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How Miami Chef Michelle Bernstein Cooks During Social Distancing

Chef Michelle Bernstein
Michael Pisarri
During social distancing, we all want Chef Michelle Bernstein for a neighbor.

Social distancing has changed our everyday lives. For chefs, that means cooking and serving food differently. 

  

Michelle Bernstein is a well-known chef, restaurant owner and TV personality in Miami. In 2008, she was recognized by the James Beard Foundation as one of America's best chefs. In this audio postcard, Bernstein shares what cooking looks like for her these days.

My name is Michelle Bernstein, and I am a chef and a mom and a wife and a restauranteur and, I don't know, all kinds of stuff, right? We're all everything these days.

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"It is what it is. I have an 8-year-old who's dying to be outside and play with his friends. ... I'm feeding him absolutely everything. And I think that's where I'm actually most frustrated [because] my son was the most curious, adventurous eater. And right now, the kid is pushing my food away, and all he wants is packaged mac 'n cheese and packaged [breaded cutlets]. He won't eat my food anymore, and I don't know what's going on. I don't know if it's an anxious thing, but he's done. He's done with my cooking. He's done with the kitchen. He does not want my food, and I feel like a failure as a mother and as a chef, I think, because I can't get him to eat better right now.

"Once to twice a week now—I can't handle not cooking for people—we text random people to come and pick up food or to drop off. ... The neighbors are benefitting. I gave my next-door neighbor lasagna yesterday, and I did fried chicken day, which used to be Wednesdays at [my restaurant] Michy's. So I decided to do fried chicken day. We just sent a text out—whoever wants it, come and get it—and put little cute packages outside, and I made biscuits and fried chicken. Whoever wanted it came and got it. But then I forgot to leave any for my husband, so I had to make more!

"I feel as a restaurant owner and bar partner/owner scared to death, I was just this morning having a conversation with my husband, who is my partner in everything. We were saying, "Okay, it's time now to evolove. It's time to be something else. We're trying to figure out now how we can turn into a great takeout restaurant.

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"I still am doing my TV show. Everything has to be different: the way we touch food, the way we touch even our faces. The other day, I was filming my show, and I was like, 'Oh my god, I have a hair in my face. What do I do, what do I do, what do I do?' I was terrified of pulling a hair out of my eye... I don't want people to think that I keep my hand in my face, but I'm human.

"I have one cameraman. He comes through the side of the house. He never comes inside the house. We stay more than 12 feet apart. We film in my backyard. I'm standing in front of a hedge, and I have a burner in front of me, and my barbecue. And I film. I'm in a T-shirt. There's no covering my gray hair, and it's just, I don't know. As rustic as possible."

This story is produced in partnership with America Amplified, an initiative using community engagement to inform local journalism. It is supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.