Michelle Bernstein Talks Parenting, Food Trucks, and Cookbooks
In part one of our interview, we learned about Michelle and husband David's new baby boy Zachary (whose middle name is spelled gray, not grey as I initially reported); about her new line of cookware (it goes on sale at Macy's October 29); and that Julian, who has worked with Michelle a long time, has taken over the head chef position at Sra. Martinez (he started this past Saturday; Berenice Dearaujo is "taking a much needed break").
We also talked a bit about periwinkles.
New Times: How will you balance parenting with your rather busy work schedule?
Michelle Bernstein: We are taking it day by day; I'm still cooking a lot but I'm testing recipes at home and at Crumb, where Dad can stay with him and I can go play with the boys. It's juggling, but all working moms and dads do it. We've been waiting a long time for this, so the exhaustion is a very very happy one.
As host of Check, Please!, which has been renewed for another season, you discuss restaurants with regular diners each week. Has this given you a different perspective on what people want when dining out?
It's been a big influence. You know I read these blogs once in awhile, and I don't know how these people have the audacity -- no offense -- to come up with what they're tasting. But you learn, when you're sitting with just regular people off the street, that they'll all three have the same dish sometimes and all three think something else of it. And I'll have the dish as well, however I really can't comment, but I'll find something totally different. It's not that I'm different than anyone else -- I mean obviously my palate is used to tasting a lot of new and different things -- but now I realize that everybody's got their palate and everybody has their taste, and there are no two alike.
Do you get surprised much by how guests on the show react to certain restaurants?
Sometimes, yeah. It's funny, my mother always knows when there's a restaurant I didn't love.
By your expressions?
She can just tell by the way I talk, and by the way I'm maybe not expressing myself as much.
Learn of any interesting restaurants you didn't know about through the show?
Little hole-in-the-walls are my favorite places to find. Sometimes I'll walk up to a place and I'm amazed at the name, amazed at the decor -- in a bad way. Then I'll sit down and I will be so turned around by the food. And a lot of that is happening to me in Broward. I didn't realize there was such good food in Broward. Like good Mexican food, good Italian food, places I've never heard of -- and I wouldn't have heard of them if not for the show. They've become some of our favorites, places we'll go on our birthdays and stuff.
There's a place that's now become one of our favorite Mexican -- I suddenly don't remember the name. We've gone there three times already... I'll remember it I'm sure the second we hang up and I'll text you (it's Casa Maya in Deerfield Beach).
Do you have a favorite food truck?
Probably Ms. Cheezious.
You've got the cookbook Cuisine á Latina under your belt. Plans for another one?
I would love to...
But you're a little busy?
I am a little busy, but it's not even that. I write a lot at home, just for myself. I just kind of write thoughts. I want to come up with something people really want to read. Something that's very much me. I love my first cookbook, however that was really created by the publishing company. I would love to do my own writing and to do my own thing one day, and have it very much where I come from, our roots -- it's interesting, very Latin yet very Jewish. The only problem is, it might be too small of a range [of cuisine], but we'll see.
What's the best cookbook you've recently read?
The one I love is by that couple who've had the blog for a long time [Aki Kamozawa and H. Alexander Talbot]. It's called Ideas In Food, Great Recipes and Why They Work, and it's amazing. You have to get it. I used to follow their blog a lot, and there were things I always wanted to make but I didn't know how. They have really cool ideas, and it's just inspiring to see some new things and to know how much you don't know.
What else of late has influenced you?
Probably the trip David and I took to Turkey last year. I fell in love with the people there. They couldn't be more lovely or accommodating, and I loved the food.
Did you pick up any tricks or ideas?
A lot. There is a lot of use of spice. Spice is something I've always loved to use, but I'm very respectful of it -- actually a little scared of it sometimes. But with my trip to Morocco a few years ago, and then with this trip in Turkey I'm having more fun with it. In fact last night I did a special pop-up Gilt City dinner and we did squab and were dusting them very lightly and I said 'Why are we being so delicate?' I wanted to do it heavier, with the Moroccan-braised carrots, Turkish style eggs -- and so it's great [being more liberal with spices], it allows you to be a little more limitless.
What are you going to have for dinner tonight?
Well, I'm home alone with Zach and don't have anybody here to help me, so I think I have some -- I know this is really boring -- but I have some skinless chicken breasts in the freezer (laughs)...and I'm going to make Milanese sauce later. And I'm definitely going to make, I'm craving my mother's recipe for ensalada rusa, which is a Russian salad traditionally from Argentina, but we make ours with roasted beets, fresh peas, carrots and dill pickles. And hopefully David will come home eventually and have some of it. But yes, I have to have some Milanese today.
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