Meet Chef Bernard Matz from the Café at Books and Books
Chef Bernard Matz has worked in the culinary industry for over 20 years.
Having opened up some of South Beach’s finest restaurants, including
Wet Paint Café which-was co-owned with renowned T.V. Chef, Douglas
Rodriguez, he has continued to delight the residents of South Florida
with his remarkable culinary skills. In 2004, Chef Bernard, along with
Bookstore owner Mitchell Kaplan decided to fuse their individual
passions by opening a bookstore/café where readers can enjoy a delicious
meal while also enjoying a good book. Premier Guide Miami’s Marie-Junie
Pierre met with Chef Bernard outside of this breezy outdoor café
located on Lincoln Road, where he sat down to give us an inside view
into his experiences as a Chef and his career throughout the years.
PGM: What inspired you and Mr. Kaplan to name this eatery,” The Café at Books and Books”?
BM: I remember kicking around different names with Mitchell and
we really didn’t have anything better so we decided to just call it the
Café at Books and Books. The bookstore had been here for many years and
the café was right next to it. Mitchell had seen seven different
reincarnations in five years, where some of the operators would try to
impede on his business. The landlord of the Café offered him the café
and we decided to go just go along with the name of the bookstore.
PGM: How has the fusion between the café and the bookstore worked out?
BM: 99 % of our customers actually do not come for the books and
are not really involved in the book process. We are really a fully
fledged restaurant. We would love to ideally have a place where people
can sit and drink coffee all afternoon but unfortunately we aren’t able
to do that. We have to turn the tables in order to meet our overhead.
PGM: Tell me a little bit more about your background. How
did you enter the culinary industry and how was your first experience in
BM: I opened Wet Paint Café, in 1986. That was my first restaurant venture.
A lot of people knew about Wet Paint Café. The Chef, Douglas Rodriguez,
went on to become a famous chef. It was one of the first cafés on South
Beach, and it opened at a time when the rent was really cheap and
nobody was really out here.
PGM: Did you attend a culinary institute to develop your culinary skills or do you consider yourself to be self-taught?
BM: I briefly attended a culinary institute in 1996 but I think
that my culinary skills are a result of experience which I amassed in
the field. I definitely consider myself to be a self-taught Chef.
PGM: Did you always want to be a chef while growing up?
BM: I knew innately that I was going to be a Chef but I never
wanted to be a Chef. I worked with Chefs for many years but never worked
as a Chef. It took me 25 years to actually do it. I would only cook at
home because cooking at home was an art but I considered cooking at a
restaurant to be a job.
PGM: How did you and Mitchell Kaplan meet?
BM: I met Mitchell during the signing of my book, Bernie’s
Kitchen. He had actually known me from when I worked at the Wet Paint
Cafe. When I met him, I was at a point where I wasn’t really looking to
get back into the restaurant business but Mitchell gave me the
opportunity to make this place my own and to treat my customers like my
guests. This was exactly what I did from the very beginning and although
we originally started with 30 seats, we now have about 140 seats.
PGM: Can you tell me a little bit about your book, Bernie’s Kitchen, which was released in 2004? What kind of book was it?
BM: Bernie’s Kitchen was a multimedia book. It was the first book
of its kind and I was doing multimedia at the time. I was in the
internet and the dot com boom of the nineties so I did marketing design
and the collateral design and I was able to produce the book on the
house. It was very fun because it allowed me to share my knowledge and
expertise about food with others.
PGM: What are your future goals in this industry? Where do you see yourself in the next ten years?
BM: I would love to oversee a chain of cafés at Books &
Books all over the country. I would also like to develop a chain of Fast
Food Cuban restaurants.
PGM: That would definitely be a great business venture.
What would be an alternative career, if someday you got tired of all
that or it didn’t work anymore? Is there anything else that you would
want to do?
BM: I’d probably do sales. I’ve always been really good in Sales
and I have a lot of experience in marketing and business including a MBA
PGM: That is quite impressive. What words of wisdom do you have for people who would like to pursue a career in the culinary field?
BM: There is nothing like “real hands on experience” in this
business. There are too many factors that just cannot be taught in
school .School is a great background if one can afford to put in the
time but if someone really wants to succeed, hands-on experience, like a
part time job in a restaurant, is not only helpful. It is vital in
understanding the real work involved in this field.
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