Avid food enthusiasts across the globe and South Florida culinary devotees need no introduction to today’s Chef in the Spotlight, Michelle Bernstein. But for those of you who have heard her name and cannot quite place her, it could be from any number of affiliations that you are familiar with Ms. Bernstein.
Bernstein is the recipient of the 2008 “Best Chef South” James Beard Foundation Award, an Iron Chef victor, and the owner of three popular Miami restaurants: Michy’s, Crumb on Parchment and Sra. Martinez.
Passionately involved with Common Threads, Bernstein takes the mission of this organization very seriously, educating children on the importance of nutrition and physical well-being thus fostering an appreciation of cultural diversity through cooking; she will be honored this coming Friday, March 9th by the South Florida Chapter of the Red Cross with a Spectrum Award for her involvement with Common Threads.
Bernstein is the author of Cuisine a Latina: Fresh Tastes and a World of Flavors from Michy’s Miami Kitchen; the host of Check, Please! South Florida; has a line of namesake cookware, michelleB sold on HSN; is a roundtable participant for Lean Cuisine, developing new recipes for the company, and this past Fall, Bernstein was named one of “The 25 Most Influential Women” by People en Español.
While this list of accolades and hard work is impressive [and exhaustive], with first hand knowledge, I would venture to say the most proud facet of her life to date complete with non-stop bragging rights is her newest role as a Mom. Recently I met Michelle at a taping of next seasons Check, Please! While we were talking, the glowing new Mom took out her phone and showed me photos of her bundle of joy. Hardworking, passionate, authentic, I present this week’s Chef in the Spotlight, Michelle Bernstein
South Florida Food and Wine: You’re a busy woman running your company which encompasses restaurants, products, cookbooks, and events as well as being a role model for so many young adults. What is a typical day for you as the “brand” behind your company?
Michelle Bernstein: I wake up around 7 am and spend time with the baby. Then it’s time to hit the gym, try and make breakfast for the hubby before working on the computer catching up with all of the e-mails, recipes and organizational details for the week. The first restaurant I visit is Crumb on Parchment, our place that’s open breakfast and lunch. Then it’s time to work on testing recipes for the million other things we do! When I come home, I spend time with the baby and work from home for a bit before visiting Sra. Martinez and Michy’s. Then I come back home to tuck my baby in for the night before going back to the restaurants. If I’m lucky, I can have a late dinner with my husband while working on recipe and menu development and getting a good night’s sleep.
South Florida Food and Wine: You’re not just a chef but an entrepreneur as well, what is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
Michelle Bernstein: Consistency!
South Florida Food and Wine: You have 3 restaurants, Sra. Martinez, Michy’s, and Crumb on Parchment; do you make your rounds to these restaurants on a regular basis and check up on your staff/brand?
Michelle Bernstein:Of course! See above for the answer for the first question.
South Florida Food and Wine: Tell us about your involvement with the newly launched Lean Cuisine Culinary Roundtable.
Michelle Bernstein: It’s been such an amazing experience! I’m cooking next to some of my favorite chefs in America while we come up with new ideas to inspire Lean Cuisine’s new dishes. I’m learning every day that I’m with these chefs.
South Florida Food and Wine: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
Michelle Bernstein: Every place I go! Literally every country, restaurant and delicious bite I eat inspires me. It can happen in a 3 Michelin star restaurant or when I’m sitting on milk crates in Malaysia at 2 am with my Mom.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite dish to make at home?
Michelle Bernstein: It’s simple but I love roast chicken, salad and lots of veggies.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Michelle Bernstein: Anything my mother cooks!
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to cook with and why?
Michelle Bernstein: Julia Child, hands down. She was just so enthused in the kitchen and you could see she loved what she did.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Michelle Bernstein: It’s kind of embarrassing but I have a weakness for BBQ Potato Chips
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one go-to ingredient and why?
Michelle Bernstein: GOOD Olive Oil. It makes everything taste, feel and look good.
South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at? (other than your own)
Michelle Bernstein: I eat out every Monday since it’s when the restaurants are closed. My husband and I have a weekly date night at a little Argentinean restaurant that we both love.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who would you most like to cook for? And why?
Michelle Bernstein: Honestly, I get excited when I get to cook for anyone that lets me!
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Michelle Bernstein: I love spending my time outdoors riding bikes, going on walks or jumping in the ocean. If I’m lucky enough to be invited, I love boat rides. I unwind with a good book and eat …. a lot!