The who is who of the culinary world will converge on South Florida, February 22 – 26, for the 16th annual Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival. With a diverse line-up of more than 90 events, there is something for everyone to enjoy. We caught up with Festival Founder and Senior Vice President, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, Lee Brian Schrager to discuss.
The festival has developed a very loyal following over the years however there is special group of “been- there-done-thaters” that shrug at the mention of the festival and wince at navigating the crowds. Why should they give the SOBEWFF another shot in 2017?
We do have very loyal fans, and we are always appreciative of their support for what we do and for FIU. For those on the fence, they probably haven’t been to our signature Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village in a few years – we made significant investments and changes for the 2015 Festival, including introducing a free park-n-ride option from Downtown Miami, and have had very positive feedback from the community since revamping the event. Additionally, I always encourage people to visit our website, sobewff.org – because there are events to satisfy everyone’s style and taste – from the large tastings, to intimate dinners with world-renowned chefs, to our wine seminars, to the late-night parties (many of them under $100) – many people don’t realize the variety of options that are available to them to take part in the action.
You’re introducing several new events this year, which one are you most excited to present?
I’m really looking forward to the dinner hosted by the world’s top-rated chef, Massimo Bottura, with Giada De Laurentiis, and also our signature Tribute Dinner at Loews Miami Beach hotel, honoring José Andrés this year with Master of Ceremonies Anthony Bourdain and special presentation from Gloria Estefan.
2016 saw the introduction of the Taste Fort Lauderdale series, and this year’s program shows continued expansion into Broward County, tell us a bit about that.
We’re bringing back the fan-favorite Seaside Eats and Bloody Mary Brunch events that anchored the series last year – with Seaside Eats hosted by Anne Burrell and the Bloody Mary Brunch hosted by David Burtka & Neil Patrick Harris this year. And brand new, we’re producing our first late-night party in the popular FATVillage neighborhood – DRINK Fort Lauderdale: A Cocktail Time Machine Experience – featuring snacks from a handful of Broward’s most popular food trucks.
I’m not sure most people realize how much of an impact the SOBEWFF® has on our community. Beyond creating a “boom” for local businesses, the festival has raised more than $24 million to date for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University. Can you shed some light on how this is invested back into the development of the culinary craft within our community?
In addition to the funds raised for the School, we provide an interactive educational platform for students to receive hands-on learning experiences from leaders in the culinary, beverage, hotel and hospitality industries each year. It is an invaluable opportunity for the future leaders of the industry to connect with current professionals.
We spoke about this year’s new events, now let’s talk about the best of the rest. Which event never gets old for you? Are there any new spins on any of the festivals “classic” events?
Our Tribute Dinner, which I mentioned above, is always a very special evening. And watching a chef win the People’s Choice Award at the Heineken Light Burger Bash presented by Schweid & Sons hosted by Rachael Ray is always a fun moment. Our signature tasting event – the Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village – features a new collaboration with nightlife guru David Grutman on Sunday, February 26 this year.
The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival takes place February 22 – 26, 2017. Visit Sobefest.com for details.