Michael Schwartz isn't sure about a few things.
He doesn't know how many hours he works in a day, whether his employees think he's a good manager, or where exactly he's taking his restaurant group next.
What he does know is this: a lot has changed since he landed his first restaurant gig 33 years ago.
"I started cooking when I was 16. So did I have a plan? No. But I still don't have a plan," he says. "The restaurant business was a lot different then. I loved the excitement, but it had nothing to do with interviews and celebrity status. None of that."
Schwartz has done well for a man without a plan. He leads the Genuine Hospitality group, an entity that includes four restaurants in Miami, another in Grand Cayman, and a partnership with Royal Caribbean cruises. He wrote a cookbook called Michael's Genuine Food. He owns a beer brand. He is one of the most respected chefs in Miami.
But that doesn't stop the haters. A chef who steps out of the kitchen and into the office is like a CEO who leaves work to take care of the kids, critics claim. And Schwartz's transitioned out of the kitchen a couple of years ago.
"While I'm not in the kitchen all day for 16 hours, I could spend 8 or 10 hours doing shit like arguing with a vendor or working on a new deal or writing menus and be just as tired. I don't count the hours. I work a lot of hours," he says.
Now the chef is making changes to his Home Brew format -- switching from 22-ounce bottles to 12-ounce bottles. Soon Schwartz will have to make a choice. Will he push his suds beyond South Florida?
"We're at capacity with our brew partner. Shifting to a 12-ounce will help, because it will create more product without brewing anymore beer," he says. "Regionally people like it, but I don't know if it's viable to take it outside of this part of the country. The craft beer thing is so saturated."
In the meantime, his restaurant group has swelled. Schwartz's fine-dining venture, the Cypress Room, debuted in March. Unlike his signature laid-back vibe, the Cypress Room is all bone china, côte de beouf, and crystal chandeliers. Bon Appetit recently listed it among the top 50 new restaurants of the year.
Schwartz is betting on Miami's return to fine-dining. He believes there's beauty in a properly synchronized meal. "Small plates: They all hit the table at the same time. And if it's done well and staggered, it can be a great experience. I love eating that way. But it became an excuse for crappy service," he says.
The chef hopes vegetarian or vegetable-driven restaurants will also open soon here. "Some place that's about the simplicity of the food, not all fucked up with three preparations and sauce and sous-vide. I would love somebody to do it well, because I'd love to go eat there," he says.
So who will?
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"It would have to come from a chef who's very comfortable and confident in what they do. It's not about them. It's about the food," he says with pause. "It's always overcomplicated."
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