The Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) is more than just a four-day Bacchanal for fans and foodies. It’s unofficially known as “Spring Break for chefs.” Where else can “chef-lebrities” (the Rock Stars of this decade), play on the sand day and night in the heart of winter? Here’s a rundown of some of the most fun events during SOBEWFF- that provided close celeb-chef encounters.
Zakarian hosts Food Talk
On the afternoon of Friday, February 22, Iron Chef extraordinaire Geoffrey Zakarian hosted Food Talk on Sirius XM Radio at The James Royal Palm Hotel. Over 20 million listeners were able to get the inside scoop on owning a restaurant and managing a restaurant business as well as the behind-the-scenes scoop on prepping for the festival. Zakarian was joined by fellow colleagues and celeb-chefs: Lee Schrager, Al Roker, Andrew Zimmern, Anne Burrell, Guy Fieri, Curtis Stone, Sunny Anderson, Marc Murphy, Scott Conant and Marc Summers. The event was presented by Jaret Keller of Key Group Worldwide. Tasty bites were served courtesy of the Florida Cookery.
Chefs Spike it Up!
Just before the Food Talk launch,Top Chefpersonality, Spike Mendelsohn, hosted the 1stAnnual “Let’s Get Spiked!” volleyball Tournament along with Florida Cookery’s Kris Wessel on the sand behind the James Royal Palm Hotel. Wearing their blue short shorts, Wessel’s Team Dolphin was victorious in taking home the championship trophy as well as having a donation in its name made to Florida International University. Mendelsohn also won the “best chug” contest at the poolside VIP after-party. Other participants included: Chuck Hughes, Alex Guarnaschelli, Andrew Zimmern, Pat LaFrieda, Curtis Stone and Todd Erickson, to name a few.
The Grand Tasting Village
Despite our staunch vow, following the Burger Bash on Friday, February 22, to “never eat again”- we somehow managed to work up an appetite, albeit a small one by noon on Saturday. In loose clothing and comfortable walking shoes, we braved the big tents on the sand at 13th street: the MasterCard® Grand Tasting Tents on the beach at the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village which boasted approximately 100 wine and spirits suppliers and 40 restaurants. At the village, we were treated to cooking demonstrations by Martha Stewart, Curtis Stone, Masaharu Morimoto, Alex Guarnaschelli, Anne Burrell, Rachel Ray, Tyler Florence, Emeril Lagasse and Jeff Mauro, to name a few. We also delighted in a seemingly unending array of food samplings and spirits. What blew us away? The FIU Culinary team’s steak sandwich: a perfectly seasoned and grilled Creek Stone Farms steak, in a bun basted with garlic oil and topped with spicy slaw. It was exciting to see the fruits of the labor of the SOBEWFF – as these future top toques benefit from the proceeds of the festival. Throughout the weekend, the event attracted huge crowds for the ultimate tasting experience paired with KitchenAid Culinary Demonstrations from Tyler Florence, Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain, The Neelys, Aarón Sánchez, plus the Festival’s first culinary demonstration conducted entirely in Spanish by José Andrés.
LATE NIGHT CHEF PURSUITS
One of the best parties of the weekend was the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ South Beach After Dark party, which was not part of the official festival roster. Starting at 11:30 p.m., once all of the “official” events had ended, the gathering of A-list culinary personalities at Estiatorio Milos for the exclusive after party which combined Las Vegas extravagance with South Beach vibes, took place on Saturday, February 23, and went on until the early hours of Sunday morning.
The exquisite menu, prepared by Estiatorio Milos’ Costas Spiliadis, featured signature Mediterranean spreads; a carving station with Tomahawk Dry Aged Prime Ribeye and Mediterranean Sea Bass in Sea Salt; and passed hors d’oeuvres including Spanikopita, Crab Cakes and Mini Lamb Chops. Chef José Andrés of The Cosmopolitan and Bazaar at the SLS raved that the sea bass being served was “The best salt fish I’ve ever had,” much to the delight of Milos’ newest addition, Hell’s Kitchen alum, Chef Joshua Wahler, formerly of Crave, Nobu South Beach, Gramercy Tavern, and Spice Market NYC.
Handcrafted cocktails, created by The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Property Mixologist Christopher Hopkins, and music by gorgeous DJ Duo, Ess & Emm added to the energy of the party. In attendance were: Cosmopolitan’s CEO John Unwin and Estiatorio Milos’ restaurateur Costas Spiliadis, The Cosmopolitan’s chefs José Andrés and Scott Conant as well as culinary personalities Daniel Boulud, Giada DeLaurentis, Guy Fieri, Hugh Acheson, Tyler Florence, Gail Simmons, Amanda Freitag, Seamus Mullen, Francois Payard, Jonathan Waxman, Robert Irvine, Laurent Tourondel and more. Additional celebrity attendees included Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, Jessica White, and NFL defensive end Dwight Freeney.
Additional noteworthy chef-celebrations starting well after the official SOBEWFF events included parties at the SLS Hotel, on Friday night, hosted by Jose Andres, and a bash at the Broken Shaker on Saturday night that went on until sunrise.
Hall of Fame New York Yankee coach, Joe Torre was spotted having lunch at Toro Toro on Tuesday.
On Saturday evening at The Forge Restaurant | Wine Bar, Pro Bowl Wide Receiver and Chicago Bear, Brandon Marshall, dined in the wine cellar. Marshall was accompanied by a young lady and they were seen laughing and conversing for hours while enjoying the ambiance of the busy Saturday evening. He commented on the quality of his meal and said he had a great time.