Michelle Bernstein on Why Following Your Heart Can Be Your Greatest Asset
The path to achieving one's dreams is sometimes fraught with many diversions, choices, and indecision. But it is known, that if you maintain a steadfast and open heart to the world, your dedication and hard work can be rewarded by gifts you could have never imagined.
Such is the case for Miami-based chef, author, and restauranteur, Michelle Bernstein, who has established a career path that includes several successful restaurants (Café La Trova, Sweet Liberty Drinks & Supply Company, and La Cañita), awards, and two television shows—all achievements she's garnered by simply following her heart.
She tells People Chica, "I always preach to up-and-coming members of [the] culinary [world] that you don't necessarily have to become a restaurant chef to be successful: follow your heart [and] your passion. This amazing career can take you on a beautiful journey and to places, you'd never dream of being in. If you allow it, it will take you on the ride of your life and make a road for you in so many different and amazing paths."
In an exclusive interview with People Chica, the veteran chef and all-around Chica Boss dishes what it was like growing up in a blended Jewish and Latino home as well as what she's looking forward to at this year's Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival (which runs from February 23 to 26).
You were born and raised in a Jewish and Latino household, two communities with very distinct food dynamics and cultures. How did growing up in a blended home influence your approach to food?
It was seamless—I had a good teacher. My mom, an Argentine Jewish woman who really began cooking here in the states, would always just naturally and organically combine both cultures, gastronomically speaking. My food is a lot like hers in that it has a lot of flavor[s], some sensibility, natural combinations, and lots of homegrown ingredients.
You're a woman who has paved the way for many others to follow in your footsteps into the culinary world. You've established successful restaurants, won awards, and host two television shows. How do you hope your path will inform others that success can take on many different forms?
Through example. I always preach to up-and-coming members of [the] culinary [world] that you don't necessarily have to become a restaurant chef to be successful: follow your heart [and] your passion.
This amazing career can take you on a beautiful journey and to places, you'd never dream of being in. If you allow it, it will take you on the ride of your life and make a road for you in so many different and amazing paths.
The South Beach Wine & Food Festival, like its New York counterpart, is a major event for folks within the hospitality industry. What are you most looking forward to at this year's event?
I look forward to all of it. Seeing good friends that are too busy to visit until SOBE, cook for the locals, cook with amazing chefs, and dig deep to come up with dishes that will inspire and satisfy [them].
You're a proud born-and-raised Miami girl. What is something you want people to understand about Miami's cuisine?
It's without limitations, it's passionate, it's vibrant, and there's nothing like it.
SOBEWFF is an event that celebrates the connective power of food. Why do you believe that events like this are so important to the local communities that host them?
It brings people together—tells a story of who we are and why we cook and entertain the way we do. We are so good with hospitality down here, it allows us to take care of everyone, [and] show the southern love and giving we all have for our communities.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced in your career? What has been the biggest triumph?
[My biggest challenge has been] how to be a good mom, good wife, and maintain my career and its amazingly faceted lifestyle. [My] triumph: being a good mom and wife and employer.
If you could tell a young Michy anything about the journey she'd embark on, what advice would you give her? What would you say to a more mature Michy about the choices she's made?
Maybe to have studied business earlier, to make more investments for our family's future, and to relish in all the good times even more—not that I don't! I just would maybe take a moment...more often.