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Common Threads' Cooking For Life Fest: Bernstein, Balloo, Viviani, Serfer and More

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With all the food festivals in Miami, it's usually tough to get jazzed up about yet another dinner or tasting. However, the upcoming Common Threads Cooking for Life Festival has an amazing lineup.

The Chicago-based organization was founded by chef Art Smith and his husband, artist Jesus Salgueiro, in an effort to prevent childhood obesity through cooking and nutrition programs while celebrating both cultural diversity and the "common threads" that can be shared through food.

Culinary professionals in major cities, including Miami, participate in the program, including Michelle Bernstein who is a member of Common Threads' National Board of Directors. The program is approved by the Miami-Dade Public Schools Research and Review Board and in 2013 positively impacted over 15,000 children in classrooms and communities in Chicago, East Palo Alto, Miami, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., by providing hands on lessons in health and nutrition, including helping to set up school gardens.

The Cooking For Life Festival is a two-day event hosted by chef Bernstein and a stellar group of chefs including Timon Balloo, John Besh, Nina Compton, Todd Trickson, Lorena Garcia, Ingrid Hoffman, Richard Ingraham, Mike Isabella, Stephanie Izard, Dena Marino, Danny Serfer, and Fabio Viviani.

Robin Vance, events manager for Common Threads, said that although the organization has hosted Miami parties and dinners, this multi-day event is the first of its kind. When planning the activities, Vance said that the one thing that absolutely had to be organized was a cooking class component in order to "tie the event to our mission." The result? A weekend of dinners, yoga and brunch, and an all-day culinary boot camp.

The event kicks off with dinner at Mignonette on Friday, April 17, where a portion of the evening's proceeds will be donated to Common Threads.

On Saturday, April 18, FIU's Chaplin School will host an day-long culinary boot camp that features celebrity chefs hosting hands-on cooking classes. The event will feature non-stop cooking classes, each conducted by a different chef with a maximum of 30 students in each one-hour session. A half-day pass (morning or afternoon session) is $150; a full-day pass is $250. Full schedule to be announced.

That evening, local Miami chefs will take over Morimoto at the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach hotel for a dinner. General admission tickets are $75; VIP tickets are $125 and includes a meet-and-greet with Iron Chef Morimoto.

Finally, on Sunday, April 19, enjoy beach yoga followed by a brunch at the Thompson Miami Beach Hotel. Michelle Bernstein will make a dish and will be joined by some of the finest chefs in the country including John Besh, Mike Isabella, Stephanie Izard, and Fabio Viviani. Brunch is $150 per person GA; $250 for VIP admission. A $20 suggested donation gets you the yoga session only.

Tickets will go on sale by the end of this week at commonthreads.org.

Follow Laine Doss on Twitter @LaineDoss and Facebook.

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