Miami People

Michelle Bernstein: Magic City Martha Stewart

Michelle Bernstein has just returned home from a television taping and finished putting Zachary, her and husband/business partner David Martinez's baby boy, to bed. To go along with her new chores as mother, Bernstein keeps busy with her restaurants — Michy's, Sra. Martinez, and Crumb on Parchment in Miami, and Michelle Bernstein at the Omphoy in Palm Beach — as well as Michelle Bernstein Catering (MBC).

She also hosts the PBS television show Check, Please!, serves as menu consultant with Delta Airlines, has authored a cookbook (Cuisine à Latina), and helped launch the Miami chapter of Common Threads, an after-school program that teaches underprivileged kids about cooking and nutrition. Her new line of signature michelleB cookware from Fagor can be found at Macy's stores throughout South Florida and will soon be rolled out in New York and elsewhere (she serves on Macy's Culinary Council too). The October issue of People en Español named the Miami-born chef one of the "25 Most Influential Hispanic Women in America," along with the likes of Gloria Estefan and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — one of countless honors, including a 2008 James Beard Award for best chef in the Southeast.

Comparatively speaking, Michelle Bernstein makes Martha Stewart seem like something of a slouch. And Bernstein isn't about to rest on her laurels.

"We try to stay with the times," she says. "Obviously we're not going to get molecular anytime soon, but we try to get a little more green, a little more sustainable... I mean, some people don't change; they will always be stuck in the '80s or whatever. But hopefully as I'm getting older, I'm still staying fresh, and that's thanks to the young people that really have an influence now in our restaurants."

She is referring to the brigade of chefs at Michy's and Sra. Martinez who "have cooked with [her] for a long time" and are now "getting more involved and more creative." Bernstein is generous in giving kudos and humble when discussing her role in this city's restaurant history.

And she doesn't take credit for breaking any glass ceilings along the way either. "When I began cooking, there were no other woman chefs around Miami, and now there are lots of them," she admits, "but I can't say it was because of me. People say that I did [break glass ceilings] and people are constantly giving me awards for that, but I don't see it."

Maybe she's a little too busy to dwell on her achievements, especially now with her parenting responsibilities. How does she find the time for it all? "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."

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Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein