Foreign Affair with Florida-based Chef Michelle Bernstein
Superstar Miami chef Michelle Bernstein offers up a unique take on Latin cuisine infused with colourful world flavours (Hello! Canada)
Even as a young child, Michelle Bernstein showed signs of an adventurous palate. “When I was seven or eight, I asked my mother to get me a kit to make escargot for my birthday,” recalls the Miami-based chef. “She bought the snails and we made it together. I ate over three dozen of them in one sitting!”
The 39-year-old award-winning restaurateur, who recently released her first cookbook, Cuisine à Latina: Fresh Tastes and a World of Flavors From Michy’s Miami Kitchen, attributes her culinary curiosity to her Argentine mother – a devoted foodie and Michelle’s ambassador to flavour. When her mother moved to the U.S. to marry Michelle’s American father, not knowing a lick of English, she communicated through food, cooking all day and serving Argentine dishes, complemented with Italian influences like risotto and pasta. “We used to roll gnocchi when I was four,” Michelle remembers fondly.
Growing up in a multicultural family in Latin-influenced Miami, Michelle was exposed to the flavours of the world at a young age. Although making fresh pasta and exotic seafood dishes came naturally to her, a career in the kitchen was not a given. In fact, she initially chose a very different path.
Having trained as a dancer, at 17, Michelle moved to New York City when she was granted a scholarship at the highly acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. After toughing it out in the Big Apple, studying at Alvin Ailey and then auditioning for various dance companies for months on end, she grew homesick and lostinterest in the competitive, and at times cruel, dance world. But the discipline she gained as a dancer proved invaluable for her destined career in the kitchen.
Upon her return home to Florida, Michelle’s mother told her about a new culinary institute opening just blocks away. “I immediately felt some strange magic, a tingle went right through me,” recalls Michelle of the moment she entered the Johnson & Wales University. “Something felt right, so I went for it.”
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