SOUTH FLORIDA'S CULINARY DARLING
Her sunny smile brightens up TV screens across the country; her charisma is undeniable and her cuisine sublime. Since drawing the national media spotlight in the mid 1990's and garnering a series of coveted awards, Chef Michelle Bernstein has become one of the most respected and successful chefs/restaurateurs in the nation. A Miami native of Jewish and Latin descent, this passionate culinaire has dazzled diners and critics alike. "My food isn't heavy handed or unnecessarily complicated,” says Bernstein, a James Beard Award winner (Best Chef South 2008) and author of Cuisine a Latina (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2008). "You don't need heavy handed technique and over the top presentations to make a dish work. To me it's all about the amazing ingredients I've loved most of my life, layered flavors and simplicity. My style of cooking is based on the honest, soulful cooking I remember from my childhood. I cook food I love and believe that love translates to the diners.”
The seeds of the Chef's successful career were planted at a young age. A former professional ballerina and honors graduate of Johnson & Wales University, Bernstein cut her teeth with the likes of iconic chefs Mark Militello and Jean Louis Palladin before capturing national attention in the late 1990's as executive chef of Tantra on Miami Beach. Her sensuous cuisine and made-for-TV personality launched her career as a media darling and catapulted Tantra to international fame. In 2001, she took the helm of Azul at the Mandarin Oriental Miami, drawing acclaim for her sophisticated haute cuisine, including a nod from Esquire magazine food critic John Mariani, who dubbed Azul the "Best New Restaurant in America.” That same year she joined the Food Network as co-host of the Melting Pot, where she introduced food enthusiasts to the art of Nuevo Latino Cuisine – journey to media stardom had begun. This first entrée to national TV helped set the stage for career in front of the cameras. She returned to The Food Network to battle Bobby Flay on Iron Chef America, from which she emerged victorious; regularly appears as a judge on Bravo's award-winning show, Top Chef; is a frequent guest on The Today Show as well as Univision Network's top-rated morning show, Despierta America, and is the host her PBS weekly television series, Check, Please! South Florida.
With her husband and partner David Martinez, Bernstein currently owns and operates two highly successful restaurants in Miami. The eponymous Michy's, which opened in 2005, signaled the arrival of Miami's Biscayne Corridor area as an emerging fine dining destination. Serving delicious, haute cuisine with many Latin touches, in a warm, energetic setting, this gourmet neighborhood haunt was quickly dubbed one of the "Top 50 Restaurants in the Country” by Gourmet and "Best New Restaurant 2006” by Food and Wine and has evolved into a local hotspot and a must-experience dining destination on every in-the-know foodie's travel agenda.
Located in the heart of Miami Design District, Crumb on Parchment, which opened April 2011, is a cozy café sporting charmingly mismatched vintage furniture and an extensive menu of innovative salads and soups, freshly-made sandwiches, and exquisite baked goods (including cakes handmade by Bernstein's mother, Martha). To further serve locals, reasonably priced items are available on premises and also offered to go. "The Design District was in need of a café, and Crumb on Parchment provides what this neighborhood was craving,” says Bernstein.
Beyond her restaurants and family, the chef maintains a busy life. In 2011, she and her husband became parents and when she's not cooking at one of her restaurants, she's making home-made baby food featuring fresh, organic ingredients ranging from malanga and calabaza to broccoli and pasta. "Being able to share my passion for cooking with my son is an amazing blessing and joy,” says Bernstein, who attributes her home cooking to her son's recent relief
from acid reflux and colic. "Making the food from scratch without preservatives made all the difference and is definitely something worth doing and, if done smartly, doesn't take all day.”
In addition, she continues to and consults for Delta Airlines, creating tasty, healthy in-flight menus for First and Business Class Elite, is a brand ambassador for Crisco, and a member of the Macy's Culinary Council and the LEAN CUISINE® Culinary Roundtable.
Bernstein is also a community activist. After falling in love with the organization while visiting Chicago, Bernstein launched the Miami chapter of Common Threads, an after-school program created by Chef Art Smith dedicated to teaching underprivileged kids ages 8-11 to cook, socialize, and eat healthy one recipe at a time. In a similar vein, she's currently working with the Miami-Dade Public School system on a chef partnership dedicated to improving the quality of cafeteria food in schools throughout the county and partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools!, a major White House initiative targeting childhood obesity highlighting fresh fruits and vegetables served in school meals that are grown on premises in student-tended gardens.
What's next for the star chef? "We're working on some very exciting new concepts,” she hints. "David and I are always cooking up something and looking for the perfect location for that next restaurant. But everything we do has to be built on our central passions – cooking and hospitality. Without them, you can only be so successful in this business.”
Michy's is located at 6927 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami. Dinner is served Tuesday – Thursday, 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday,
6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Telephone: (305) 759-2001.
Crumb on Parchment is located at 3930 NE Second Avenue in the Miami Design District. Crumb is open Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Lunch is served 11:30 a.m. 'til close; breakfast served all day. Telephone: (305) 572-9444.
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