The chef who has defined farm-to-table dining for South Florida since 2006 at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District (130 NE 40th St., Miami; 305-573-5550) is keeping his eyes on his bread and butter, with people happily eating every last crumb. But Michael Schwartz is also looking ahead. He's interested in more than just the trend toward serving local products, called locavorism.
"I think it's just become a trend without really people understanding why those things are important," he says, "and making a commitment."
It's not easy to cook local, Schwartz stresses. There's the unpredictability that comes with seasonality, the expense, and logistical hurdles like deliveries not exactly running like clockwork. And of course, one must be flexible with the menu. Food companies like Sysco have begun offering locally-sourced products, which makes buying easier, but he has reservations.
"It's almost not fair when it's Sysco easy," Schwartz points out. "The next level for me is to grow my own stuff, and yeah, I'm moving towards that. I used to raise chickens, 11 hens. So next is to go do it. To go and fish, you know."
Schwartz will open a second Michael's Genuine in Grand Cayman in spring
2010 and then wrestle with the future. "I'm going to figure out a way
to grow the brand without killing myself, and it," he explains. "It's
the dilemma that a lot of chefs face. When [they] have the opportunity
to cash in, a lot do."
For now, Schwartz defines success simply
as being able to sleep at night. Reading, eating other people's food,
and vacation for him and his staff are "huge," he says. It helps him
stay on his game.
"The restaurant business and time off...
they're kinda not really symbiotic," he says. "But I always think it's
funny when people say something like, 'Well, I haven't taken a vacation
in 10 years,' or, 'I haven't taken a day off in two years.' That's
just stupid, you know what I mean? Time off is really important."
For more information, visit www.michaelsgenuine.com.