Chef Michelle Bernstein, a Miami native of Jewish and Latin descent, discusses her inspirations and the importance of knowing your supply chain.
How does your culture influence your palate and what you cook?
My culture is truly my stamp; it defines my personality, body type, hair, palate, and accent. It is what I cook and how I cook. Being Latin and Jewish can get a little confusing to the palate; it’s eclectic and contrasting, especially as my Jewish background is eastern European, which is sometimes somewhat bland and delicate. My mom taught me how to make it work, however: adding the European and soft flavor of dill and vinegar into things like escabeche of fish, and earthy, delicate beets into chimichurri.
What current seasonal foods are inspiring to you?
Early peas, favas, and cranberry beans make me go crazy! I love spring.
How important is knowing your supply chain to your work?
Extremely important. I need to know where my food comes from, how it’s harvested, and how we are affecting the environment. I’m always trying to go local first.
As the caterer of Art Basel for the past five years, how do you go about determining the menu and ensuring quality?
It’s not something I do alone, and the Basel committee has a lot to do with the menus. It’s about seasonality, and what they are in the mood for as far as flavor, palate, and ethnicity go. As far as quality is concerned, I see, touch, and taste everything that goes out from any one of our kitchens.