Passenger Pick of the Month
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
Ever since Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink first opened in Camana Bay in the summer of 2010, diners have craved its refreshing combination of laid-back atmosphere and seriously good food. In January 2013 they won the overall top pick in the Taste of Cayman with an emphasis on great local ingredients. As this month’s Passenger Pick of the Month, we wanted to learn more about the story behind Michael’s Genuine, so recently we caught up with Thomas Tennant, Executive Chef.
PP: What makes Michael's Genuine Food & Drink so unique from other restaurants on the island?
TT: The uniqueness of Michael's Genuine Food and Drink comes from our "fresh, simple, pure" philosophy. We keep the quality high, because we believe good food starts with good food. We start with wholesome products and allow them to speak for themselves. We have from a simple pan roasted half 'poulet rouge' chicken with garlic mash potatoes, to classic wood roasted bone marrow, to eclectic crispy sweet & spicy pork belly with kimchi, and island inspired wood roasted breadfruit salad with local tomatoes.
PP: Sounds delicious! Tell us about Michael’s Genuine ‘farm to table’ concept.
TT: The concept of 'farm to table' is simply from the farm to your table. It refers to many aspects, but mainly knowing where your food comes from and how far it has travelled to get to you - known as 'food miles'. It also a way we support and showcase our local producers.
PP: Were you surprised when you won Taste of Cayman this year?
TT: My initial reaction was actually honored and ecstatic. It's a validation of our team's dedication to our work. The feeling of winning was not only shared by the people who work at the restaurant but also with the restaurant purveyors; the hard working people that grow our produce, the fishermen that catch our fish, and the farmers that put as much heart and soul into their work as we do. Surprised, sure. Honored and humbled, yes!
PP: Tell us more about the style and inspiration of your dishes.
TT: The style of the dishes we produce is that of chef Michael Schwartz, focusing on good products, and following the seasons. The inspiration comes from what is in season.
PP: What is your favorite dish to make?
TT: My personal favorite dish to make is gnocchi with homemade ricotta, but I do enjoy the flavors of the Caribbean, so we create dishes that showcase those flavors.
PP: What is your favorite dessert to create?
TT: I am a huge lover of ice creams and sorbets. Growing up my mom and I would make cookies, which lead to ice cream. My brother and I loved creating ice cream flavors that were inspired by Ben & Jerry's. So ice creams and sorbets are by far my favorite desserts to make. We make many amazing frozen treats at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink. Created and concocted by our amazing local pastry chef Adriana Flores, and guided by our executive pastry chef (James Beard nominated) Hedy Goldsmith. Together they have earned the titles of "Best dessert 2010" and "Best dessert 2012" at the Taste of Cayman.
PP: Where did you grow up and where did you cut your culinary teeth?
TT: I grew up in Miami, FL and began my career in the kitchen at 16 at the South Beach Resort in Miami Beach, and have been in the kitchen ever since. I graduated in 2006 from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor of Science in Hotel & Restaurant Management. While at UD, I studied abroad in Switzerland, achieving a Hotelfachschule Hoch Diploma, a secondary Hotel Management degree. I returned to Miami and worked at such establishments as the Riviera Country Club and the Wyndam Grand Bay Resort, before attending Johnson & Wales in September 2006, followed by a three month externship to Jamaica in June 2007.
PP: Thomas, tell us the story on how you joined the Michael Genuine team in Cayman?
TT: It’s a great story. After eating at Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink in Miami in September 2007, I walked back to the kitchen, knocked on the door, and asked Chef Michael Schwartz for a job! He hired me and I’ve been with Michael’s Genuine ever since. I became the Executive Chef here in Grand Cayman when we opened in the summer of 2010.
PP: What do you like to do when you get a day off?
TT: Dive the over 200 dive sites in Grand Cayman and hunt for lionfish. Got to keep those reefs clean!
PP: You are one of the few restaurants that champion the catching and preparation of lionfish will you continue this passion?
TT: They are a serious threat to our reefs in the Caribbean, and to our supply of sustainably sourced fish. Lionfish are gluttonous eaters of juvenile fish and have no natural predators in the area, but they are also delicious. They have a delicate texture and buttery flavor, so as long as there are lionfish in these waters, we will serve them up, and continue to raise awareness of their impact with the help of the Department of Environment.
PP: Tell us about Michael’s Genuine Home Brew.
TT: We cook the food we like to eat, so we wanted to create a style of beer we like to drink. It was important that it go with a wide variety of dishes. Our menu changes constantly, so we needed a beer that would complement many different foods and flavors. After months of testing, we arrived at a classic American Ale, light bodied with a citrusy sweetness, hint of floral hops, and a dry finish, coming in about 5% ABV. Michael’s Genuine Home Brew is light and bright golden in color, with a white head that leaves a nice lacing.
Sounds good! Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink seats 75 indoors and 75 outside. Inside features a central open kitchen with a wood burning oven, heirloom tomato-lined food bar, and drinks bar flanking the main dining room. The dinner menu is divided into small, medium, large, and extra large plates, with creative wine, beer, and spirits — many of which are first to island. A great experience!
Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink
Suite 4103, 47 Forum Lane
Canella Court, Camana Bay