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Michael Schwartz: The Most Prolific Man in Miami

By Nycole Sariol 

Not many people know that Michael Schwartz has a hidden talent. “I could fall asleep standing up,” quips the James Beard Award Winner, “don’t tell anyone.”

Though, when the Miami-based chef revealed that he has time to sleep at all – even in the most arbitrary of stances – and still manage to be a quality family man, it somehow came as a bit of a shock.

Nowadays, it seems you can’t find a restaurant in Miami without the toque’s name attached to it: Restaurant Michael Schwartz in the iconic Raleigh seizes the Miami Beach dining scene, while The Cypress Room, Harry’s Pizzeria, and Michael’s Genuine outrival bordering hubs as the Design District’s Big Three. The man even has his own label of 12-ounce brews with his name stamped all over, solidifying his top chef status.

MichaelSchwartz2Surely, Schwartz must have yet another secret talent lurking up his sleeve to seamlessly balance helming a slew of triumphant restaurant concepts and juggling personal downtime. But for Michael, the trick is simple: “Great people. That’s just the bottom line. I couldn’t do it without my people,” he says of his team of restaurant employees, chefs, publicists, and partnerships that keep his hotspots “spinning in the air, and inspire and motivate” him to be the Renaissance man he is today.

The success of his culinary ventures has rightfully garnered him an outpouring of attention throughout the years. But it’s Michael’s revamp of perhaps his most beloved restaurant, Michael’s Genuine, which has particularly riveted the attention of Miami diners as of late.

“I guess it was a long time coming,” Schwartz says of inevitable renovation and the recent acquisition of the restaurant’s raw bar.

Like many local restaurants, Michael’s Genuine typically closed after lunch at 3pm and re-opened for dinner at 5:30pm prior to the makeover, giving a generally large gap of downtime to prep for the dinner crowd. But Michael sought to scratch the downtime all together, and instead introduced an “Afternoon Service” for all the tardy lunchers wafting about in the neighborhood.

“The extension of the [raw] bar was kind of a no- brainer for us. Introducing it capitalized on that in-between time when people are shopping in the neighborhood,” Schwartz says. And what with the influx of high-end designers flocking more and more to the Design District’s quarters these days, the raw bar and the restaurant’s newfound schedule couldn’t have arrived at a more opportune moment.

MichaelSchwartz3Once measuring only fourteen feet in length, where customers would oftentimes sit squished arm-to-arm, the [raw] bar now seats twenty-five people comfortably, after knocking out what used to be the wall separating the private dining room. “Just opening it up really changes the way the restaurant feels and looks,” tells Michael.

But prior to the newest offerings being served up at the raw bar – small plates like the East and West Coast oysters, shellfish platters, middleneck clams, and local crudo, tartar, and ceviche – Michael’s Genuine’s lunch menu underwent some changes of its own, a sort of precursor leading up to the restaurant’s recent alterations.

“About two or three months ago, we revamped the whole lunch menu and really looked at it more like our dinner menu, in terms of changing it,” say Michael. Instead of the archetypal likes of a salad, sandwiches and small plates replaced the lunchtime iteration, keeping in tune with Michael’s affinity of minimally proportioned dishes.

Nowadays, change is the name of the game for Michael. Imbued by his recent modifications at Michael’s Genuine, Schwartz plans to tackle a new foray come next year. Partnered with the award-winning Related Group, the duo is launching a restaurant concept and beach club at Edgewater’s Paraiso Bay, completely different from anything Michael has done in the past.

“We’re not borrowing from Michael’s Genuine,” says the chef, “we’re creating a whole new experience that has a lot to do with wood-fire and very vibrant flavors, focusing on carefully sourced proteins, loads of vegetables, grains, and juices.”

Being his first waterfront venture (sitting poolside at the Raleigh doesn’t count), Michael admits that he’s shocked how few restaurants teem Miami’s shorelines, in spite of coastal surroundings. “The options for waterfront dining are ridiculously limiting; we’re surrounded by water – it doesn’t make any sense. So, we jumped at the opportunity to bring something really fun, interesting, and different [to Edgewater]. It was too good to pass up.”

MichaelSchwartz1The concept might come off a bit hoitytoity, but Michael argues that it’s actually the very antithesis of ostentation. “I wouldn’t classify it as fine dining; there won’t be table cloths, it’s not a hush restaurant,” assures Michael. “You’ll be able to sit outside, with your feet in the sand, near the water, while eating really good food.”

Not only is Schwartz taking his culinary expertise to Miami’s seaside, but he’s also bringing a farm-to-table concept overseas via an ironclad partnership with Royal Caribbean called Michael’s Genuine Pub. Craft cocktails, craft beers, and a focused wine list compliment the menu of snacks, charcuterie, and artisan cheeses on the European cruise liners based out of Europe and Asia. “The ships will be time-released in six month periods. So, within the next eighteen months all three ships will be sailing,” the Chef adds.

But while Michael’s namesake sets sail internationally, it’s Miami that keeps him anchored and inspired – whether he likes it or not. “I’m sort of stuck here for better or for worse,” admits Michael, “It took me awhile for me to embrace it, but I love Miami.”

“I’ve always felt like there was enough of a challenge for me to be here and make a difference,” says Michael. “The Miami dining scene has come a long way. I still think that it will always evolve, but we do our part to elevate and gain some national and international exposure for Miami.”

And, despite the flurry of recognition and countless restaurants that have given Michael impetus to potentially venture off elsewhere to further build his eponymous name, Michael remains faithful to the city that saw him truly grow as one of the best chefs Miami has to offer.

“I’ve been here for twenty years; I’ve started businesses, made a family – I’m not going anywhere.”

Photography courtesy of THE GENUINE HOSPITALITY GROUP 


Click here to view post on the November/December 2014 issue.

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