Miami Chefs Attend Club Med Wine & Food Fest

Club Med, the all-inclusive vacation concept company with its North American headquarters in Miami, has hosted an annual culinary event for years, but it was always kept on the down low.  Erik Peters, Club Med's corporate chef, has worked to get it big enough to tout. [The Wine & Food Festival is his endeavor to make Punta Cana, Dominican Republic into an international culinary destination. More details on this tomorrow in our chef interview.] This year, per the recommendation of Sean Bernal from Oceanaire, one of the few chefs who has been attending for years, we decided to investigate.

As it turns out, a number of other Miami chefs were also in attendance, including Stefano LaCava of Miami Scene Food Group, the Biltmore's Philippe Ruiz, and Arthur Artiles, a chef who has worked for some of the city's top toques and now can be found M Tucker, designing kitchens.

Peters also invited chefs from mere miles away, like Juancho Ortiz from the D.R.. And there were those who live time zones away, like Top Chef Masters star and sustainable seafood guru Rick Moonen who's known for his Vegas-based RM Seafood. (As it turns out, the episode where Moonen was cut aired during the event; Moonen didn't seem fazed.) Culinary talents ranged from Lakeland, Florida-based Ray "Dr. BBQ" Lampe, who roasted five porky pigs on the sand to pastry chef Robert W. Bennett, who whipped up four extraordinary Barry-Callebut chocolate truffle varieties to pair perfectly with Port wines selected by Miami-based sommelier Charlie Arturaola. Flying Pans author and all-around super charmer Bernard Guillas was also in attendance, signing books, giving demos, and serving as emcee for all of the cooking demonstrations.

A typical daily itinerary began at 11 a.m. with a drink mixologist doing his or her thing, followed by an 11:30 cooking demo by one of the visiting chefs. At 1:30 p.m. each day, Dr. BBQ put fire to something on the beach following a country-based theme, whether South American churrasco or good ol' American style. Then the chefs got to rest, prep, swim, or do whatever chefs do, while at 5 p.m. when Arturaola would lecture on regional wines. Mixologists returned for a 7 p.m. demo. Then each night at 8 p.m., guests were offered the chance to partake in a signature wine pairing dinner, wherein two chefs worked together to put out four courses. 

Though the event was a coup for foodies, it didn't interfere with the activities of those who just came to Club Med to sunbathe, party, relax, hookup, or do whatever their little lazy hearts desired. 

Want to join in the festivities next year? Peters promises the 2011 event will be bigger and better. Expect it to take place at the same location, Punta Cana, during the first two weeks of June.

Tomorrow, we'll talk with Erik Peters about the who, what, and why behind the festival.

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