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Taste Titan

With three new restaurants in his portfolio, chef Michael Schwartz is burning the candle at both ends these days—and playing with fire in all the right ways.

Michael Schwartz in the dining room of The Cypress Room.

One of his three new restaurants; Cypress Room’s beet salad

One of Harry’s Pizzeria’s signature pies

The outdoor dining garden at Restaurant Michael Schwartz at the Raleigh.

Schwartz at work in the kitchen of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, the restaurant that started it all.

Rabbit from Restaurant Michael Schwartz

Michael Schwartz is the man of Miami’s finest hour. Well, at least its finest culinary hour. After winning the James Beard Award for Best Chef South in 2010, the chef-restaurateur, who almost single handedly launched the city’s locavore movement back in 1992 at Nemo in South Beach, cast his eye on progress. And progress, not to mention success, he has made.

Now the proprietor of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in the Design District, along with a sibling establishment, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink Grand Cayman, Schwartz also owns Harry’s Pizzeria (named for his son). His first cookbook, Michael’s Genuine Food: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat ($35, Clarkson Potter) also launched that same year. It was about then that he was invited to overhaul the dining room at the iconic Raleigh Hotel, as well as the restaurant on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas.

That’s when the momentum briefly stalled. The ship’s eatery, 150 Central Park by Michael Schwartz, opened; the Raleigh venue, which was sold to new hoteliers, did not. But management kept him on. In the meantime, during the same time frame, he’d begun developing The Cypress Room, his homage to fine dining in the Design District. Everything seemed to be moving apace.

Fast-forward to 2013 and Schwartz and his team, which includes longtime collaborator, Pastry Chef Hedy Goldsmith (who herself was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2013 and also has a cookbook), have opened three restaurants nearly simultaneously: The Cypress Room, Restaurant Michael Schwartz at the Raleigh (RMS), and the sister to 150 Central Park on Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, also called 150 Central Park.

“That was not planned,” Schwartz chuckles. “After being in the business for such a long time, opening three restaurants in five weeks was a first. A pretty special first.”

All three eateries, each with its own culture and philosophy, proved to have its own unique challenges. “Cypress was a big deal for such a tiny restaurant,” Schwartz confides. “The kitchen was rather small, so we wound up redoing everything and going over budget.”

As for RMS, that was “entirely a different experience. We did a lot of work with the previous owner but never launched. But now the team is tight, and we had lots of ideas [to implement] about what would be essential for this iconic property, for Miami Beach.”

The cruise ship venue showed Schwartz how far the first 150 Central Park had come. But the farm-to-table menus change seasonally, and it’s necessary to arrange for South Florida produce to be brought aboard, which has been challenging.

Still, while “launch is fun,” says Schwartz, “we’re turning our attention to operating.” With seven flourishing properties and his own beer, brewed from rice and sugarcane and being sold everywhere from his restaurants to markets like Proper Sausages, that’s no doubt a good idea. But somehow, we suspect Schwartz has plans for more. And being the devoted foodies that we are here in Miami, we’re certainly
not objecting.