Macy's Culinary Council
Michelle Bernstein is a culinary trailblazer in Miami; she was one of the city's first "celebrity chefs," she's hosted a variety of TV shows, and she transformed an entire neighborhood with her groundbreaking restaurant Michy's. Unsurprisingly, the turnout for Bernstein's Macy's Culinary Council event in Aventura was sizeable and enthusiastic.
Although Bernstein has just experienced what she told the crowd was, "the worst year of my life," (she was hospitalized due to a parasite, her mother recently passed away, and her 11-year old restaurant closed just weeks ago due to a lease dispute), her signature humor was still spot-on. She opened the evening with a joke, "This may be the youngest crowd I've ever gotten – and I don't think you're all Jewish either, " and clearly has a positive view on her situation, saying, " I think somebody up there was telling me to just start anew."
Even amidst Bernstein's recent sorrow, the famed Latin-Jewish chef couldn't have been more warm, funny, and engaged with her devoted audience. She explained that she is still working with Macy's (what she calls "America's store") in addition to Delta airlines and Memorial Hospitals.
Bernstein presented a menu that she called, "total Americana – what you would eat on the 4th of July." The first dish was a beautifully paired watermelon and tuna ceviche. As she worked the dish, she offered important tips such as: ginger is the secret to a good ceviche, mix your ceviche immediately before serving, and cut your watermelon and tuna the same size in order to "almost fool people." The final product, mixed with Serrano chilis, soy sauce, basil and red onion was fresh, sweet, and visually stunning.
For her next course, Bernstein said, "I'm giving everybody, which I can't believe, my recipe for fried chicken from Michy's." The dish included mashed potatoes (which, she says, should be made with a ricer) and gravy. After marinating the chicken for 24 hours in a beautiful tarragon and fennel seed mix, she double-coated the meat with flour (seasoned with shrimp oil), then double-fried the chicken for a perfectly crispy finish. The juicy legs were bursting with flavor inside and out.
As she cooked, Bernstein continued to converse with the crowd, even sharing her love for Emeril, saying, "What I think is amazing about Emeril is, whether you like his food or not, whether you like his beautiful, explosive personality or not, he is the one that got us going. He is the reason why I can work for an airline, a department store, and a hospital and write books."
After fried chicken was dessert, which, on National Strawberry Shortcake Day, had to be just that. Bernstein served hers on perfectly cooked biscuits, which she said should never, ever be overworked. Her secret ingredient was a Spanish sherry called Pedro Ximenez, which added the perfect amount of sweetness to the berries.
The evening's event carried a particular significance, as attendees realized that, in a city where Michelle Bernstein food has been a staple for over a decade, this may be the last personal meal they get from the talented chef for some time.
Learn more about the Culinary Council and upcoming events by logging on to macys.com/culinarycouncil and on Twitter @culinarycouncil.