Melting Pot on the Food Network in addition to appearing on Sara’s Secrets with Sara Moulton, Ready, Set, Cook, Food Nation with Bobby Flay and an Iron Chef Competition vs. Morimoto (2005). With his most recent achievement of becoming Iron Chef, we are certain there are more great things on his horizon.

Don Yamauchi

Bourban Steak


Detroit, MI

Don Yamauchi

Executive Chef Don Yamauchi oversees the kitchens for both of Michael Mina’s MGM Grand Detroit restaurants, Bourbon Steak and Saltwater. Yamauchi also cultivated a culinary following as executive chef at Tribute, One of Michigan’s most celebrated restaurants.

Yamauchi’s creative and eye-opening flavor combinations push the boundaries of innovative cuisine to amuse and thrill diners on a nightly basis. He describes his exquisitely detailed food, distinguished by its diversity, inventiveness and his commitment to spectacular presentation, as “contemporary French with a global accent.”

Yamauchi comes to Michael Mina’s restaurants highly celebrated, recognized by Food and Wine Magazine as one of our country’s Best New Chefs, and a James Beard Nominee for Best Chef in the Midwest. His peers and critics note his “fierce dedication to perfection.” Chef Yamauchi explains: “I want to make the dining experience so special that the guest is left with an unforgettable memory of their visit.

Born in Chicago, IL and raised in Skokie, IL, Yamauchi stayed close to home attending the Culinary School of Kendall College. Yamauchi takes over at Tribute after holding top positions in some of Chicago’s finest restaurants, most recently Le Francais (which has been called the best French restaurant in America by the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Mimi Sheraton and Craig Clairborn) and also four-star restaurants Carlos (in Highwood) and Gordon.