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South Beach Wine & Food Festival Spotlights Miami's Diverse Culinary Community

Scott Conant, celebrity chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, takes a selfie with a fan.EXPAND
Scott Conant, celebrity chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author, takes a selfie with a fan.
Photo courtesy of South Beach Wine & Food Festival
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The 20th South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) is taking over South Florida from May 20 to May 23.

This year, along with SOBEWFF culinary staples like Andrew Zimmern and Martha Stewart, the festival is shining a light on the locals that make Miami a world-class destination for foodies.

Miami's culinary professionals reflect our city's diverse culture. Below, in alphabetical order, are some of the talented personalities to look out for at the festival, from chefs who honor their heritage through food to a brunch hostess in heels.

Martha Cardenas, owner of El Mago de las Fritas.
Martha Cardenas, owner of El Mago de las Fritas.
Photo courtesy of South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Martha Cardenas, owner, El Mago de Las Fritas

Following in her father’s footsteps, Martha Cardenas has kept the legacy of El Mago de Las Fritas alive. Originally founded in Miami in 1984 by Ortelio Cárdenas, the restaurant is famous for its fritas. This Cuban take on the all-American hamburger is made with a blend of ground beef, pork, and chorizo, and tops the patty with fried shoestring potatoes for a sandwich that has more depth and a bit of crunch. Cardenas' frita took center stage when then-president Barack Obama downed a half-dozen back in 2010. After the senior Cardenas stepped down in 2017 at age 78, Martha took over the restaurant with the goal of serving fritas for generations to come. "I am hopeful to continue his legacy and provide a juicy frita and many other delicious family-inspired dishes to Miami foodies," she tells New Times. Grand Tasting Village. Two sessions: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., Sunday, May 23, Tenth Street and Ocean Drive, Miami Beach. Tickets cost $200 via sobewff.org/gtvsun.

Athena Dion hosts the weekly drag brunch at R House Wynwood.
Athena Dion hosts the weekly drag brunch at R House Wynwood.
Photo courtesy of Athena Dion

Athena Dion, drag brunch emcee, R House

Athena Dion, Miami’s self-proclaimed Greek Goddess, loves to entertain a crowd. Dion is the host of the successful weekend drag brunch at R House in Wynwood. For months, the show was on COVID-related hiatus until the city gave the go-ahead. Faced with safety restrictions, she and her fellow drag performers got creative, glamming out face shields with crystals and feathers and figuring out how to twerk and social-distance at the same time. This year, Dion has been named “Mistress of Ceremonies” alongside Bianca Del Rio at the festival's drag brunch event. “I am most excited to be participating in this year’s festival after the year we’ve had in 2020. I can’t wait to get on that big stage and entertain in front of all those people," says Dion, who'll join David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris for a Sunday full of fun and free-flowing cocktails. "Drag Brunch." Noon to 3 p.m., Sunday, May 23, at the North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $150 via sobewff.org/drag.

Tristen Epps, chef de cuisine at Red Rooster Overtown.
Tristen Epps, chef de cuisine at Red Rooster Overtown.
Photo courtesy of South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Tristen Epps, chef de cuisine, Red Rooster Overtown

A Food Network Chopped champion and runner-up on ABC's The Taste, Tristen Epps has a lifelong affinity for cooking. From an early age, Epps was introduced to many different cuisines by his mother, whose military career took her to posts in Guam, Japan, and the Philippines. Epps earned a bachelor’s degree at Johnson & Wales University, then continued his education during a three-year culinary apprenticeship at the renowned Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. The young chef then worked across the United States and three continents before settling in South Florida as chef de cuisine at Red Rooster Overtown. Epps is eager to share his fried chicken recipe at the festival. "Guests will experience Red Rooster with my own personal twist," he promises. "Chicken Coupe," hosted by Tyler Florence. 8 to 11 p.m., Friday, May 21, at the W South Beach (poolside), 2201 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $350 via sobewff.org/coupe.

Lorena Garcia, owner of Chica in Miami and Las Vegas.EXPAND
Lorena Garcia, owner of Chica in Miami and Las Vegas.
Photo courtesy of South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Lorena Garcia, owner, Chica

Lorena Garcia might be a familiar face for food connoisseurs and fans with an affinity for Latin cuisine, but most may not know she originally went to school to become a lawyer. Shortly after, she realized that becoming a chef suited her more. After two best-selling cookbooks, many TV appearances, and the openings of Chica restaurants in Miami and Las Vegas, it is safe to say she made her dreams a reality. At this year's Best of the Best event, Garcia will showcase her culinary prowess alongside 29 of the nation’s top chefs. Garcia shared her dish, a duck carnitas arepa, with New Times. "It’s a fan favorite that includes annatto manchego, duck carnitas, kumquat confit, mint-watermelon-radish escabeche, and duck chicharrones," she says. "Best of the Best." 8:30 to 11 p.m., Saturday, May 22 at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $350 for general admission and $400 for early access via sobewff.org/bob2.

Diego NG (left) and Alex Kuk are co-owners of Temple Street Eatery in Fort Lauderdale.EXPAND
Diego NG (left) and Alex Kuk are co-owners of Temple Street Eatery in Fort Lauderdale.
Photo courtesy of South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Alex Kuk and Diego NG, co-owners, Temple Street Eatery

To Alex Kuk and Diego NG, both graduates of Florida International University, SOBEWFF feels like home “The festival is the best homecoming each year for us. We were blessed to start as volunteers during college, continued to be part of the festival after college, and are now participants with our own restaurant," says Kuk. “We are giving back to the future of the industry.” You can catch the duo closing out the festival at "Best of the Fest," hosted by Andrew Zimmern and featuring a performance by Rev Run. "Best of the Fest," hosted by Andrew Zimmern. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., Sunday, May 23, at the North Venue (outdoors) Beachside at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach entrance, at 1 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach. Tickets cost $125 via sobewff.org/bacardi.

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