Chefs & Cafeteria Managers: a Genuine Partnership

M&M in their happy place at J&W.

What do you get when you bring together five chefs, about 40 cafeteria employees, and a cornucopia of fresh produce and wholesome grains like red quinoa – yes you heard right, quinoa! – now sourced by Miami-Dade Public County Public Schools for its lunch program?  An inspiring morning of cooking, collaboration, learning, and good eating!

A little fun makes everything taste better.

This morning Michael joined fellow local chefs Michelle Bernstein (Michy’s, SRA. Martinez,) Richard Ingraham (Dwyane Wade,) Julie Frans (Essencia at The Palms,) and Douglas Rodriguez  (D. Rodriguez Cuba) for a productive training session at Johnson & Wales University’s North Miami campus with cafeteria staff from their partner schools.  After breaking out into two kitchen classrooms, some game-planning, slicing, dicing, picking, sauteeing, and teamwork,  two delicious lunches came together buffet-style — all with creating a healthy spread appealing to kids in mind.  Michael’s first contribution was key in setting the menu in motion: combine quinoa with rice to introduce it to young palates.  Michy countered with the addition of a little coconut milk to bring the pilaf together and mellow out some of the spices like cardamom, cinnamon and cayenne used to prepare other ingredients.  Another tip offered was to try undercooking vegetables so they keep their bright colors and texture.  Who knows what future menu items this Jazz-like number will inspire in their respective schools, but one thing is certain.  It wasn’t just the cafeteria staff who learned a thing or two from this exercise.

Huge thanks to Administrative Director Penny Parham and her team at the Food & Nutrition Department of this, the fourth-largest public school system in the United States, for their visionary work to feed kids better food in schools.  For more photos of the training, visit our Flickr set.

Michael coaches Ms. Theresa, manager of the Phillis Whealtey Elementary School Cafeteria. Or is it the other way around?

The final dish comes together on the plate: red quinoa and rice pilaf with sauteed zucchini, steamed green beans, roasted calabaza, and roasted pulled chicken with sauteed peppers. It was great combination of texture and flavor!

Our Outstanding Hedy Goldsmith

Ciao tutti!  The Genuine Kitchen is back! After a long and dolce holi-daze in bella Italia, I return invigorated and inspired to continue the genuine work with il capo and crew, and what better subject to turn the blog’s attention to first than executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith.  Our very own honey dipper, weaving sweet dreams for 20+ years in South Florida, each getting better than the last, will represent Greater Miami in New York City on May 7 — not just for the ultra competitive and national category of Outstanding Pastry Chef, but as its sole James Beard Foundation Award finalist. Since we were out and got the news over email many many thousands of kilometers away, lots of folks have wanted, as we do now, to talk to Hed about what she is feeling with this honor becoming a reality, and as expected, she has lots on her mind to share.  Please read some of her thoughts here in Laine Doss‘ piece and click the image above for John Tanasychuk’s in Sunday’s Sun-Sentinel. Buona fortuna Hedala!

Spring Break for The Genuine Kitchen

The man with a plan, seen yesterday evening before pre-shift with reservationist Margaret Taverni manning the host stand. Chef goes on a vacay himself today with the fam. When the cat's away...

Tomorrow I depart for a two week holiday (how server Hinmahtooyah told me I must refer to my vacation!)  traveling mostly through northern Italy.  The Genuine Kitchen will take a break when I do, but there are plenty of ways for you to stay connected online with all things Genuine during this hiatus.  Here’s my recommended list:

Tweet Tweet  The chirping in our nest just increased by one decibel.  Our Beverage Director Mr. Ryan Goodspeed is tweeting as of this morning @goodspeedryan, so give him some love with a follow. He will return the favor with plenty of 140 character spurts on bitters, bourbon and the like. For the full list of TGHGers on the bird horn, from chef’s assistant Ellie Groden to our Grand Cayman executive chef Thomas Tennant, click here.

Meat Notes  While I’m out Miss Ellie will be taking over the @MGFD_MIA Twitter, tweeting lunch and dinner bells to keep you on top of daily menu changes, like this here delicious wabbit pate.  She will also be taking over updating our menus online weekly at  As usual, she’ll be doing the same for Harry’s on its Tumblr. Woof!

It’s Eventful  Through the end of March we have lots for you to enjoy outside of the restaurant.  Visit the events page for a list of our ongoing events as well as special ones.  In some cases, buying tickets online applies, which is good news for you because it’s super easy. Two are top of mind: @MGFD_GCM’s Farm-to-Table Dinner (3/17) and  OMG! Dinner & a Movie with Harry’s Pizzeria (3/19). 

Kitchen Interviews  My own blog is roused from its slumber over the next couple of weeks serving its primary purpose over recent years, chronicling travels.  I’ll post the itinerary tomorrow, which begins when I arrive in Roma on Sunday and journeys through Toscana, Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta, Lombardia, Umbria, and back to Roma — some in train and some in macchina! I promise not to text and drive : )

We Can Pie!

Much of what we do at Michael’s Genuine is based on common sense.  At the Miami restaurant, one example is how everyone from Wine Director Eric Larkee to the chefs in the kitchen utilize space.  For Eric, it is the physical size and format of the wine book, within which can only rest a list divided onto the front side of two legal-sized sheets.  For Executive Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith, it’s about finding ways to be creative and produce efficiently working within the spacial constraints of her station.  Enter, “Pie in a Jar.”

“I wanted to put pie on our menu forever. We have tight quarters in our kitchen which kept me away from the idea,” Hedy explains.  “The idea of utilizing the freshest fruits in season pushed me to make the pie idea work for MGFD. The canning jar became to perfect vehicle for keeping the pies contained, fresh and totally cute. We are now able to produce an unlimited variety of traditional and non-traditional pies in volume. The pies are able to reach our guests in the exact shape as they were intended. We are only limited to our imagination.”

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Let The Hunger Games Begin… with an Ossabaw Island Hog

The mighty Ossabaw, courtesy original drawing by Stephanie Voight (DASH 2013)

The highly anticipated futuristic saga hits theaters March 23, but our tournament of survival begins now as Michael and Bradley strategize how to tame a 200 pound hog they have never worked with in the kitchen before: the Ossabaw.

I’m speaking of course of their upcoming entry in the Cochon 555 competition, hitting Miami on April 1 at the Four Seasons Brickell. To satisfy my curiosity about the main ingredient all of which they must use to wow 20 judges and a ravenous crowd, I rang hog farmer and owner of Black Hill Ranch, Felix Florez, a sommelier by trade, but now passionately converted to raising seven breeds of hog, with the perfect hog in the works, on his 10 acre ranch in Houston, Texas. His family had always been into cattle ranching, but it was his work in the restaurant business since about 18 years old that ultimately led him to his calling.

“Because I’ve been in restaurants so long one of the things I noticed is how much product we were bringing from outside, and it never made sense to me why we weren’t using more that was local,” he explains. “So I made up my mind to get a piece of land and put animals on it and do what the best ranchers in the world were doing. I did a lot of studying what they were doing in Spain and Iowa.”

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