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A Star-Studded Beach Bash

A Star-Studded Beach Bash

South Beach Wine & Food Festival showcases culinary elite

Winter’s biggest culinary event is no doubt the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, occurring Feb. 20-24 on Miami Beach with a lineup that looks like a who’s who in the business.

In its 18th year, this grand gourmet getaway boasts the likes of Emeril Lagasse, Anne Burrell, Ted Allen, Scott Conant, Rocco DiSpirito, Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence, Giada De Laurentiis, Geoffrey Zakarian and so many more noteworthy chefs and food personalities. They’ll participate in more than 100 events, including chef demos, late-night parties, boozy brunches and intimate dinners.

We recently caught up with Lee Schrager—the festival’s founder, a cookbook author, and vice president of corporate communications and national events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Inc.—as he prepared for the five-day feast.

Restaurant Inc.: What inspired you to start the South Beach Wine & Food Festival?

Lee Schrager: I went to the Aspen Classic and was on the plane home thinking how amazing an experience like that would be on the beach. Shortly thereafter, I joined the team at [Southern] Wine & Spirits and was tasked with turning a one-day wine-tasting fundraiser event for Florida International University into something more, and then the South Beach Wine & Food Festival was born.

RI: What are the benefits for chefs participating in the festival?

LS: They are contributing to a great cause and supporting the future leaders of our industry by participating. Additionally, the festival provides chefs with a vast platform for national media exposure and a variety of networking opportunities. Plus, it’s a weekend that the chefs get to step away from their countless projects for a moment and spend it catching up with each other.

RI: How has the festival set itself apart from similar ones?

LS: In addition to February being a prime time for everyone to hit the beach, I’ve long noted that this is a place where you can see Michelin-starred talent one moment and television and pop culture personalities the next. It brings together a great mix of popular lifestyle talent and world-renowned chefs in one place.

RI: Any surprises we should be looking forward to at 2019’s festival?

LS: There’s so much, including musical performances from Cassadee Pope and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real at the Beachside BBQ hosted by Guy Fieri, and we recently released that the David Grutman Experience at our signature Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village on Feb. 24 will be hosted by Ludacris with a set by Cedric Gervais.

RI: What’s your best tip for navigating the five-day festival?

LS: Don’t try to do too much your first time. Wear comfortable shoes and drink lots of water.

RI: Any particular food or wine trends you’re excited about this year?

LS: Personally, I am a fan of dishes that are simply prepared and bring out the natural flavors of ingredients. I enjoy seeing exceptionally fresh and/or farm-to-table style dining continuing to be at the forefront.

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