In the introduction to Miami chef Michael Schwartz’s cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat Food Network star and Cleveland chef Michael Symon laid out what Schwartz’s cooking is all about. “To me,” he writes, “the greatest food can be recognized by what you feel when you eat it; when you can sense the personality and dedication of the chef in every dish. This is something that Michael brings to every plate. His cooking is whimsical without being silly….[It’s] simple, boldy flavored, and straightforward.”
A lot of people agree with chef Symon. With the opening of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in 2007, Schwartz made a name for his cooking and his laid-back, authentic style by serving market-driven menus, hiring a forager to find wild ingredients, and garnering a Slow Food U.S.A. “Snail of Approval” (celebrating sustainability), in 2010. That same year he won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef/South. Not bad for a boy from Philadelphia who worked his way up the line in restaurants across the country.
Expanding his reach, Schwartz created The Genuine Hospitality Group of restaurants, which includes an outpost of Michael’s Genuine in Grand Cayman, Harry’s Pizzeria (named after his son, who apparently does not love pizza), restaurants aboard Royal Caribbean cruise line ships, and Restaurant Michael Schwartz at South Beach’s Raleigh Hotel. In summer 2015 he threw the doors open to a pop-up café, Ella, in Miami’s Design District.
There’s a spirit of play at Schwartz’s less formal restaurants; say, dinner-and-a-movie night thrown with a local theater; house-made sodas and home-brewed beer; and curve balls like a grilled pizza with peaches, parsley sauce, fontina, and ricotta. And there’s a spirit of France in his upscale places like the Cypress Room, with its côte de boeuf and wild boar. Outside the restaurant doors, there’s a commitment to the community, as Schwartz and his team support organizations such as Share our Strength, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, and Slow Food, as well as the Roots in the City Farmers’ Market, which features produce grown by local urban farmers.
Schwartz’s next project is a waterfront restaurant at Paraiso Bay, expected to open in 2017. It’s going to be one fabulous room with a view.