Interview: Micah Edelstein Gets the 10

When Micah Edelstein landed in Miami late last year to become executive chef of one of the Design District's more rooted eateries, Grass Restaurant and Lounge, people weren't quite sure what to make of her. After all, it's no secret she wasn't necessarily a fan favorite from Top Chef's third season. Bloggers have debated whether she really even hails from South Africa or if she's just as American as the fried chicken she claimed she's never eaten. 

Who cares? Just so long as she feeds us Miamians well, we'll welcome her with open mouths. (Besides, according to, her birthday is this Monday, so let's just give the gal a break.) One thing's for sure: Edelstein has been humbled. When we asked what her most embarrassing cooking-related moment was, she answered frankly: "I have had a lot of those. Can we skip to the next question so I don't blush red whilst I recall them all?" 

She might have encountered countless moments of humiliation, but Edelstein has lived an enviable life all the while, traveling the world, racing sailboats, editing a boating magazine, serving as a restaurant reviewer, and being a mom. Edelstein has also reportedly been working on a children's book titled Silly Tilly Cooks Fusilli. Try saying that three times fast.

When she's not jamming out to reggae in the kitchen, Edelstein can sometimes be found at Creek 28 scarfing down chef Kira Volz's plat du jour. But on February 14, you'll definitely find her behind the line at Grass prepping for her "Valentine's Day Her Way" dinner, comprising a prix fixe, six-course aphrodisiacal indulgence. 

And because that day will be going her way, we assume Edelstein has already thought of a way to block Mr. Sausage Fingers from putting his hairy paws in her avocado-lychee honey pot. (That comment will make more sense if you read Edelstein's interview below.) 

New Times: If your significant other gave you a pass, what celebrity chef would you most like to enjoy a naked cooking session with and why?

Micah Edelstein: The Swedish Chef from The Muppet Show. Just kidding! It would have to be The Naked Chef. I adore him. But his wife might not be too happy about that!

NT: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her? 

ME: Michelangelo Buonarroti. And I would cook him pasta!
NT: What food/utensil/technique still confounds you?

ME: I still want to know who thought it would be a good idea to cruelly overstuff a goose's liver and make foie gras. The process repulses me and, actually, so does the item itself. (All the chefs and foodies out there can gasp in shock and horror. I just don't like it!)

NT: What was your best or worst dining experience?

ME: One of my faves has to be pulling Anegada reef lobster right out of the ocean, cracking them down the middle with a machete, and cooking them on the beach in old oil drum barbecues on Anegada in the British West Indies, then sitting barefoot -- toes buried in the silky sand at the dinner table -- and eating them under a brilliant star-stuffed sky while fending off the hotel owner's pet goat. Life does not get much better than that.
NT: What is your dream culinary trip?

ME: I have been lucky enough to have taken so many already. My life reads as an extended culinary dream trip! I have hunted wild boar in Tuscany; made wine in Paarl, South Africa; harvested sugar cane in Colombia, South America; cooked indigenous foods in a sacred hut in Peru. I have not been to a Moroccan spice market yet. It is tops on my list, but I am always game for anything, anywhere!

NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be?--

ME: [A] poet, a nature conservationist, a painter, Willy Wonka, a Shakespearean actor... When I was little, I wanted to be Jacques Cousteau.

NT: What food item turns you on and why?

ME: At the moment, it is this avocado-lychee honey from a local Florida supplier. Amazing amber color, intense depth-filled flavor equals sexy and yuuuummmyyy! I am like Pooh Bear when it comes to honey. I have a collection from all over the world.

NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?

ME: I am not really a junk food person, so to me "junk food" is anything that comes from a package. My fave is Back to Nature Cheddar Rice Crackers... crunchy and salty and cheesy. Snacking does not get any better than that! Whole Foods carries them.

NT: Without naming the person, use three words to describe the worst celebrity chef alive today:

ME: (1) Rotund. (2) Hairy (3) Sausage-like fingers.

NT: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who _____? 

ME: Is rotund. It means they will eat anything and everything and have no respect for themselves, their bodies, or yours!

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Riki Altman