One landmark weekend a year sees 65,000 foodies descend upon Miami Beach to indulge in copious amounts of tantalizing fare and libations. This February 19 to 23, it'll happen again, when visitors and locals alike flock to the South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Twenty twenty marks the fest's 19th edition, and it only gets bigger and better each year. Whether you're a newbie or a veteran, you'll need a game plan to navigate the fest's myriad happenings, and who better to lend their tricks of the trade than the pros? These Miami chefs offer their tips on how to savor every moment of the festival.
Richard Sandoval, chef/owner, Toro Toro
My favorite events are the happy hours and Tacos After Dark. These are events that allow you to network and talk to people. Bring some sort of party pack with you. I like to have Tums, Advil, Pedialyte, Gatorade, and water on hand. People-watching is great almost everywhere. The later the event, the more interesting it gets. Tequila Cazadores presents Tacos After Dark, 10 p.m. to 1a.m. Thursday, February 20, at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $150 via sobewff.org/tacos.
Jean Delgado, executive chef, Toro Toro
I think it's important to have a game plan when entering an event. I recommend starting at the back station and working your way to the front so you can skip the initial rush. It's also important to keep in mind these events feature some of the best chefs in the world, so try to get out of your comfort zone and taste new things that you have never had before. I'm looking forward to collaborating with chef Jose Enrique from my island of Puerto Rico on a dinner at Toro Toro. Dinner hosted by Jose Enrique and Richard Sandoval, 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, February 22, at Toro Toro Miami at InterContinental Miami, 100 Chopin Plaza, Miami. Tickets cost $200 via sobewff.org/toro.
Josh Capon, chef/partner, Lure Fish Bar
For some reason, the fountain at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel has become a gathering place. Lots of chefs stay at the Loews, and the outdoor bar is a great place to catch your favorites relaxing with a drink. If you're looking for a bite to eat between events, Joe's Stone Crab is always a must, or grab a Cuban sandwich at Puerto Sagua. I love oysters, so I'm looking forward to hosting the Oyster Bash, which any oyster lover can't miss. Most of all, bring your appetite, your smile, and your appreciation for great food and great people. Oyster Bay Wines present Oyster Bash, hosted by Josh Capon, 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, February 21, at Lure Fish Bar at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, 1601 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $165 via sobewff.org/oyster.
Danny Ganem, executive chef, LT Steak & Seafood and the Alley
Be ready for long days. Wear comfortable shoes for the events in the sand, because you will definitely hit your step count on your Apple Watch. Enjoy the events, but be ready for the next day because it's a long weekend. For a pit stop, you need to come to the Alley for pizza, and I also love Taquiza for tacos. Best of the Best is definitely one of my favorite events. And I'm always excited to have chef Laurent Tourondel — the "LT" in "LT Steak & Seafood" — here at the Betsy for the weekend. During SOBEWFF, I get to meet his legendary chef friends and hear all their good kitchen stories. Fontainebleau Miami Beach presents Wine Spectator's Best of the Best, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, February 21, at Fontainebleau Miami Beach, at 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $350 via sobewff.org/bob.
Jim Pastor, eastern regional chef, Rusty Pelican
Usually I'm running back and forth between the restaurant and my events, so I don't have much time for stops. But I will say, the Liquor Lounge across from the Loews is always the spot for a cold drink. I like hanging out with the other local chefs. Since we all pretty much have the same schedule, this is the one opportunity when we are all in the same place at the same time. It's fun to be at events like Bacardi's Beach Carnival. It can get pretty rowdy, and the people-watching is extremely entertaining. Bacardi's Beach Carnival, hosted by Andrew Zimmern, 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, February 23, beachside at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. Tickets cost $115 via sobewff.org/carnival.
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Pablo Lamon, executive chef, Nativo Kitchen & Bar
The best people-watching is at the Grand Tasting Village for sure. For a quick lunch, I go to Under the Mango Tree, and for cocktails, you'll find me at Swizzle Rum Bar & Drinkery. Goya Foods' Grand Tasting Village, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, February 22, and Sunday, February 23, at 13th Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $225 via sobewff.org/gtvsat.
Brian Nasajon, chef/owner, Beaker & Gray
Pace yourself at events. There's so much food you'll exhaust yourself by the first few booths. Walk around the venue, figure out which are your must-tries, and then attack. I also love meeting line cooks from other restaurants — they always have the best stories, and I get to see who the next generation of chefs is going to be. Burger Bash always has the widest range of people; after all, everyone and their mom loves burgers. Heineken Burger Bash, presented by Schweid & Sons, hosted by Rachael Ray, 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. Friday, February 21, beachside at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach, entrance at 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $250 via sobewff.org/burger.