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Michael Schwartz on His New TV Shows and Restaurant

Continuing Eater Lounge coverage from the Cayman Cookout in Grand Cayman. Right now: chef Michael Schwartz, of the Michael's Genuine restaurants in Miami and Grand Cayman.


The last time we spoke, you mentioned that there was a show in the works.
Well, there's two things now. We're shooting a local show called "Genuine CayMan," which is very similar to the national one that just got picked up by PBS. We got green lit, got sponsorships, and in the spring we'll start filming for that.

But the show here, we got picked up by Local 27 for six episodes. Obviously, it's a smaller island and there's a smaller palette to work with. We're working with local producers, of which there are more than you'd imagine. We shot two episodes this trip: one was on lionfish, the invasive species that is sort of eating up all the fish in the ocean. We do these safaris with the dive shop, and they go out and hunt them with a speargun. The fish are venomous — they're beautiful — and then we cook them at Michael's at Camana Bay. We also shot an egg episode.

Can you tell me more about the PBS show?
The PBS one is national, or even international, hopefully. It's called "The Local Table." Basically we'll go to a particular region and focus on a few artisans and producers in one region. We'll learn their story, grab their best product, and at the end, cook a meal for the people that contributed to the episode.

And what's going on with the Raleigh? Where in the process are you?
The Raleigh is more involved than we thought and will take longer than we thought. We wanted to launch a restaurant right about now, but we need to push that back and renovate the kitchen. We're really taking our time, since we want to do it right. We took over complete food and beverage and we want to clean up years of neglect in that department. We're doing everything.

Is the restaurant going to be a Michael's Genuine?
No, it's not going to be a Michael's. We're kind of playing around with what it's going to be, but we're not there yet. It's an iconic property, and we want the hotel and its vibe really dictate what it's going to be. The more time we spend at the property, we've found that we connect with it more and develop something organically. We're probably shutting the kitchen down in the summer and then debuting it in the fall.

How is the restaurant here doing?
It's doing good. You know, 2011 wasn't the greatest year. I think it was a delayed reaction to the economic trouble. Here it didn't really hit until '11, but this season is doing well.

What do you think of this new crop of New York chefs taking an interest in Miami?
They've always wanted to come to Miami. I think that this wave — I don't want to say it's better in terms of the talent —but it's worked out better. There was David Bouley at the Ritz, and then you can go back to Larry Forgione. There's a bunch. But this crop has held on.

Have you been to the Dutch at the W?
Yeah, I've been to the Dutch, and I think they did a really good job with that space. I was skeptical, but it was great. The Dutch has this very specific time and space feel in New York, and they managed to pull it off in the sleek W.

Let's bring in Eric Larkee, your sommelier. How did he come to be involved with the restaurants?
When I opened Michael's Genuine, I didn't have a somm. I just put together a modest list. But as it grew, I felt it needed one. It was really important for me not to have a pretentious, boring person. I first hired this girl, and it didn't work out. So I started asking people around Miami, and everyone recommended Eric. I heard that he had worked in New York at Savoy and at Wallsé. The rest is history.

How would you describe the wine culture in Miami?
EL: There's definitely a big love for the California Cab in Miami.
MS: Which is strange to us, since it's so hot.
EL: There's also lots of people really interested in South American wines. And rosé does really well.

Maybe it's just me, but I haven't noticed — even in recent visits — a huge emphasis on wine in the city.
EL: You have cocktails, you have a mojito, something like that. It's definitely developing. I think it's changing a little bit.

How so?
EL: Even just being there a few years, I've seen regulars who didn't have an interest in wine sort of grow up with it and learn at the restaurant. There's a regular of ours who had never drank wine in his life. Now, he's emailing me about auctions and Grower Champagnes. It's really exciting to be someone they trust.

· All Michael Schwartz Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Cayman 2012 Interviews [-E-]