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Chef Dad Knows Best

By Chef George Duran

If you know me well, you know that I’m not the most spiritual person in the world. That said, I believe God (or any higher being you choose to believe in) has an awesome sense of humor. Not the “knock knock” type of humor, but more of an ironic and unexpected one. After all, we can’t let our expectations in life lead us to disappointment without a good laugh.

George&SonWhen my son was born over two years ago I was always excited at the idea of cooking for him. I had to patiently wait the obligatory 6-month  breast feeding phase before I could start processing some ingredients for him. At first everything felt fine. His first mashed food was avocados and he seemed to devour it. At least for the first couple of days. I began purchasing baby food cookbooks (haven’t we all?) and started spending more hours processing his “gourmet” mashes than my own foods. Little did I know the battle was about to begin.

It didn’t take him long to understand that he had choices and what he didn’t choose was daddy’s food. Fruits, cereal and milk were his favorite. Period. “It’s just a phase” is what I was hearing from other parents, but I was looking at how their own infants were enjoying a simple bowl of spaghetti and meatballs in one sitting while mine stuck his tongue out.  I was expecting to find the headlines of a newspaper the next day screaming “ TV Chef’s Son Hates Food!”.

One evening, as my son was barely touching his bowl of fruit, my friend’s same-aged son sat down and began vaporizing an entire watermelon. This kid wasn’t eating little diced pieces of the stuff, he was holding adult-slices of the melon and pounding through it. He was a real-life Very Hungry Caterpillar and I was seething with envy. All things food is who I am and I felt a cruel joke being played on me.

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Common Threads

By: Chef Michelle Bernstein

I fell in love with a foundation called Common Threads about 5 years ago.

IMUSA-12_12_13 38637There was an event I was invited to partake in by a well-known chef, Art Smith. I accepted to cook at the event because there were so many chefs I know and love and the event was in Chicago, my favorite food city.

Little did I know the event’s mission was to fund the aforementioned foundation. They showed a film during the event that displayed the foundations mission, to teach undeserved kids to cook, socialization skills and about nutrition; The kids that went through the classes were speaking about CT, talking about what they loved to cook during the program as well as how much they have learned and how they now love cooking at home with their families.

That’s when I decided we needed Common Threads in Miami, for our kids and our families; I wanted to bring it home. And so I began, dinner after brunch, meeting after phone call. Asking, informing, begging for cash to begin our program. A year later we started with one class and 14 students; 5 years later 40 some classes and a summer program to boot. We are growing every  year, now part of the Dade-County School System and proud to be affecting so many incredible kids every year.

We recently had our World Festival in D.C., of which people from everywhere attended. I was brought in to speak about my vision and my passion about Common Threads (which is hard for me to do with dry eyes.) We ate, we danced and we had a celebration; Common Threads is now an incredibly successful entity that needs a lot of work and attention but it is making its way around this country and thankfully into the homes of so many deserving families.

For more information check out this video!

Mom’s Brisket

By Chef Michelle Bernstein

Spring is my absolute favorite time of year, more than anything because of tulips and daffodils and my birthday of all things, its mainly because of its delicious ingredients. Young Spring Carrots, Ramps, Radishes, Asparagus, Fava Beans, English Peas, Fiddlehead Ferns…I could go on and on.

The Farmers markets are in full bloom and nothing gets my creative energies MomsBrisket_MichelleBernsteinflowing like seeing the freshest of ingredients just harvested.

Some things I’m cooking up this Spring are Duck Breast with Meyer lemon-Blood Orange Sauce over a Fava Bean Hummus or Salt Crust Yellowtail Snapper with a ragout of asparagus and raw asparagus and sugar snap salad.

My plates are as bright as the day itself. It’s the time of year that we don’t even think about garnishing the plates at our restaurants…the beauty of the recipes speak for themselves.

I have a lot going on this month and next including trips to Memphis to cook for one of my favorite Charities and Filming as a judge on a show everyone loves to watch but the greatest pressure I have this month is cooking for my family during Passover.

Mom usually does the cooking but this year its all me, something I would usually have no problem doing, however no one and I mean no one cooks a Brisket like my mother. So, I am going to buy the absolute best one I can find, with the most marbeling and hopefully a bit of age and give so much love to it all it will have the chance to do is surrender itself to me, become tender, juicy and as tasty as possible.

Being Jewish and Latin means the food has to have Sazon, Pasion and Delicia. I am up for the challenge but I will go by it with a lot of respect. Wish me luck!!

South Beach Wine and Food Festival

By Chef Michelle Bernstein

This past whirlwind of a weekend was South Beach Wine and Food Festival in Miami. The festival was born 13 years ago as a one-day event known as the Florida Extravaganza. It has now grown into a four-day destination event that showcases the talents of everyone from wine and spirits producers to culinary personalities, world-renowned chefs and local chefs just starting out.  In 2013, the festival attracted an astounding 65, 000 food and wine lovers to our beautiful city of Miami.

Michelle_with_canape_at_SPICE_dinner[1]The Festival benefits Florida International University (FIU) School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center and has helped raise over $18 million dollars to date. I couldn’t be more proud of what we have accomplished; it’s helped bring such awareness and attention to the culinary scene in Miami.

This year FIU opened their brand new-state-of-the art Teaching Restaurant Management Lab as a result of the funds raised by the festival. I had the opportunity to cook at the beautiful facility during the inaugural dinner.  It was such a  pleasure to cook with some of the talented chefs who have not only supported the festival since its birth but are also responsible for shaping the food industry in Miami and making it was it is today. Among the chefs were Mark Militello, Norman Van Aken, Allen Susser, Hedy Goldsmith and Cindy Hutson. We served an appetizer of Melting Cheese and Jamon Serrano Croquetas with fig jam and a main course of Flor de Calabaza(squash blossoms) filled with Prawn mousse, shrimp nage, Creamy grits; both are favorites that I created at Michy’s.

Food, Family and Community

By Chef Michelle Bernstein

IMUSA-12_12_13 38671I’m so happy to be part of the IMUSA Celebrity Chef Team for 2014. I feel a really strong connection to IMUSA, as a chef and a mom.

In its mission statement, IMUSA talks about making products that “help bring Abuelas’ (grandmas’) recipes to life.” That really describes how my love of cooking began.

Growing up, my mom took great pride in showing me how to make all of the delicious comfort foods that she learned in Argentina as a child. It created a passion in me I never really knew existed. At my mom’s urging, I was off to culinary school for formal training.

That connection to the Latin comfort food of my youth has been a driving force in the development of my style of cooking. The ability of food to convey love is pretty incredible stuff. Watching people leave our restaurant, Michy’s, or our bakery/cafe, Crumb on Parchment, happy and full, is extremely gratifying.

Nothing is better, however, than cooking for our 2-year-old son, Zach. Seeing how he reacts to tasting many of those delicious dishes that my mom made for me, really brings home what cooking is all about. These dishes are handed down through each family and collectively make up the living cuisine of a culture. IMUSA understands that important connection and the diversity of culture and cuisine.