Kitchen Inquisition: Chef Michael Schwartz

The Design District pioneer brought the foodie masses to a starving Design District

If one wanted to eat at Michael's Genuine when it first opened in the Design District, it usually meant eating around the time many people start going to bed. Needless to say, reservations were hard to come by. More than two years later, they still are. We'd like to think that's the sign of a truly great restaurant. But so is the food, and Michael's has that going for them, too. Here, chef and owner Michael Schwartz talks pork bellies, organic eggs and how Miami's dining scene found its legs.

I'm sure all the dishes on each of your menus are like your children, but if you had to choose only one dish from the menu, which ones are you most proud of?
I really love the crispy pork belly with the kimchi. Pork belly is so luscious and really holds up to the sweet & spicy flavors. Though it's a rich dish the kimchi cuts that richness and the peanuts bring a great earthy quality and texture.  

Most popular item on the menu?
Right now, the burrata with locally grown heirloom tomatoes. It's so simple, so light but flavorful; it's a perfect summer dish. 

How would you describe Miami's dining scene?
I think after many years of trying too hard to create an identity for itself, the Miami dining scene finally found its legs and grew up.  We have so many cooking styles and influences here and they seem to finally be working together to create an overall sense of what dining in Miami is about. 

Did you consciously place Michael's in the Design District?
I purposefully picked the Design District because I fell in the love with the neighborhood feel here and saw a lot of potential for growth. I've been very lucky to enjoy the success I have and proud to have played a part in making the District a dining destination for locals and tourists. 

At what point did you realize you were destined to be a chef?
It was when I was 16, working as a prep cook at DiLullo in Philadelphia, where I'm from. It was a crazy experience and a little scary at the start but I fell in love with the energy, creativity and controlled chaos of a professional kitchen. 

The 5 ingredients every home kitchen should have?
Onion, garlic, fleur de sel, great quality extra virgin olive oil, organic eggs

The 5 utensils every home kitchen should have?

Cast iron skillet, a sharp knife (doesn't have to be fancy or super expensive, just sharp with a comfortable handle, good quality), mandolin, tongs, whisk

Your fondest food-related memory?
My first meal sitting down in Michael's Genuine after we opened. It had been so stressful getting the restaurant open so actually sitting down, eating and experiencing it as a customer would just crystallized what all the work had been for. 

Favorite dish to make at home?
Easy - making pizzas with my kids. 

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