Michael Schwartz is a James Beard Award-winning and nationally recognized celebrity chef, cookbook author and co-owner of The Genuine Hospitality Group, a collection of award-winning restaurants launched in 2009. Schwartz has become the face of the Miami restaurant industry, a chef and visionary hospitality entrepreneur whose restaurants have put “The Magic City” on the culinary map, and who has served as one of the architects of the movement that has transformed Miami into a respected culinary destination.
Born in Northeast Philadelphia in 1964, Michael and his older sister Jamie were raised by his mother Judy and father Marvin who were both Philadelphia natives themselves. Marvin owned an auto supply shop in Michael’s younger years, his mother Judy spending her time at home while her husband was off at work until their divorce when she took up a career in real estate. Having grown up in the era of convenience, Michael did not find much of his inspiration in the food he was eating at home, his memories of cooking at home not extending far beyond cutting white bread for Thanksgiving every year to make stuffing. It wasn’t until Michael’s father encouraged him to begin looking for a job at age 15 that his love for food and cooking began to flourish. When Michael graduated from high school in 1982, he did not have much interest in going to college. After taking some business courses at Buck’s County Community College just to appease his parents, Michael ultimately dove headfirst into his cooking career rather than continuing his education.
Michael began his cooking career at DiLullo’s in Philadelphia in 1980, and earned his culinary chops in kitchens from Los Angeles to New York City, until settling in Miami in the early 1990s. He spent about five years at Di’Lullo before heading out to California to work for Wolfgang Puck at Chinois on Main in Saint Monica. It was here that Michael’s eyes were opened to a whole new world of food, flavor, and possibilities that would continue to influence his cooking and shape it into what it is today. Prior to opening Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in 2007, Michael worked at various restaurants, including Andiamo in NYC from 1988 to 1990 where he held his first sous chef position under Chef Frank Crispo, who he first worked alongside at Di’Lullo as a teenager. His time alongside Frank at both restaurants led to a strong work ethic and fundamental cooking technique that have carried him through his career. Following Andiamo, Michael held his first executive chef job at L’Ostello Wail Colorado where he received a 5-star review from the Denver Post. Many other restaurants later, Michael took to opening his very own flagship restaurant to share with the world what he could do.
The Genuine Hospitality Group
In 2007, Michael’s flagship restaurant, Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, opened in Miami’s Design District to national acclaim and was cited as one of 2008’s Best New Restaurants by The New York Times. The restaurant helped revive the neighborhood, welcoming locals and visitors who flocked to the location to embrace its unpretentious and approachable menu emphasizing fresh, exceptional ingredients, superior quality and faultless technique. In 2019, Chef Schwartz and his team opened a second outpost of Michael’s Genuine outside of Cleveland, OH in Shaker Heights’ Van Aken District. In 2021, the Miami location underwent a renovation to elevate the décor, reinvent the kitchen space and expand the airy dining room. Genuine Hospitality Group became a reality following the first expansion of Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink to Grand Cayman in 2009, which was open for about five years.
In 2018, Chef Schwartz and his team opened fine dining restaurant Amara at Paraiso, a stunning 4,500 square-foot waterfront spot that the Sun Sentinel termed, “Michael Schwartz’s love letter to Miami,” and that The Miami New Times proclaimed the region’s “Best Waterfront Restaurant.” There, guests dine both indoors and out in the bi-level space, taking in the glorious views of Biscayne Bay as they enjoy the chef’s bold Latin American-influenced menu. Genuine Hospitality Group also opened Harry’s Pizzeria, a casual neighborhood pizza joint named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s 25 Best Pizzerias in the U.S. with locations in Coconut Grove (2015) and Miami Beach (2021).
All Genuine Hospitality Group restaurants maintain a commitment to community and celebrate fresh, simple, and seasonal food sourcing, while offering great service and delicious dishes. This genuine culture is embraced by employees and guests alike, and Chef Schwartz was named Best Chef: South by the James Beard Foundation Awards in 2010 and as a semifinalist for the organization’s Outstanding Chef award in 2022. Other accolades include being named Best Chef in 2012 by The Miami New Times and Reader’s Choice Best Chef in 2015 by the same publication. Further, Genuine Hospitality Group was recently recognized by Restaurant Hospitality as one of its RH 25: Coolest Multi-Concept Companies and is a certified “Great Place to Work.”
Michael’s business partner and the CEO of Genuine Hospitality Group, Sunil Bhatt, was a friend many years before the two entered into business together but two grew closer when Sunil was able to begin working alongside Michael. Sunil helped Michael turn Genuine Hospitality Group into a true hospitality group, offering strategic thinking and planning that Michael had been previously unaware of. Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink was a very personal project for Michael and Harry’s Pizzeria became an offshoot of the flagship featuring the key component of MGFD – pizza. It wasn’t until the development of Amara at Paraiso that Michael and Sunil executed a specific process to develop the concept that the group has continued to use since. The legitimacy and commitment to Genuine Hospitality Group’s cause and purpose and the vision behind the concepts is what has brought the group the immense success it has enjoyed thus far.
Going Beyond the Kitchen
Outside of his restaurants, Michael focuses his time and influence on supporting the arts and causes such as Share Our Strength, a national organization working to end childhood hunger and poverty in the United States, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a pediatric cancer charity, and Slow Food International, a global grassroots organization working to prevent the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. With Slow Food, Michael received its Miami convivium’s first “Snail of Approval,” an award given to food and beverage establishments pursuing and practicing Slow Food values of good, clean, and fair in their business. Chef Schwartz and his restaurants are a proud partner with Rethink Food, a nonprofit working to create a more sustainable and equitable food system, helping to provide meals for food-insecure communities in Miami. Michael has also been a member of the board of Young Musicians Unite whose mission is to provide free music education to all public school students. His son Harry, who is a musician himself, is also involved with YMU.
Chef Schwartz has published two cookbooks, GENUINE PIZZA: Better Pizza at Home (Abrams Books, 2019) and MICHAEL’S GENUINE FOOD: Down-to-Earth Cooking for People Who Love to Eat (Clarkson Potter Publishers, 2011) which features beloved recipes from his flagship restaurant. The chef’s recipes and restaurants have been covered by The Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, The New York Times, Time Out Miami, Bon Appétit, and more.
Michael currently resides in Miami, Florida with his significant other where he spends his time working alongside his dedicated staff to continuously update his restaurants to be the best they can be and serve a delicious variety of food to guests. Michael also enjoys fishing when he finds the time in his busy schedule and visiting the beach on Key Biscayne with his dogs, as well as spending time with his three children, Ella, Harry, and Lua.