One year ago, Miami favorite chef/restaurateur Michael Schwartz opened up his third Design District restaurant, The Cypress Room, a high-end, classic, 1920s-reminiscent American eatery. With the same pure approach to food, genuine cuisine and focus on fresh, simple ingredients as his other restaurants, The Cypress Room garnered a quick and loyal following. We spoke with Schwartz about what this past year's been like, challenges he faced at the restaurant, managing it all and more. Here's what he had to say:
Tell me a little bit about how you came up with the concept for The Cypress Room.
How I came up with the concept… It sort of evolved, which is usually the way we do restaurants. We had been eying that space for a long time and so over the course of years what that concept would have been changed as the Design District started to change, with all the luxury retail moving in. I think for me, it was just not wanting to see another pork-centric, Edison bulb, wood table restaurant. We wanted to do something a little bit different, we wanted it to be a little bit more elegant and it sort of evolved into that.
What was opening day like?
Like most opening days, it was hectic. What was particularly challenging about opening day at this restaurant had to do with wood, Cypress wood. So the restaurant was pretty much completed and built out, but the guy that did the woodwork didn't realize that he needed to use treated wood on the wall, so that didn't go over too well with the fire inspector. We had to rip all the wood out and redo it, so I think getting to opening was a little more stressful that restaurant openings usually are, which are stressful enough to begin with. We were all just happy we finally got to open.
Overall, how has the last year been?
It's been great. We're super proud of The Cypress Room. You know, we really think it's a game changer in Miami dining.
What challenges did you face over the year that you weren't expecting?
I think the biggest thing that sort of jumped out at us after we opened was that … we don't think about this, but everyone wanted to compare us to Michael's Genuine. And I guess to some degree people wanted it to be Michael's Genuine and it's not, it wasn't and it isn't. I guess we were really surprised that people looked at it that way like, "why is this different?" and "we love you because we love Michael's Genuine"… there was a lot of that. It took us a while to get used to, that was a surprise to us.
What are you most proud of at the restaurant so far?
I'm most proud of the experience as a whole and the service is second to nowhere in Miami and the attention to detail. For me, the experience. The food is spectacular and really refined, but not in a pretentious way, but the experience I would say, so … that you walk in there and you're transported somewhere else. That has to do with the food, the service, the ambience and what you hear, and what you smell, and what you see. That's our proudest accomplishment.
You do a lot of traveling and you manage several restaurants at the same time. How do you keep it all together and stay involved with everything?
I have the best people and I think and I hope that I just let them do what they do best. So, it's either manage or cook or create or all of that combined and I'm sure sometimes I'm a micromanager, but for the most part I think that I hire good, I treat people good, and I let them do what they do best. I have great people around me, it's what's kept me going.
What, if anything, has changed over the past year?
We haven't changed much. We figured out and learn how to navigate certain expectations. I touched on it a little earlier about people expecting a Michael's Genuine experience – we learned how to temper that and how to change people's expectations. We didn't change much. We have continued to do what we do and I think it's to offer Miami this first class dining experience that a city like Miami deserves, without changing and without making it something that people think they want it to be.
When you're not at any of your own restaurants, where do you like to eat in Miami?
In my home. I love eating at home. My wife makes the best Bolognese.
What's in store for the future?
For The Cypress Room, more of the same and for Miami to sort of catch up to what's going on. And then, we have some other projects that we're working on. We announced earlier this year about a project that we're doing in Edgewater at Paraiso Bay; we're very excited about that. And then, of course, Royal Caribbean announcement last week and our continuing partnership with Royal Caribbean and creating Michael's Genuine Pub on board three new ships. We're very excited about that. You know, for us to maintain what we're doing at our restaurants and creating some new experiences that take Miami in a different direction for dining and hospitality.
· All Coverage of The Cypress Room [EMIA]
· All Coverage of Michael Schwartz [EMIA]