If chef Michael Schwartz’s key to outstanding cooking strikes you as obvious, that’s because it is. “The secret to good food is good food!” he tells us. Michael became a well-loved presence in the Miami food scene not through force but by his commitment to simple, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. His farm to table approach to food helped bring the movement to Miami 26 years ago, which is still felt to this day. As Michael embarks on his latest endeavor, Genuine Burger, which launches later this month, we sat down with him at home to hear about how he’s spending his free time, the pantry staples he can’t live without, and his favorite spots in Miami for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
NBRHD: Tell us your story in a tweet:
MS: “Philly born. First restaurant job as a busser at 15. By 16, I was a prep cook. Line cook for Wolfgang Puck at 22. First sous chef job at 24. First exec chef job at 27. First ownership stake in a restaurant at 31. Been in Miami for 26 years and raised 3 beautiful children who are now 18, 21, and 24.”
NBRHD: Tell us a bit more about your first experience in the kitchen:
MS: “Not my first but one that sticks in my mind was getting kicked off the hot line by Toto Schiavone for “not knowing what the hell I’m doing.” Fuck you very much Toto!”
NBRHD: Memorable indeed. So what are your foundational sources of inspiration?
MS: “Everyday life. Reading, eating, and enjoying. Bad dining experiences inspire me as much as good ones.”
NBRHD: What’s your general philosophy around food?
MS: “Keep it simple. The secret to good food is good food!”
NBRHD: You’ve been associated as a pioneer of the farm-to-table movement in Miami. What about the movement appealed to you early on?
MS: “My time working for Wolfgang Puck in California was a big eye-opener. Also, the connection established by knowing where your food comes from and who grew/caught/harvested it.”
NBRHD: How would you describe the food scene in Miami? In your neighborhood?
NBRHD: Describe Genuine Burger in three words:
MS: “Craveable, delicious, addicting.”
NBRHD: Where in your home are you spending the most time?
MS: “In my bed lol. Solid 8 hours. But I have been spending more and more time through the pandemic in my kitchen as well.”
NBRHD: Where do you find inspiration when you’re feeling burnt out?
MS: “In not forcing it. When I’m burnt out, I need to recharge. Forcing almost never results in great outcomes.”
NBRHD: And how have you been recharging lately?
MS: “Beach time is always a good recharge.”
NBRHD: What is your go-to meal when you don’t feel like cooking?
MS: “I can usually whip up a good, colorful crunchy salad with things in my fridge (not technically cooking). Or Publix fried chicken!!”
NBRHD: What’s the last great thing you read, watched, or listened to?
MS: “Not much time for deep reading. But I love checking in on Serious Eats for recipe inspiration.”
NBRHD: What is something you’re looking forward to when it’s safe to gather again?
MS: “Live music!”
NBRHD: What does your morning routine look like?
MS: “Up by 7 am. Double espresso. Workout on an empty stomach. Then usually a protein smoothie with blueberries (unless I’m intermittent fasting in which case I don’t eat until noon). I like salads for lunch.”
NBRHD: What are your favorite pantry items? Any tips on how to use them?
MS: “Good salt. Good olive oil. A great pepper mill (unicorn). Harissa. Peanut butter.”
NBRHD: What are five local businesses in your neighborhood that you frequent?
MS: “Enriquetta’s for amazing and inexpensive Cuban. Boia De amazing simple but elevated Italian. Tran An for delicious, lite and bright Vietnamese. All Day for the best coffee and breakfast foods. Itamae for amazingly fresh and creative ceviche, tiraditos, etc.”