For Michael Symon, a Rachael Ray charity event is all about the kids -- and the Clinton

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Michael Symon likes Bill Clinton. Like, likes him likes him.
Even celebrity chefs have their heroes, and for Cleveland’s own Michael Symon (Lola, Lolita), that would be former president Bill Clinton. “When he speaks to you, it’s like nobody else exists,” an awestruck Symon told C-Notes this week, still high on his Monday night meeting with the former Prez. “It was probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.” It all came down as part of a Big Apple charity bash hosted by Symon’s fellow Food Network star, Rachael Ray, to benefit her non-profit children’s organization, Yum-o!. ... The setting was Barbuto, Jonathan Waxman’s West-Village boîte. On the menu were tidbits like lamb meatballs with Greek yogurt; fettuccine with morels, ramps, and bacon; halibut with fava beans, lobster, peas, and lemon broth; and a fabulous layered carrot cake, created by one of the youthful chefs. “It was great,” said Symon. “I took them shopping, we picked out produce together, and then I helped them prepare the meal.” Seventy celebrity guests were on hand, including Carly Simon, Larry King, and Symon pals Bobby Flay and Mario Batali, all of whom paid a whopping $2,500 per ticket. Besides snagging the cooking gig of a lifetime, the youngsters also got face time with the former prez. “He must have spent ten minutes with each one of them,” Symon said. “He wanted to know all about them, and seemed so interested in everything they said. Talking to him is the most awesome thing in the world.” Besides raising more than $600,000, the evening turned out to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for five aspiring young chefs, ages 15 to 18, who were chosen to cook the four-course dinner with Symon’s help. Look for footage from the dinner on Ray’s Food Network show on May 7. And for those of you who can’t get enough of Cleveland’s Iron Chef, he’ll be guest starring on the Food Network’s top-rated series, The Next Food Network Star, on June 22. --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at clevescene.com.

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