Do the Shuffle

A number of famous South Beach chefs have ditched their dance partners

Have you heard of the newest dance craze taking Miami's most popular restaurant/lounges like a riptide? It's called the South Beach Shuffle.

Oops, silly me. Of course you don't know about this hot trend yet, only those of us in the know know. But I never could keep a secret, so I'm delighted to teach you the moves.

First thing you do is get your whites on and become a chef or a restaurateur. That's one of the most tedious parts of the dance, so only attempt this if you have the demeanor of a teenager on E. Next, court a partner and make a deal to cut a rug (or some terrazzo floors) on South Beach, somewhere near the middle of that single square mile where you'll be as subtle as a six-foot model with stilettos on her feet.

Jeremy Eaton

Location Info

Map

Nemo Restaurant

100 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: South Beach

Big Pink Restaurant South Beach

157 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: South Beach

Shoji Sushi

100 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: South Beach

Pearl Restaurant & Lounge

1 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: South Beach

Then get set for the trickiest part of the Shuffle, a series of intricate steps known as the spin: Hire PR, pour the bubbly, manipulate the media, and make room in your cash register. This is the point where the Shuffle becomes a line dance -- as in all your customers will wait in one (two, three, four). All together now: Dodge to the right to catch the flashbulbs of the photogs; fall back and left for the shower of awards; turn around and around for praise of the greenest kind.

Now, just when the dance is at its most frenetic, make your bow. Still can't visualize it? I'll give you a concrete example: Michael Schwartz, erstwhile chef-proprietor of Nemo, Big Pink, and Shoji Sushi. That's right, Schwartz is now a former. The founding partner of Nemo back in 1992, he's withstood the rigors of the dance for just about a decade. And he twirled by the rules, the Michael Flatley of fine food (but without the George Michael look-alike hairstyle). First he trained rigorously out in California under Wolfgang Puck, among others. Then, after traveling for a year or so, he skipped to South Beach where, along with partner Myles Chefetz, he opened one of the first high-end eateries (after Joe's and what was then South Pointe Seafood House, now Smith & Wollensky) south of Fifth Street. Neighborhood success was nearly immediate, and Schwartz et al. capitalized by opening the immensely likable Big Pink across the street.

The years that followed saw the duo locked in a slow dance. They attempted to clone two Big Pinks in Broward County and run a restaurant called Fish in Aventura, but none of these ventures quite panned out. Indeed, "We opened five restaurants in seven years and two tanked hard," Schwartz admits. (The Big Pink on Harrison Boulevard in Hollywood never actually opened.)

Schwartz and Chefetz decided to focus on South Beach and continued to operate both eateries there with a steadfastness and consistency that eventually began to earn them repeat vacationers as well as their loyal locals. Last year they debuted Shoji Sushi next door to Nemo, and it looked to me that Schwartz would eventually receive some of the culinary recognition that had so far been withheld from his dance card. But this past April, Schwartz's knees, so to speak, gave out, and after several months in arbitrated negotiation, he dissolved his partnership with Chefetz.

"There's no nasty spin to it. I just wasn't having fun anymore. The best thing about what I do is that I love it, and if I don't love it I have to make a change," Schwartz says. "My job within the restaurant company had become like being a big old babysitter. I like running a restaurant, but I like to cook."

Never fear, though, Nemo isn't Nomo. Chefetz is keeping everything status quo, and the entire staff, including pastry chef extraordinaire Hedy Goldsmith, remains in place. As for Schwartz, he plans on manning a new stove at some point in the area -- indeed he's already looking at spaces in areas like the Design District -- but for the moment he's keeping his own counsel and hanging out with his wife and two young girls. He notes, "I have time to spend with my family. I've lost my identity to a certain extent but I know in my heart I've done the right thing. I'm antsy and I want to work but I'm getting better at relaxing every day." He adds, however, "Once I'm back in, I'm back in 110 percent."

Karim Masri is another member of the pioneering South Beach troupe who plans on reinvesting his energies during the summer. He recently shuttered his two eponymous eateries, the seven-year-old Astor Place and two-year-old Bambú, only a month apart from each other. He points out, though, that the two restaurants have different problems, and will tackle individual issues over the summer months. "Seven years later, Astor Place is in need of a complete reinvention. [It] will reopen under a completely different concept and name," he asserts. "For Bambú, I will be reopening it in late September with some cosmetic changes and badly needed repairs [to the plumbing system]. We will also tweak the menu to make it moderately priced and more extensive, perhaps even eliminating the sushi altogether ... and focusing on signature creations by chef Rob Boone, who's a genius with ingredients. We have the whole summer to come up with something that will go the extra mile in pleasing our clientele."

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