Miami’s Culinary Darling
Michelle Bernstein Launches Seagrape
By Robin Jay
South Florida residents have practically watched Michelle Bernstein grow up with a Midas touch in the culinary world, first as a James Beard powerhouse, then an epicurean TV show celebrity, and a gourmet cookware designer, all the while enchanting us with one ‘wow’ after ‘wow’ in dining venues: Azul, Michelle Bernstein’s, MB Terrace, SRA. Martinez, Crumb on Parchment, Michy’s – and now, Seagrape at the Thompson Hotel in Miami Beach.
Described as a Floridian brasserie, Bernstein’s latest restaurant and its botanical name have roots along the coasts of South Florida and the Caribbean – precisely what motivated this curly-haired Miami-native’s latest success story.
“What inspired me about Seagrape is the talent we put together to create an incredible gastronomic experience. I feel this is the strongest team I’ve ever worked with and I feel like I’ve inspired them as much as they’ve inspired me,” Chef Bernstein said.
The Personal Side
The daughter of an Argentine-Jewish mother and a father with Italian-Jewish roots, the former ballerina and honors graduate from Johnson & Wales University puts a little bit of her proud heritage into most everything she does on the culinary front.
“My background and my cultural influences can be found in everything I do innately,” Bernstein said. “I feel that the combination of Jewish and Latin influences and flavors organically come from my soul, through my hands and into my cooking and recipes whether I like it or not. My love for dill, gelatinous chicken stock and smoked salmon obviously comes from my eastern European Jewish side and the fact that I start every important seafood sauce with a sofrito and my love for lime and fresh chilies must be my Latin side.”
Supporting the Local Community
Working with five different local produce farmers and two different animal farmers to source incredible dishes on the Seagrape menu, the maestro of fine fare is about as genuine as they come.
“I’m exactly the same person that I am in front of camera: honest, no filter, friendly, disciplined and I love to cook for everyone,” said Bernstein. “I still haven’t gotten to the point where I realized that I want to be a chef when I grow up; it just kind of happened organically. I was 7 the first time I cooked something on my own, and the feeling of instant gratification is incomparable. When you can create something and in a matter of 20 minutes have people enjoy it, there is nothing more gratifying.”
What’s a must-try for the first visit to Seagrape? Bernstein is quick to offer her recommendation:
“The snapper with crispy paella rice and the squash blossom with creamy grits for sure!”
Seagrape is located at 4041 Collins Avenue in Miami Beach. For reservations, call 786-605-4045.