Lean, mean cooking machine: Michelle Bernstein

With all the commotion around the Miami Heat, chances are, you may have missed Miami top chef Michelle Bernstein’s new Lean Cuisine commercial.

The Johnson & Wales University grad behind Miami eateries Michy’s and Crumb on Parchment is seen in the advertisement whipping up a salad from “drab to fab” with their new Salad Additions lineup. Bernstein joined Lean Cuisine’s culinary roundtable about two years ago, along with James Beard award winner Paul Kahan and several other food experts. About four times a year, the chefs’ meet and cook up meals together, sharing recipes with Lean Cuisine’s own chefs and marketing team.

“We show them all kinds of recipes, and they show us what they do with their recipes, including ideas,” she said. They even receive assignments, like having to create dishes from Lean Cuisine’s own dishes. The roundtable is part of an initiative by the frozen food brand to create diverse – and healthy – dishes. “We’re kind of teaching them to make them [the meals] more crisp, a little bit less salty,” Bernstein said. She recalled making them shrimp linguini with a fennel reduction. It was a big hit. “They went so crazy,” she said. “They said, ‘Guess what Michelle, this is our version of what you taught us.’ They want us to inspire them.”

Lean Cuisine will use these inspired recipes to whip up creations of their own. While Bernstein does not have a full dish in their line of products yet, she has a heavy hand in the process, which takes a while to make it from the test kitchen to a grocery store freezer. “A lot of it is still in the works, the vegetables are showing up more and more in a lot of their recipes,” Bernstein said. She said that they even have a whole 100-acre farm dedicated to fresh kale. That was not the case when she started. “Its amazing, it touches so many people, we keep getting them new ingredients and we can have so many other ingredients growing,” she said. According to Bernstein, people thought she was “selling out” when she joined Lean Cuisine, but it has had an opposite effect. While she can only cater to about 80 to 150 people with her restaurants, her reach is far greater on the roundtable.

“I’m touching upon hundreds of thousands with these infusions of flavor,” Bernstein said. Between the roundtable, restaurants and her weekly WBT2 show Check, Please! South Florida, Bernstein has been busy to say the least. She also has a consulting gig with Delta Airlines, creating their first and business class menus, and is on Macy’s Culinary Council. At home too, making sure her almost two-year-old son Zachary is “well and fed.”

She said that she has “started to put all new ventures on hold” because of him, but Miami foodies can expect a potential restaurant upgrade soon. “You’ll be seeing some things in the next year, we’re thinking about renovating Michy’s this summer,” Bernstein, who runs the popular eatery with husband David Martinez, said.