Best Chefs - 2008
Michelle Bernstein and Michael Schwartz
This is a lifetime achievement award one can win only once. The first five inductees were Norman Van Aken, Mark Militello, Allen Susser, Pascal Oudin, and Philippe Ruiz. This year's entries into our hallowed hall of fame are two toques who have been wowing Miami diners for more than a decade and who are, at the moment, presiding over the pinnacle of their careers. Michelle Bernstein and Michael Schwartz are not only the hottest, most talked-about chefs in South Florida (or, for that matter, Florida), but also their respective restaurants, Michy's and Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, are near universally acknowledged as the very best we have. Bernstein broke into the big-time ranks during her dazzling stint at Azul in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; Schwartz made his name as chef/co-owner of SoBe's perennially popular Nemo. Both had to deal with obstacles on their way up — need we remind Michelle of her short work at The Strand, or Michael of his ill-fated helming of the Atlantic Restaurant? — but they worked hard, with full integrity and passion, until they succeeded on their own terms. That the two are known to be genuinely nice, humble human beings only makes the story of their rise that much sweeter.