Chef Michelle Bernstein Spices Up Miami
by maria argüello
One of Miami’s most renowned chefs, Michelle Bernstein first gained acclaim at Azul at the Mandarin Oriental, Miami, then blazed her own trail on Biscayne Boulevard with Michy’s and, in 2008, opened the doors of Sra. Martinez, joining fellow chef Michael Schwartz in bringing dining to the Design District. Up next? A line of pots and pans to be sold on HSN and at Macy’s, as well as a new menu for Delta Air Lines.
OCEAN DRIVE: What are the differences between Michy’s and Sra. Martinez?
MICHELLE BERNSTEIN: My restaurants are quite different. Michy’s is a neighborhood eatery, a casual place to meet friends. It’s colorful, fun and whimsical; none of the chairs match. It is an extension of my home. By contrast, Sra. Martinez is funky and cool. It’s more of a night out.
Do you think diners have grown accustomed to dishes with more heat?
People are starting to like spicier food more. I see it every day in the restaurant. Only 10 years ago, people were terrified if they saw chili on the menu. Now you see it in the food and drinks.
Sra. Martinez’s does a very successful brunch. What are some favorites?
You can order three kinds of croquetas, tortilla Espanola with melting Tetilla cheese and chorizo aioli, and flat-iron steak with papas fritas con huevo frito. We’re always making fresh updates to our menus or giving them face-lifts. For example, we’re offering new varieties of our staple pan con tomate, including jamón serrano and Manchego cheese.
Any new projects on the horizon?
This year I’m working with Miami-Dade Public Schools to empower students and cafeteria managers to rethink lunch. I’ll be helping to redesign the menus, and the students will come in in the mornings and learn how to prepare the food. The idea is that these kids will gain hands-on experience and encourage their friends to eat more healthfully.
What to Order at Michy’s
Starter: Fennel dusted sweetbreads with carrot-orange sauce, carmalized fennel, shaved fennel carrot salad and crispy bacon
Entrée: Malaysian snapper with heart-of-palm slaw (PICTURED RIGHT)
Dessert: Cinnamon milk pannacotta with chocolate crunchies and coffee granita
Michy’s, 6927 Biscayne Blvd., 305-759-2001; Sra. Martinez, 4000 N.E. 2nd Ave., 305-573-5474
photographs by caren alpert
Peter Max talks 'Ocean Drive'-commissioned cover artwork & more with Mika Brzezinski