Shift notes with Chef Michelle Bernstein

Where Miami restaurant professionals speak their truth

Photo by: Cafe La Trova

REAL STORIES ABOUT KITCHEN REALITIES.

Welcome to our second edition of Shift Notes, a name dubbed by our first participating chef, Michael Beltran. Shift Notes is a digital space on The Hungry Post’s platform for hospitality professionals to vent and speak their truth about the past, present and future of our industry. It’s unfiltered and real.

OUR SECOND GUEST

As we continue on our hunt for more stories that open up people’s eyes about kitchen realities we needed to hear from Chef Michelle Bernstein aka Chef Michy.

Chef Michy has paved the way for Miami, as the culinary city, we are honored to know today. We’re proud to call her one of our own and have watched her be the engine for some of the best restaurants in South Florida, including Azul in the Mandarin Oriental, Michy’s, Sra. Martinez, Crumb on Parchment and Cafe La Trova. She’s an inspiration to so many chefs in Miami and as Larry Carrino, president of Brustman Carrino Public Relations said it best, “When they write the book on the history of Miami’s food culture, she won’t be part of the footnotes. She will be a chapter.”

Michael Pisarri/@PisarriPhoto

Chef Michy: we have to say…we miss your fried chicken. Thank you for sharing these words with us:

I was just on Instagram and Twitter (my usual feed for all up to date information aside from the Herald and NYT) some of my favorite restaurants and chef friends from around the country have decided not to reopen…ever. As I sit pondering our fate, my son’s future, our bars/restaurants and the fate of local eateries I wonder what the heck happened. How did this happen so quickly, so blindly, so ferociously?

We are the lucky ones. I kiss my husband and son every night and think, thank God. We have our health, we have each other. I feed us all three times a day and feel fortunate every time we sit at the dinner table together that we have this. But I can’t help feeling guilty. For every meal we don’t finish, for every ingredient, we don’t use. There are so many people, so many families that are waiting in line for meals. It’s heartbreaking.

We have provided meals for a lot of these people, however, we had to stop. We ran out of food, our coolers ran out of ingredients. Every cent we had in the restaurant’s bank account went to our employees. It went to their families. Now, there is almost nothing left.

When we reopen, and we are hoping we can, we will have to scrape everything we all have to purchase enough ingredients to put together a small menu of (hopefully) delicious food and hundreds of masks, gloves, sanitizer and bleach.

The price of sanitizing solution has quadrupled, as the price of a lot of things we used to think not so necessary. Is this our worst-case scenario? Is this the best case? Are things going to get worse? Are they getting better? What if COVID makes a big comeback in the fall? What then? All unknown…

The unknown is what I feel is hurting me the most. Keeps me up at night, makes me an irritable and impatient teacher for homeschooling my son.

Cafe la Trova

As a defense mechanism, I have put on my hurricane hat. It’s the hat I wear when the worst of all hurricanes is going to hit. It’s the only hat I own that helps me think I can get through the worst of things I have no control over. It makes me feel strong, almost invincible. In a hurricane, I am prepared, at least mentally. I’ve been through it before since I was a kid…I know exactly what to do to help my family through the toughest of times. This is a lot worse than even Andrew, this is hurting so many more people, industries, economies. And for the first time for us, it’s worldwide.

The transformer blew outside my house yesterday and the power went out. Something I and most of us here in SOFLO are used to. My husband David and I lose our power every summer for about 3-4 weeks, not a big deal. But, yesterday I totally lost my shit. I told him, I can’t go through self-isolation, social distancing, not being able to feed more people, AND NOT HAVE POWER. It’s a side of me my husband has rarely seen.

Today, I am hopeful but scared. Many PPP loans have come through, but many have not.

The loans themselves are confusing and imperfect. Most of us don’t know whether to keep them or send them back to the banks they came from. We are hoping for help from our landlords, some type of relief, anything really…But that’s not going to happen for us. I hope for many it does, but we haven’t been that lucky.

I hold on to hope every day. Hope that the passion and knowledge we have in this industry will be enough to keep us busy, keep us going. We know we are going to have to change the way we do business, the “new normal” will likely be the norm for quite a while. We are evolving and learning. Will it be enough? We need it to be. I have hope that my son is learning enough in ”zoom” school that he can move on smoothly into 3rd grade.

I am hopeful this summer will be one for moving on; I keep smiling at people under my mask realizing that they can’t see my warmth from under the cotton fabric. I am just so thankful to so many people; If it weren’t for so many of the incredibly courageous people out there, we wouldn’t be able to go on.

 

Michelle Bernstein