It was one of those moments when worlds collide: Cleveland's Iron Chef Michael Symon mentions to Food Network honcho Bob Tuschman that he just bought a house in Shaker Heights.
"Whereabouts?" Tuschman asks.
"Oh, it's a little street — you never heard of it."
"Try me," Tuschman urges.
And that's when the men discover that Symon's new home is directly across the street from the house where Tuschman grew up.
"I told him, 'Yeah, Mike, I think I know that house!'" Tuschman tells Side Dish. Turns out Tuschman, the network's senior VP for programming and production, is a Shaker Heights native. The former swim-team captain joined the Food Network in 1998, making him particularly well positioned to boost Symon's career as a celebrity chef.
"He's got that great Midwestern charm, you know?" says Tuschman, who frequents Lola on his trips to Cleveland. "He immediately came to mind when we started looking for the next Iron Chef."
You can get a peek at Tuschman during upcoming episodes of The Next Food Network Star, where he serves as one of three judges putting 10 celebrity-chef wannabes through the ringer. The popular reality show launches its fourth season on Sunday at 10 p.m. Symon guest-stars on June 22.
Despite his Cleveland roots, Tuschman isn't exactly grooming a stable of local talent. While he calls our food scene vibrant, he admits "no one comes to mind" for future FN projects.
Tastes like more: We finally made it to Flavors of India (26703 Brookpark Road Extension, 440-779-5774), Amy and Jay Patel's tidy restaurant in North Olmsted. Open since mid-January inside the former Kashmir Palace, it features a midday buffet ($7.95 weekdays/$9.95 weekends) and a big menu of mostly Northern Indian fare, augmented by a tasty roundup of Bombay beach snacks. From the dainty Bombay pani puri (hollow balls of chickpea flour, filled with brightly seasoned lentils, potatoes, and onions) to an adroitly balanced spin on navrattan korma (peas, carrots, nuts, and raisins in a rich cream sauce), everything was delish. Check it out for lunch or dinner, Tuesday through Sunday.