Genuine chef’s fresh focus

One of the more pleasing culinary movements of recent years has been that of food provenance and sustainability. Ingredients, preferably local and as fresh as possible, are treated with respect and married only with that which heightens their inherent quality.

Such is the approach of Chef Michael Schwartz, whose new book Michael’s Genuine Food: Down -To-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat is celebrated on Friday, 25 March.

Schwartz tells us there’s a Q&A with him at Books & Books from 6pm, where he’ll be talking about his 31-year career in food, his focus on sustainable, ingredient-focused cuisine and the conception of his debut cookbook.

Guests will have the opportunity to sample recipes like Falafel with Tahini Sauce and Kimchi Quesadillas and leave with a signed copy of the cookbook to re-create these dishes and more in their home kitchens.

The restaurant

Michael’s restaurant (Michael’s Genuine) at Camana Bay has been open for about a year and he, along with executive chef Thomas Tennant have enjoyed delving into the local ingredients.

“A concern when we decided to open here was sourcing products; we knew we could bring everything from Miami if we had to, but what we found was that there were quite a few farmers and growers who were willing to pick up business.

“We’ve adopted some of what they grow locally – callaloo, seasoning peppers and okra, which we love. Now someone like Patrick Panton is growing beautiful eggplant, heirloom tomato, lettuces, kale, swiss chard and so we like what we see.

Obviously the fish here is fantastic, and I think the scene is changing – as more restaurants and chefs demand better products locally, instead of paying duty and having it die on the boat, they’ll be able to do it.

The climate and growing season and zone is really similar to Miami,” Schwartz tells us.

TV stardom

These days, of course, any successful chef or restauranteur is almost expected to pop up on our telly screens.

Although television stardom is clearly not top priority for Schwartz, an opportunity to share his love of great food with a wider audience is always welcome.

“Actually, I shot a pilot for a show which has a food and travel component to it, talking about farm to table and connecting farmers, artisans and chefs. For me it’s all about the restaurants – a big focus this year is the release of the book.

It took two years to make the book but feels like it’s taken a lifetime [of learning and cooking].”

In the meantime, he says, priority is to develop relationships with farmers here, to nurture the Miami restaurant that started it all and to see where that leads.

As for the home chef, one glance at Schwartz’s new book will instantly demystify the process. The recipes demand merely a commitment to getting the steps right and, above all, selecting great ingredients. Is there a key to his approach?

“Small victories lead to great confidence,” Michael says, smiling.

It sounds like a Confucian quote, but – like the recipes themselves – it’s all Michael’s work.

In addition to the signing at Books & Books, the restaurant will be serving selections from the cookbook from 5.30pm.

During happy hour, those who have bought the book get a complimentary beverage on proof of purchase. Following the Books & Books event, Chef Schwartz will join Mr. Tennant, in the kitchen and visit the dining room to greet guests and sign cookbooks throughout the evening.

Weekender went in the kitchen with Chef Schwartz to see how we got on with his falafel recipe… see whether we managed to burn the place down at and watching the video ‘Heating up the kitchen with Michael Schwartz’.