SCHRAGER’S CREATION OF THE FOOD NETWORK & COOKING CHANNEL SOUTH BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL (SOBEWFF®) BEGAN IN 2002. HE TRANSFORMED IT FROM A ONE-DAY FUNDRAISING TO THE STAR-STUDDED, FIVE-DAY GOURMET GATHERING IT IS TODAY.
Q: HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS AN EVENT PLANNER?
A: I was working the midnight shift as a room service manager at Bahia Mar Hotel in Fort Lauderdale while I was a student at FIU. One day, the catering manager walked out, and I stepped in. I had no experience or formal training, but I just knew I could do it!
Q: WE KNOW THE FIU CHAPLIN SCHOOL OF HOSPITALITY AND TOURISM MANAGEMENT BENEFITS FROM THE FESTIVALS. ARE THERE ANY OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHO ALSO BENEFIT?
A: The Festival’s mission to “EAT. DRINK. EDUCATE.” to support FIU has raised more than $28 million to date for the school. In addition, we collaborate with the Miami Rescue Mission on our culinary prep for our out-of-town chefs and food rescue efforts from the festival. This helps impact the service for about 5,000 meals for formerly homeless residents of the shelter and currently-homeless guests invited in and off the street every day for sustenance.
Q: WITH SO MANY TALENTED CHEFS, HOW ARE THEY SELECTED TO HOST AN EVENT AT SOBEWFF?
A: Event hosts and talented individuals come about in a variety of ways. It might be someone with a new show on Food Network Cooking Channel, someone coming out with a new cookbook, someone known for a culinary focus that fits with the theme of an event, or someone who came to us with a great idea for an event.
Q: ARE THERE ANY OTHER UPCOMING PROJECTS IN THE WORKS?
A: My full-time job is serving as Senior Vice President of Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits (SGWS), so there are always great projects in the works. At SGWS, we are committed to corporate social responsibility in three main areas: Giving to charities and volunteering with outreach programs, promoting responsible consumption, and maintaining sustainable environmental practices.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LOVE MOST ABOUT THE MIAMI DINING SCENE?
A: I love how diverse it is… there are so many cultural influences in the food scene here, and it just keeps growing.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF THE TOP EVENTS AT THIS YEAR’S SOBEWFF 2019?
A: With more than 100 events taking place throughout the weekend this year, there really is something for everyone. We’re working with new venues and great late-night parties like Mixing It Up on the Miami River: Best Bars, Bites & Beats hosted by Adam Richman at The Wharf; and Mangia! A Taste of Italy After Dark hosted by Marc Murphy at Casa Tua Cucina; plus, properties like the National Hotel hosting a new Taste Jamaica event hosted by Cindy Hutson & Delius Shirley. New talent joins our offering of events as a featured part of our CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale Series with Martina McBride joining Elizabeth Karmel to co-host a dinner, and Food Network Cajun Aces co-hosts Sam & Cody Carroll hosting a Cajun- Cooking Master Class & Lunch. Additionally, musicians Cassadee Pope, and Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real will perform at the Beachside BBQ hosted by Guy Fieri, and Miami’s own Nu Deco Ensemble will perform featured sets as part of Goya Foods’ Grand Tasting Village on Sunday, February 24.
By LEE BRIAN SCHRAGER
FOUNDER OF SOUTH BEACH WINE & FOOD FESTIVAL