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Michelle Bernstein: Girl Boss de Cuisine

By Nycole Sariol

To most, she’s revered as Michelle Bernstein, James Beard Award Winning Chef and reality TV show regular. But to the voracious diners of South Florida who know her best, she goes by simply Michy. And while Bernstein has continuously wowed the nation with her deft cooking repertoire and covetable line-up of restaurants, it’s her most recent dining concept, Seagrape, showering the top toque with mass acclaim and etching yet another notch in her belt of world-class menus as of late.

Taking precious time from her back-to-back schedule, we fiendishly chatted up Michelle about her newest brassier-turned-baby to hit Miami Beach’s Thompson hotel, Michy’s renovations, and how she manages to defend her title as the ultimate girl boss of the kitchen. MSM sits down with Michy to find out what she’s been up to:

MSM: Let’s talk about your newest venture on the Miami Beach dining scene: Seagrape and it’s menu. What are some coveted plates that will whet our appetites there?

MB: Seagrape at Thompson Miami Beach has really been an exciting project for David – my husband and business partner – and I. The menu is inspired by everything that makes Florida so wonderful like fresh seafood and beautiful produce. Some of our top-selling dishes since opening have been the Crispy Skin Florida Snapper, Braised Short Rib, Spanish Octopus a la Plancha, and the Ellensburg Lamb Chops.

MSM: Seagrape is now ripe for the pickin’, having opened its doors late last month. What’s the crowd been like? Garnering any local love, or has it all been the jet-setting type? Reveal.

MB: We’re thrilled that we’ve had such a successful opening. During Art Basel we were slammed with visitors in town as well as locals who were out and about checking out all of the fun events. We see a little bit of everything being on Collins, we love all of our guests and are happy to warmly welcome them!

MSM: What of Michy’s? It’s temporarily closed due to its face-lift-heard-round-the-world. What sort of face-lifts are we talking about: drastic Joan Rivers style, or subtle like Christie Brinkley? There’s a difference.

MB: Joan Rivers if she had fixed her feet up! It’s a new kitchen for me, new dining room for my husband and guests; new pipes, new walls, new everything!

MSM: Random question time: Isn’t it ironic how society has always pegged women as laborers in the kitchen, yet men arguably have been recognized for dominating the modern- day culinary scene as Chefs de Cuisine? What’s it like being a woman cooking in a man’s kitchen?

MB: I can’t speak for other women in the industry. The ratio of women I’ve seen in culinary schools is around 50%, but the actual percentage that becomes or remains a chef is pretty low.

MSM: Speaking of being a lady within a testosterone driven industry: you’ve been knighted with a James Beard Award for Best Chef in South Florida; judged and mentored on Bravo’s Top Chef; and come on, how could we forget that one time when you slayed Bobby Flay on Iron Chef – truly a wonder to behold. What is the impetus behind such vociferous success? What’s your next plan of attack?

MB: I figure its 50% luck and 50% good timing! I am driven, passionate and very, very disciplined but if it weren’t for my family and my amazing staff I wouldn’t be very successful!

Photography Courtesy of THOMPSON MIAMI BEACH

Click here to view post on the January/February 2015 issue.

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