Michelle Bernstein has her hands full. The Miami-based celebrity, who won the James Beard Foundation Award for best chef in the South in 2008, is running her signature restaurant, Michy’s, with husband David Martinez, as well as a casual -and-lunch concept called Crumb on Parchment, the second location of which recently opened on South Beach.
The chef, whose Jewish and Latin heritage is reflected in her cooking, also became a mother last year, and is making appearances on Latin TV in the U.S. and on Central and South American stations, as well as a blog for NBC Latino.
Bernstein recently discussed her ongoing projects with Nation’s Restaurant News.
Tell me about your blog on NBC Latino.
I’m writing about how to start cooking your own baby food. It’s been really interesting and a lot of fun.
It’s really new for me. When Zach was born he was really colicky, with acid reflux, and really skinny, and I thought I could make him healthy through food. I started reading what a lot of mothers have written about what to do: Everything is boiled or steamed; very plain.
I tried making it, and it was heartless — and he didn’t like it. I don’t know if he didn’t like it because I didn’t like making it or just because he didn’t like it. But I threw everything away. I started making freshstock every three days for him, but cleaner than anything I’d made in my life. It was like consommé. I started cooking everything with consommé so he would have more protein, and I’d use beef stock and vegetable stock, and I threw in quinoa and amaranth and the tiniest bit of cream cheese, and he went crazy.
He got rid of the acid-reflux and the colic. Now he couldn’t be healthier. He’s only gotten a cold once in a year.
You also just opened your second location of Crumb on Parchment. Tell me about that concept.
It’s breakfast and lunch. It’s really haimische [homey]: baked goods all day long with savory and sweet scones and layer cakes that my mother brings in twice a day and every kind of biscuit and muffin, fluffy eggs and waffles with every kind of fruit.
For my chicken salad, instead of mayonnaise I make it with [Peruvian] huancaina sauce [with aji amarillo chiles, saltine crackers, cream cheese, sautéed shallots, lime juice and evaporated milk]. People are digging it.
[The restaurant has] done so well that we were asked to open one on Miami Beach. So we opened in a really beautiful clothing store [The Webster], and probably in the next month or two we’ll be doing some fun dinners, whether it’s me cooking or bringing in another chef. Instead of those dinners being part of Crumb, they’ll be kind of pop-up restaurants at The Webster.
Will the dinners have a theme?
It might be a designer who’s coming up with something special, or a chef friend who might be in town that month or that week, or maybe pomegranates came in and I’m going to celebrate pomegranates. Something casual, fun and entertaining, and something people love.
What’s going on at Michy’s?
This summer we had all-you-can eat fried chicken on Wednesdays. Starting next month we’re going to do family dinners. Kind of a fun potluck idea where my staff comes up with ideas. Everyone on staff’s got a specialty, and they just kind of make their own family favorites.
So it’s a way of making customers feel like insiders?
That’s exactly what it is.