Chef Questionnaire: Michelle Bernstein

The Miami chef talks seafood, Kunz spoons and more

One of Miami's hottest soon-to-open hotels, the Thompson Miami Beach has tapped native daughter and James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein to head up its two restaurants: Seagrape, a Florida-inspired brasserie, and 1930's House, a cocktail lounge where Bernstein will serve a tasting menu and small crudo plates. We caught up with the part-Latin, part-Jewish chef about her favorite ingredient, go-to recipe at home and more.

Favorite ingredient to cook with and why? Dashi (Japanese stock made from dried fish flakes and kelp). I use it to poach vegetables and eggs, marinate chicken before roasting, to make an easy vegetable soup or reduce it with lemon and olive oil to drizzle over roast fish. It's the most versatile, flexible flavor, and I'm totally addicted.

One rule you learned in cooking school that every home cook should know: Mise en place! Everything should be ready and organized before you actually begin cooking. You never want to look or feel like a mess before making a beautiful meal.

One rule you learned in cooking school that every home cook should ignore: Washing all your proteins and vegetables.

Kitchen tool you can't live without: Gray Kunz Spoons. They're the perfect size for mixing, serving, dotting and smearing.

Spice you can't live without: Spices from La Boîte in New York. They change the flavor of your food in a special way.

Favorite dish to cook at home: Take a whole fresh fish, score it on both sides, rub some really good extra virgin olive oil into it, sea salt and a spice of your choice; place it over some slices of lemon, onion, and fennel and roast at 425° until caramelized. Serve with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a shaved fennel salad and steamed rice or creamy farro.

Perfect day of eating in your city: Start the day at Athens Juice Bar, which makes the most amazing fruit salads and juices. For lunch, I'd hit Makoto. The sushi is amazing, but if you don't want to spend too much, the bento boxes are a great deal. Dinner is reserved for my family. It's the most important meal of the day and it's when we all get to sit together—no phones, no meetings, just us. I usually keep it simple, but we always have a big salad, good wine and a little something special that I make for Zach, our three-year-old son. It's our way of ending the day together.