Explore Miami

My South Florida: Top Chef Michelle Bernstein

The local chef, restaurant owner and James Beard Award winner tells us what she loves about Miami

Michelle Bernstein, 43, fell so in love with cooking at the tender age of 4 that it eventually became a career. She cooked professionally at age 20 and by 27 was a professional chef. The Miami native and James Beard winner is known for infusing Latin flavors into her dishes. She owns Michy’s and Crumb on Parchment.

Where is your favorite place to eat out in Miami?

It’s hard to pick one! I guess what I get most excited about is La Camaronera for fried shrimp and yellow rice.

What would you say is the proudest moment in your culinary career?

Winning the James Beard award in 2008. I guess it was finally a pat on the back that I got from the industry telling me that all that hard work was acknowledged and respected.

What is your fondest Miami memory?

Picking strawberries at age 5 at Knauss Berry Farm in Homestead/Redlands. They make strawberry shakes on the farm that to this day still make me jump up and down (and) sticky buns that are just the best in Miami. And to be honest, when you’re outside on a beautiful winter day in Miami picking sun-kissed strawberries and anything else, nothing in the whole world tastes that good.

What sets the Miami food scene apart from other places?

Its love for heat, tropical and Caribbean/Latin flair.

Miami has a lot of food events throughout the year. What is your favorite?

South Beach Wine and Food Festival. I actually have done the festival since inception—don’t ask me how many years it’s been as it’s been a long time. I feel proud to be part of it and happy that I am still always included. 

My Perfect Day

9 am: Beach Day

I love going to Athens Fruit Shippers on Collins and picking up fruit salads, fruit juice and macarons. Then, go to the beach for a dip in the ocean.

11 am: A Family Picnic at the Park

I enjoy picking up Joe’s to Go and then going straight to South Pointe Park with my family. Fried chicken, coleslaw and stone crabs make for a perfect picnic.

12:30 pm: Shopping

There’s nothing better than spending the day with my mom and sister shopping at C. Madeleines or other thrift, second-hand type shops, then stopping at Sushi Deli for a yummy lunch.

4 pm: Butterflies

Taking my husband and son to Fairchild Tropical Gardens to see the butterfly exhibit is a lot of fun. Afterwards we stop at Robert Is Here for great shakes and smoothies.

7 pm: Fresh From the Farm

I end the day by picking in the Redlands and Homestead with staff, then heading back to the restaurant to create new and enjoyable dishes with what we’ve harvested.