Lee Brian Schrager is a visionary. He transformed a one-day annual event known as the Florida Extravaganza, held at Florida International University's Biscayne Bay Campus, by moving the 5-year-old fete across the causeway in 2002 and renaming it the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Now it's a four-day extravaganza that attracts 60,000 attendees from across the country, cooking-TV-show hosts, and all manner of culinary hotshots.
In 2007, the Food Network joined as a partner and title sponsor of the festival. The network's backing, along with that of Food & Wine magazine, have made it the ultimate who's who of the food scene.
Schrager has emerged as one of the leaders of Miami's gastronomic scene. But the festival's growth has approached certain restrictions. "We've reached our peak and maxed out all our venues," he explains.
Events have overrun South Beach to the point where the fest has had to expand north and south to meet the demands of the visiting public.
In 2013, events will take place at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables as well as in North Miami. There will also be a celebrity golf tournament hosted by chef José Andrés and featuring more than 30 chefs showing off their smoothest swings -- at Turnberry Isle in Aventura, a 25-minute drive from South Beach.
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And this edition's closing event on the beach will include a concert by five-time Grammy winner Ziggy Marley. Much about cooking these days is focused on entertainment anyway.
"We are very focused on what's hot, what's current, and what people are looking for," Schrager explains. This makes it difficult to plan for the next few years. "It's hard to do a five-year plan. A chef that we've never heard about today might be hot and new tomorrow."
Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, featuring more insights on what Schrager thinks is hot in the food scene right now.