Chef Michelle Bernstein: Back in the Common Threads Classroom and at Top Chef's Judges' Table

How can you not fall in love with her? Besides the fact that she is smart and talented, she happens to be one of the kindest chefs in the business. Always professional and always charming, Michelle also has serious cooking clout. She has used her expansive experience to create food that is deeply personal, refined and perpetually delicious, without being fussy.

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​Top Chef Co-Host Gail Simmons of Food & Wine Magazine is of course dishing on our Michelle, Chef Michelle Bernstein, who recurs as guest judge on the Emmy-nominated show, (watch her on Bravo at 10 p.m. tomorrow night, September 23, on Top Chef Las Vegas.)

Bernstein, with husband and business partner David Martinez, is on a wild adventure that now encompasses three South Florida restaurants, including Michy's (6927 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-759-2001,) Sra. Martinez (4000 NE 2nd Ave., Miami; 305-573-5474,) and the newly-minted Michelle Bernstein Restaurant at the Omphoy Ocean Resort (2842 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach; 561-540-6444.)

Bernstein's extra-curricular activities make for a jam-packed, but rewarding schedule. There is Check Please, her PBS series with South Florida diners, and Common Threads, a national program educating underprivileged kids about cooking and eating healthy which she brought to South Florida this past spring, now in its second semester. Mondays and Tuesdays for the next 12 weeks, young apprentices from William Jennings Bryan and North Miami Middle School, respectively, will file into a classroom at Florida International University's North Campus to earn their beginner culinary chops. They'll learn to cook healthy meals with fresh ingredients, some from local farms. This week the theme is turkey, with shish kabobs and tabouli (To volunteer, contact Mary Ann Weprin, volunteer coordinator at Common Threads' national office in Chicago at 312-329-2501.)

"[These projects] haven't influenced me in the kitchen; they have influenced my life," Bernstein shares. "My little world used to consist of small kitchens, and my family and staff in those kitchens. Now I'm influencing young people through threads, older people through the show. It's kind of crazy! I hope I don't mess anyone up!"

For more information, visit Berstein's newly re-launched website at www.chefmichellebernstein.com, and look for her full profile in the New Times Fall Arts + Eats Guide hitting stands on October 1.

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