Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival presented by Food & Wine brought out dozens of culinary stars and thousands of foodies and wine aficionados to Miami Beach Feb. 21-24. People from Boca Raton to Barcelona were in attendance. Food Network celebrity chefs such as Emeril Lagasse, Nigella Lawson, Martha Stewart, Anthony Bourdain, Bobby Flay, Anne Burrell, Robert Irvine, Guy Fieri, Rocco DiSpirito and many others came out to the festival to provide live cooking demonstrations, meet with fans, autograph cookbooks and of course, sample some amazing food and wine.
Lagasse was particularly a good sport as he met with fans calling them “baby and sweetheart,” posed for photos and signed everything from his cookbook to a catalog from the festival. He laughed hysterically as one of his fans ambushed him with kisses all over his cheeks. Another man brought six books for him to sign and asked the good-hearted chef for some life advice. “Sometimes I can’t believe all this is really happening,” Lagasse said. “It’s amazing. Life is amazing.”
Ray was exactly as you’d picture her to be in real life if you’ve seen her TV show. She was sweet, funny and like Lagasse, genuinely enthusiastic to chat with her fans.
Each year the festival gets larger with a growing number of events throughout Miami including Moët-Hennessy’s The Q hosted by Paula Deen and sons, the Amstel Light Burger Bash hosted by burger queen Rachael Ray, tons of brunches including the Southern Kitchen Brunch hosted by Trisha Yearwood and interesting seminars such as Delta’s Taste Wine Like A Master Sommelier and a Mac 'n Cheese event hosted by Laura Werlin.
At the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village featuring MasterCard Grand Tasting Tents, festival goers got to sample some of the newest wines and foods on the market. Some of the fun eats included samples of Sheila G’s Brownie Brittle, a create your own chocolate bar tent provided by Buick, mystery candy from Jelly Belly, a Barilla pasta tent, wines from Brazil that will be hitting stores in South Florida next month and edgy foods including Ziggy Marley’s new line of “Hemp Rules” organic seeds and coconut oils, rock ’n’ roll inspired wines from Winesthatrock.com and samples of food from local restaurants such as Spazio in Fort Lauderdale and The Federal in Miami.
Instant photo booths were another cool and quirky aspect of the event this year. Kim Crawford Wines had a living room set up on the beach at the entrance of the Grand Tasting Village to take photos in and Evian had an Instagram booth set up where you could pose with giant fork props and stick your head in a cut out to become the Evian baby.
While the festival has been going on since 1997, it always brings out the most established chefs and celebrates the newcomers. Veteran chef Ray, who has appeared at the festival the past 12 years, was hosting a variety of events throughout the weekend and promoting her new recipe book, My Year In Meals, which also includes her husband’s innovative bar mixtures, My Year In Cocktails. The bubbly chef also gave props to one of her culinary heroes during her cooking demonstration. “None of us would have a job in this business without Emeril,” Ray added. “He really helped pave the way.”
Contact Joanie Cox-Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her tweets at Twitter.com/joaniecox.