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The Extraordinary Impact of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival

Photo courtesy of SOBEWFF

On February 20, Food & Wine will help kick off the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF). The four-day bonanza showcases a global roster of culinary stars from Peruvian chef Gastón Acurio to Los Angeles pastry savant Sherry Yard. It draws well over 50,000 attendees to the grounds of Florida International University (FIU), which has hosted the festival since it began.

SOBEWFF is a 100 percent charitable event: All of the net proceeds go to FIU's culinary school, the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center. SOBEWFF director Lee Schrager is one of the school's most esteemed graduates; since he founded the festival 13 years ago, it has raised roughly $18 million for the school, for scholarships and new facilities.

On February 19, the day before this year's festival begins, Schrager will help host an inaugural dinner at FIU's new $7.5 million restaurant management lab. A restaurant classroom funded entirely by SOBEWFF, the advanced food production lab—a.k.a. the kitchen—contains the latest equipment from ovens to ice cream makers. The front of the house, a 140-seat white-tablecloth restaurant, includes a two-story wine tower—a temperature-controlled cellar holding 1,100 bottles.

"Southern Wine & Spirits has had a long relationship with FIU, and the festival expands on that. But I don't think any of us dreamed it would grow this big, or raise this much for the school," Schrager said. "It's a win for everybody."

Related: Miami Travel Guide
Michael Schwartz's Miami Restaurant Picks
Recipes from Pastry Chef Sherry Yard

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