Michelle Bernstein is one of the most well-known food personalities, thanks to a resume that reads like a TV guide … Food Network series’ Melting Pot, contestant on Iron Chef America, PBS weekly television series, Check, Please! and frequent appearances on Today Show, the Martha Stewart Show, Despierta America or Top Chef. Luckily for all of us, she’s returned to the kitchen with South Beach’s new Thompson Miami Beach and their restaurant Seagrape and bar 1930s House. M&V sat down with Bernstein to find out the inspiration behind the new kitchen digs and her continued love for South Florida.
M&V: I’ve heard that everything from the interior design of Seagrape to the menu has beach and ocean influences. Could you explain to us some of your personal favorite elements of being in Miami and how that physically manifests itself in your work?
BERNSTEIN: That’s correct. The ocean, reefs and the natural coral rock are beautiful design elements at Thompson Miami Beach and have also played a huge part in the menu. We created items that are influenced heavily by the Atlantic Ocean and have based a lot of the menu on the freshness of the sea, indigenous plants, vegetables and fruit that grow nearby. We want everything to feel like it’s made in the moment, fresh, lite and airy.
M&V: This isn’t your first time on the restaurant scene in South Florida. What separates this restaurant endeavor from your previous ones and what aspects are you most excited for?
BERNSTEIN: Geographically, I haven’t been on the beach for almost two decades and I’ve never worked in a property with the kind of a beautiful Floridian-inspired design as the Thompson Miami Beach. I’m most excited to be working with an incredible Chef de Cuisine Steven Rojas and Executive Chef Jason Schaan and allow their creative juices to flow and their insights to show through the menu and the whole property.
M&V: There is an impeccable attention to detail and artistic liberty curated throughout Thompson. Explain your most compelling or inspirational factors behind the idea for the menus of Seagrape and 1930s House?
BERNSTEIN: We really just wanted to keep the menus simple and focus on the amazing ingredients that go into each dish. The menu focuses on regional influences that reflect well on the glam and Art Deco elements found at Thompson Miami Beach.
M&V: What is an item on the menu that your followers may be surprised to see or something that is not traditionally found in your food repertoire?
BERNSTEIN: I think guests will be blown away by our selection of a la carte Jackman Ranch Wagyu steaks, which are grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free, or the Braised Short-Rib that Steven has crafted perfectly.
M&V: You have commissioned some local farmers to grow specific products exclusively for your menu. What was your idea and motivation behind this decision?
BERNSTEIN: Using fresh, local ingredients is something I’ve always been passionate about. I’ve worked closely with local farmers and purveyors since the start of my career – whether it was offloading crates of vegetables or fresh-caught fish from delivery trucks myself. Our goal is to serve simple dishes, made with freshest seasonal ingredients. We hope guests walk away with that sentiment.
main image by Michael Pissari; second image by atasteofkoko.com