Meet Chef Michelle Bernstein at Macy's in Boca Raton This Weekend

Meet South Florida's most beloved chef in real life this week.
Meet South Florida's most beloved chef in real life this week.
Photo courtesy Macy's

If you didn't already love superstar chef and James Beard award-winner Michelle Bernstein, you'll be head over heels after you taste her easy-peasy approach to preparing the luscious bounty of fall.

“We’re going super Mediterranean, roasting beautiful vegetables,” Bernstein told New Times. 

Miami’s culinary darling is referring to her cooking demo this Saturday, October 15, at Macy’s in Boca Town Center, hosted by Macy’s Culinary Council, a group of award-winning chefs like Bernstein that is dedicated to inspiring people to cook at home. 

“We’ll be preparing these crazy fried capers," she said. "They are nuggets of love so delicious, even chefs that try them say, ‘How the heck did you come up with that?’ It’s something that no one would ever think of doing. I’m doing little mystery flavors like that.”

Bernstein is thrilled about her collaboration with Macy’s. Her connection to the iconic department store goes way back.

“My mother used to take me to fancy lunches as a kid there," Bernstein said. "You know, it was always a part of my childhood and a part of my early adulthood. Now I buy my kid’s clothes there. For me, to be a part of that, people coming to the store, it’s just the icing on the cake.”

It’s no secret Bernstein likes to keep busy. Since gaining acclaim at high-end Azul at the Mandarin Oriental, she has had a string of successes, from restaurants to television shows to bestselling books. 

As we speak, I can hear a tiny voice in the background ask her something: “Si, Papi, I’m on the phone. Give Mami a minute, ok?” Bernstein said in an even warmer tone. “That’s my son. He’s five.”

I ask if motherhood has changed her cooking style. “Yes, it made me normal,” she replied brightly, before telling me that early on in her career she just wanted to dazzle with complicated dishes. Guests would go to her restaurants and love what they ate but wouldn’t dare to try making Bernstein's dishes at home.

Now, it seems approachability and ease have become a primary focus for Bernstein, and that evolution has led her to help others with events such as this one, which will include an open forum format at Macy’s where people can ask questions. “I change my style all the time. I think everyone does, I suppose, depending on what you are going through in life — if you have children, if you have older parents," added Bernstein.

Bernstein laughed as she reflected on how her style of cooking has changed as she has gotten older too, then said: “I cook where I am in my life right now. I hate to say healthy; I’d rather say wholesome. I like to prepare something I’ll feel good about.”

That adaptable approach led Bernstein to showcase Mediterranean-influenced cuisine at the upcoming event. She plans to demo couscous, but don’t think of the bland stuff that goes bone dry the next day. Bernstein has something memorable to offer instead — "A beautiful couscous that I am in love with that gets better the next day.”

The next course, salmon, is something she's excited to teach. “People don’t cook fish at home,” she said, explaining that she's found many home cooks are intimidated by seafood.

One of the things she likes most about the events at Macy’s is that almost every dish is made from start to finish. Attendees get to experience the ease and speed in which Bernstein's easy-to-follow dishes are prepared, “Unlike the magic of television where, voila, the dish mysteriously comes out finished!” 

“Macy’s does a great job of pulling in every cooking piece I need — and great fans," said Bernstein. "Everyone is super appreciative. It’s just such a happy place, and I love being a part of it!”

Bernstein's demo will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at Macy's at Boca Town Center, Home Department, at 5700 W. Glades Rd. in Boca Raton Saturday, October 15. RSVP and receive a $10 Macy's gift card at event check-in.

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