Compared to Palm Beach, Miami takes itself far less seriously. The Magic City's nightlife scene is rich with pantomime; even its classiest eateries are so puffed full of humid air you could float Star Island away on the fumes. But what Bernstein managed to do - first as chef at Azul, and then at her trademark Upper East Side kitchen, Michy's - is cut through all that. The local girl with the affinity for croquetas and offal struck at the pearlescent core of what Miami really is - one of the many reasons she was nominated for a James Beard Award three times before winning Best Chef in the South in 2008. Her food is simple and confident, borrowed from Latin culture and a soul food heritage and inspired by the bounty of land and sea. It's the culinary equivalent of a cafecito during one of Florida's brilliant orange-red sunsets. To eat a dish of her duck confit or melting short ribs or white gazpacho, is to gaze into her easy smile framed with tightly curled hair and drift away.
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