The Philadelphia-born owner of The Genuine Hospitality Group, James Beard Award Winning Chef, and cookbook author, Michael Schwartz is the face of the South Florida restaurant industry and a nationally recognized celebrity chef. Since his flagship, Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, first opened in Miami’s Design District in 2007, locals and tourists alike have come to embrace and crave its refreshing combination of laid-back, bistro atmosphere and straightforward food emphasizing fresh, local ingredients. Branching out with this established fresh, simple, pure approach, Michael has since successfully developed complementary concepts including Harry’s Pizzeria®, named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 25 Best Pizzerias in the U.S., Cypress Tavern, a Bon Appétit magazine choice for its BA 50 Best New Restaurants, and ella, a light and airy café in the Miami Design District’s Palm Court. The Chef’s partnership with global cruise leader Royal Caribbean includes developing menus with ingredients from sustainable sources for 150 Central Park on Oasis Class ships and Michael’s Genuine® Pub on Quantum Class ships, the first American gastropub on the seas. The company was recently recognized by leading trade publication Restaurant Hospitality magazine as one of its RH 25: Coolest Multi-Concept Companies.
In addition to expanding the Harry’s Pizzeria brand to a multiple unit operation over the next three years, partnerships with real estate and hospitality heavyweights Related Group, Terra Group and sbe have confirmed projects on the horizon, including the recently announced Fi’lia at SLS Brickell (Downtown Miami, October, 2016) and restaurants at Paraiso Bay (Edgewater, Miami, 2017) and Park Grove (Coconut Grove, Miami, 2018.)
Outside of the restaurants, Schwartz focuses his time and influence supporting the arts and causes such as Share our Strength, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Slow Food (from which he received its Miami convivium’s first “Snail of Approval”) and Wellness in the Schools.
Schwartz grew up in Philadelphia in the ’60s and ’70s. The closest he came to cooking was cutting up the Stroehmann white bread for stuffing at Thanksgiving dinner. Mom Judy didn’t make much from scratch, not necessarily uncommon in those days!
At 15 Schwartz had his first experience working at a restaurant, bussing tables at Dilullo’s, a Northern Italian restaurant in Philadelphia. He became fascinated with what was coming out of the kitchen. The place was ahead of its time and really swanky, importing expensive, high quality ingredients from Italy. After a year, he had worked his way into the back of the house.
From Dilullo’s, Schwartz moved to Santa Monica in 1986 and landed a job at Chinois. He arrived in California without a plan, but was in the right place at the right time — it was at the height and nucleus of the Asian Fusion movement — for an eye opening experience working for Wolfgang Puck.
One year later, he headed back northeast when he was offered his first sous-chef position at Andiamo in New York City, recruited by a chef for whom he worked at Dilullo’s. After two years, the owner of Andiamo bought a small inn in Vail, Colorado and asked Schwartz to travel west again to be his head chef. It was his first job with full command of the kitchen.
In 1994, after three years in Vail, Schwartz decided to move to Miami. He was still single, after all! It was time to open his own restaurant, Nemo, which quickly become one of the hottest tables on South Beach, in the trendy South of Fifth Street neighborhood. Nemo did Pan-Asian cuisine cooked in an open kitchen, and the timing was perfect. It was all about trendiness and glitziness on South Beach then, and Nemo struck a chord with those who found it to be more approachable and affordable, while still being a fine-dining restaurant.
Over the next seven years, Schwartz opened five more restaurants in Miami, before breaking out on his own again to open Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink — his first on the mainland. Back then, the Design District, an area just north of downtown Miami, was void of restaurants, let alone fine dining establishments. But Schwartz liked the creative vibe of a neighborhood built around galleries and furniture showrooms and saw promise in its quiet palm-tree lined streets.
The chef’s cookbook, MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2011) features beloved recipes from his flagship, a homage to approachable, sensible, and affordable food that everyone loves to make and eat. His recipes and restaurants have been covered by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, TODAY Show, and more.
Schwartz currently resides in Miami Beach, FL with his wife Tamara and three children, Ella (now a Freshman at Tulane!), Lulu, and Harry.