Chatting the Design District, SBWFF and more with Michael Schwartz (Michael’s Genuine), Michelle Bernstein (Sra Martinez), Ken Lyon (Fratelli Lyon) and Jonathan Eismann (Pacific Time).
You’ve each gotten quite a bit of press & exposure the past few years – how has it affected your operations? Plans? Future?
MB: It’s made the restaurants busier made them busier and as a result I’ve been able to employ so many more talented and amazing people, which only makes the restaurants better.
MS: Well the obvious answer is the best answer. The recognition has made us very busy, both in the restaurant, and also outside of it. We’re working on projects to expand the brand like opening in Grand Cayman in late spring/early summer. I also have my first cookbook due out in early 2011.
What’s really cool is that it’s given me an opportunity to help our local farmers. When we succeed, so do they. To that end we’re working on a couple exciting projects in the coming year that aim to connect the community more with local growers and help create a more sustainable and healthy Miami.
What’s the single most important thing happening in the Miami dining scene right now?
MB: I think it’s the small, neighborhood dining that’s going on. Rather than more “corporate” restaurant concepts, we have smaller, creative dining options. It’s really quite exciting.
KL: The recognition and coming-of-age for our homegrown talent is critically important. The fact that chefs and restaurateurs are leading by example, through various means, with an agenda toward staying off the industrial grid – more local, more artisanal. Simple example; my friends and neighbors in the Design District – none of us sell bottled water, we all offer complimentary filtered water. In one year’s time, the amount of resources saved just form these four restaurants is significant.
MS: That restaurants refuse to submit to the ailing economy and continue to open despite it.
JE: Diversity in choices and better quality in more restaurants than ever. It’s about time too.
What will dining in the Design District look like in 2 years? 5?
MB: More restaurants, more options, more people walking the streets looking for fun, approachable dining, more business, great drinks and prices and an overall awesome experience.
KL: This is a bit of Deja Vu for me – opening Lyon Freres et Compagnie on Lincoln Road in 1992 (admittedly ahead of the curve) and watching what happened in break-neck speed – only this time I plan on sticking around! In two years, the Design District will be able to take the important steps forward that this last difficult year was prevented. More fantastic shops, more interesting (hopefully local) restaurants, hopefully more community-building infrastructure. In five years (or less), a chic boutique hotel, more work-live opportunities, a regular and critical mass of walking traffic, more professional offices, an internationally recognized graduate-level art school, a bigger and better DASH, and perhaps even an expanded grid of the Design District itself. It’s also very likely that the Design District will become, within five-years time, one of the most formidable “restaurant districts” in the country.
MS: Like it is now, just more of it.
JE: A pleasant Tribeca-esque feel. In my case –I now have four venues in the DD and two more in the works. Value, quality and diverse quality product all within one block of each other.
What’s the one don’t miss event of this year’s Festival?
MB: BubbleQ! I’m also doing that this year – it’s my first time – and I’m really excited.
KL: This is the tough thing – there are some many great things to do – for instance, I’d love to go to the Daniel Boulud tribute dinner BUT it’s on the same night as the Wine, Dine & Design Dinner! I’ve had the privilege to work together with Daniel on a few special events and he is so deserving of this honor.
MS: The Burger Bash, because it never ceases to surprise me what people decide to stack on a patty.
JE: BubbleQ for an over the top experience. The grand tasting is a must do at least once (or 10 times for that matter) in one’s life. It’s outrageous and of course the beach venue is incredible.
What are your plans for Wine + Dine + Design?
MB: A delicious seasonal menu, lots of laughs, and serving people on time as they have to move on and eat at 3 other restaurants!
KL: All four restaurants got together and decided – because of the coordinated movement of guests between the restaurants during the evening – that we should all have a common thread in each of the four courses – a key flavor for instance.
MS: I’ll be holding down the fort at Michael’s Genuine, getting our courses into the dining room like clockwork. Even though no one group will get the same menu, diners will have a harmonious experience… We chefs worked to develop our courses around similar ingredients.
JE: Pacific Time will be part of the four restaurant meander through the Design District. All of my other venues will be open. At Q we’ll have live music all night.