Hyper-talented chef Michael Schwartz is often credited with invigorating Miami’s restaurant scene in the mid-2000s—all while catalyzing the city’s foodie and locavore movements. On the heels of his recognition as an Outstanding Chef nominee by the James Beard Foundation, the superstar sat down with Aventura Magazine to discuss his accolades, sublime Miami restaurants, and upcoming role leading a culinary-focused trip with outfit Modern Adventure.
AVM: As a previous James Beard award winner for Best Chef: South, how does it feel to receive the next-level nomination as Outstanding Chef this year?
Schwartz: I was honored to be nominated this year, but the highlight was seeing so many South Florida nominations. We have an extremely talented pool of chefs in this market, and I’m thrilled there is more recognition of that.
When it opened in 2007, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink (MGFD) was considered a game changer in the Miami food scene. How have you managed to keep it so relevant for 15 years?
I think the secret for us has been to stay true to our roots and offer a genuinely good product and a consistent experience. The city has grown around us, and I’m just lucky that we’ve been able to be a part of it.
We’re loving the recent expansion, interior redesign, and menu changes at MGFD. Please tell us more!
Our new space is brighter and more open and offers a vibrant view of the Design District. I worked with our designer, Marcela Lombana, for many months to ensure that we maintained the feel that MGFD has offered guests for 15 years. We elevated the experience in many ways by bringing the outside into the restaurant and repaving the courtyard. The menu maintained the signature dishes, but alongside our talented team, including executive chef Bradley Herron, we also made additions and introduced new flavors. Favorites including the Genuine Burger, Poulet Rouge, and Vito’s Stracciatella will always be on our menu. New favorites for guests to try include our uni sandwich, tin of sardines, spiced lamb, and charred eggplant.
We’re equally obsessed with your bayside restaurant, Amara at Paraiso, which you’ve called “a love letter to Miami.” Can you expound upon this?
For me, there is no better homage to Miami than a bayfront restaurant paired with a breeze. At Amara, we are paying homage to the gorgeous views our city offers and pairing the menu with Latin flavors to showcase the city’s heritage.
You recently opened an outpost of Harry’s Pizzeria on South Beach. What’s next from the Genuine Hospitality Group?
Our current goal is to keep dialing in the details at our restaurants. Specifically, we are working to become an employer of choice, which means we are launching initiatives that promote talent acquisition, retention, better wages [and] benefits, and addressing environmental issues. We’re also building a strong foundation for our Rethink Food partnership, which addresses food insecurity.
You’ll be leading a culinary-focused trip to Sicily and Naples with Modern Adventure in late summer. What can we look forward to?
I’m excited to work with Modern Adventure on this amazing trip through Italy in early September. We’re heading to Sicily, Naples, Mount Etna, and other historic locations to explore and connect with local winemakers, artists, and chefs. We’re working to create magical moments on this journey, and Italy is always the perfect backdrop.