I almost didn’t do this interview. My first thought was not to promote those that leave Cleveland. I generally like to call out those that choose to keep their talents here and all the good happening within our city. Then I realized I was being silly. There are great people from Cleveland doing great things all over the country. Sure, ideally we’d like to retain these people and have them be a permanent part of our make-up and help perpetuate our city. But no city can claim zero turnover. Instead, we should look at it like there are true Cleveland ambassadors spread throughout. And with any luck, those people will return home – which they seem to do more and more these days. As is the case with chefs Ryan Harkins and Matt Chernus, the duo behind Grill ‘Em All. While they are still in LA, it sounds like we are part of their future plans. Until then, you can watch as they take part in The Great Food Truck Race on The Food Network.
1. What does Heavy Metal have to do with food?
Matt: We, as humans and fire breathing dragon slayers, use food to sustain our life forces. It keeps us focused, healthy and of stable mind. Heavy Metal does these same things. It defines who we are as it powers our inner dragon – slaying guts and stuff.
Ryan: It’s actually quite strange how heavy metal and food go together. I’d like to thank and honor Ronny James Dio for that. Not sure why, I just would like to take any chance I get to honor that man.
2. If you had to listen to one song over and over, every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Matt: That is a tough question as I feel equally strong about ‘Angel of Death’ by Slayer and ‘I Wish I Was a Little Bit Taller’ by Skee-Low.
4. Secret to cooking a good burger?
Ryan: Damn dude, you stole it. ‘Angel of Death’ is such a brutal song! Not out of line saying it’s by far the best thrash song ever written. The album though would have to be ‘36 chambers’ by wu-tang!
3. Favorite burger topping(s)?
Matt: Of all the insane Grill ‘Em concoctions, I would have to vote for seared fennel sausage gravy.
Ryan: I gotta say the “Paul Baloff” — dijon, pickles, swiss, 7oz burg, 1/3 lb pastrami and a fried egg. That burger rips!
Matt: Ryan says love, I say hate. Therefore we have what kind of relationship?
Ryan: Skills son! Haha!
5. If you could cook for any band, who would it be and what would you make?
Matt: Let’s, as the world, cook for U2…and poison them.
Ryan: Appetite for Destruction era Guns and Roses. Loads of tacos and pizza. They’d like that…oh Slash.
6. Where did you grow up in Cleveland?
Matt: Rocky River, son. Represent Center Ridge! I’m a full on East Side hater. I’ve, as a smart adult, lived in Lakewood, Cleveland and Tremont. As, a dumb adult, I’ve spent way too much money drinking in all those neighborhoods!
Ryan: The mean, mean streets of Rocky River, beware those Center Ridge crips! I don’t know anything about the east side except the grog shop. I like that place though.
7. What do you think of the culinary scene in Cleveland now? Will Grill ‘Em All make its way here?
Matt: The Cleveland food scene is far better than I ever remember it being when I lived there. That’s in large part due to our good buddy, Iron Chef Michael Symon. There’s so much good food and drink in Clevo…of course we want to be a part of it! Cleveland is where I learned to eat!!! Oh yeah, and expect us in Cleveland. Seriously.
Ryan: The Cleveland food scene continues to blow my mind on a daily basis. I follow it closely out here and it makes me so jealous. I swear to you, people out here don’t even know what a pierogi is!
Chef Symon brought our dearly missed city to the forefront of the food movement, and god bless him for that! Raddest dude out, for real!
There are so many great up and comers as well, you guys are so lucky. And on top of that, my absolute favorite place in the entire universe, the West Side Market – I’m drooling! Sokolowski’s, Lola, Lolita, Melt, Greenhouse, Leloli, Flying Fig, Hot Sauce Williams, Steve’s, Old Fashioned, oh boy, I could seriously turn this into the longest interview answer ever. Needless to say, we REALLY love Cleveland!
8. Why are gourmet food trucks so popular right now?
Ryan: Because it’s nerdy and awesome! Fact!
Ryan: It changed my appreciation for all the detail and attention it takes to film a TV show. Our business rules and continues to rule even harder! People of Cleveland, take a well-deserved vacation and come to LA, find us, and we will feed you so well. And if you don’t, Matt and I will see you over the holidays at one of our favorite restaurants feeding our faces and growing our bodies and we will say hello….and also tell you that you missed out!
Matt: Because people loved that movie XXX with all the cars and Vin Diesel. And people get hungry thinking of Vin Diesel.
9. How has participating in this experience on the Food Network changed you and/or your business?
Ryan: It changed my appreciation for all the detail and attention it takes to film a TV show. Our business rules and continues to rule even harder! People of Cleveland, take a well deserved vacation and come to LA, find us and we will feed you so well! And if you don’t, Matt and I will see you over the holidays at one of our favorite restaurants feeding our faces and growing our bodies and we will say hello….and also tell you that you missed out!
Speaking of food trucks, let’s not forget our favorite local food truck Dim and Den Sum. The Great Food Truck Race has launched a contest for America’s greatest food truck. Cleveland’s own Dim and Den Sum has been nominated in the top fifteen and needs our votes to win. The contest begins on Sunday, August 29th on the Food Network’s website. The winners will receive a cash prize (enough to bring another truck to Cleveland they declare) as well as a spot on the second season of The Great Food Truck Race.
Let’s be sure to rock the vote for these guys and send them to season 2. And if you haven’t tried their food yet, what are you waiting for – follow that truck!