What do star chefs Tom Colicchio, Joël Robuchon, Francis Mallmann, Alex Guarnaschelli, Paul Qui, Spike Mendelsohn, Matthew Kenney and Dale Talde have in common?
None of them had a restaurant in Miami during the 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and all of them will have one open or close to it by the time the 2016 version comes to town Feb. 25-28.
The 15th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival, which unveils its full lineup of more than 80 events Tuesday at sobefest.com, features an unprecedented number of participating celebrity chefs who no longer come to Miami only for vacation — they work here, too.
The new-to-Miami crop of big-name chefs joins veterans of the South Florida food landscape and the festival like José Andrés (The Bazaar), Jean-Georges Vongerichten (J&G Grill, Matador Room), Scott Conant (Corsair, Scarpetta), Michael Mina (MM74, Stripsteak, Bourbon Steak), Josh Capon (Lure Fishbar), Bobby Flay (Bobby’s Burger Palace), Daniel Boulud (DB Bistro), Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu), Masaharu Morimoto (Morimoto), Laurent Tourondel (BLT Steak), Andrew Carmellini (The Dutch), Gastón Acurio (La Mar) and others.
“The food scene in Miami is very different today than when we started 15 years ago,” said Lee Brian Schrager, founder and director of the festival and a vice president of its host partner, Southern Wine & Spirits.
“While we wouldn’t take credit for turning Miami into a major food destination, we’re proud to be a part of its evolution and think we’ve played a role in bringing chefs, industry leaders and national media attention to the area,” he said. “The number and caliber of chefs opening here is certainly indicative of Miami’s place as a top culinary destination.”
Top Chef head judge Colicchio opened Beachcraft this summer in the new 1 Hotel in Miami Beach. Qui, Talde and Mendelsohn — all past stars of Colicchio’s Bravo TV show — are opening restaurants called Pao, Talde and Sunny’s, respectively, this fall in different Collins Avenue hotels.
The number and caliber of chefs opening here is certainly indicative of Miami’s place as a top culinary destination.
Lee Brian Schrager, festival director
Qui’s Pao restaurant will open alongside one from Argentine meat master Mallmann in the Faena Miami Beach. French-born Robuchon and his galaxy of Michelin stars are opening three restaurants in Miami’s Design District.
Guarnaschelli, a judge on Food Network’s Chopped and victor on the network’s Iron Chef America, this week announced she’ll open a restaurant called Nautilus Cabana Club in the new Nautilus South Beach. And Kenney, a Los Angeles-based pioneer of plant-based cuisine, is opening his organic White Lotus restaurant soon at 105 NE 24th St.
They’re all playing a role in February’s South Beach Wine & Food Festival, hosting dinners or food demonstrations or making other event appearances.
60,000 attendees expected at the 2016 festival
The festival started in 1997 as the one-day Florida Extravaganza at Florida International University in North Miami. In 2002, Schrager and Southern Wine moved the event to South Beach, renamed and expanded it into what is now a four-day celebration of food that draws more than 60,000 visitors.
FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management remains the festival’s beneficiary and has received more than $22 million from the event, including the opening of the new Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center on the school’s Biscayne Bay campus.
Top 12 events for 2016
Tickets for the 2016 South Beach Wine & Food Festival go on sale next month (Oct. 5 presale, Oct. 19 general). The Miami Herald got an early look at the roster of events; here are a dozen new or otherwise noteworthy parties worth checking out:
Thursday, Feb. 25
▪ Exploring Israel: Kosher dinner with Zak Stern of Miami (Zak the Baker), Michael Solomonov of Philadelphia (who has been looking to expand to Miami), Ashley Christensen of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Alon Shaya of New Orleans at the Rok Family Shul-Chabad in Miami. $250.
▪ Butcher’s Best: World-renown Italian butcher Dario Cecchini hosts a meal at the Soho Beach House in Miami Beach. $250.
Friday, Feb. 26
▪ Canadian-American: David McMillan and Frédéric Morin of Montreal’s famed Joe Beef partner with South Carolina chef Sean Brock and Yardbird chef Zachary Dworsky for what should be an epic meal at Yardbird in Miami Beach. $250.
▪ Burger Bash: Miami’s own Pincho Factory will look to defend its People’s Choice win from last year. Capon’s Bash Burger from Lure Fishbar was the judges’ favorite. At the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. $250.
▪ Best of the Best: This walk-around event at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach lives up to its name; the food served and wines poured are top-notch. $350.
▪ Joël Robuchon Dinner: Talk about making an entrance in his new ’hood. Robuchon is throwing down with a serious dinner (look at that price!) at the Moore Building in the Design District. $1,500.
Saturday, Feb. 27
▪ Grand Tasting Village: The festival’s signature event carries over its touch-ups from last year. Also on Sunday. Miami Beach. $225.
▪ Gang’s Back Together: Scott Conant, Michael Pirolo and Nina Compton are cooking together at Conant’s Scarpetta in Miami Beach. They may not live in the same city anymore (Compton moved to New Orleans this year), but this meal will harken back to the days when Pirolo and Compton ran the kitchen at (and earned a four-star Miami Herald review for) Conant’s Italian restaurant in the Fontainebleau. $250.
▪ Vegan Dinner: The festival can be a full-on assault of animal protein. Hit the reset button with a plant-based meal at the hands of Matthew Kenney and Jamie Bissonnette at the Sacred Space in Miami. $250.
▪ CroquetaPalooza: One of the world’s preeminent fine-dining chefs, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, presides over an event that highlights a Latin street-food favorite. That’s so Miami. At the Design District Plaza. $95.
Sunday, Feb. 28
▪ Fun and Fit as a Family: Because kids are foodies, too. Jungle Island hosts this event (also on Saturday) that gets the whole family moving and cooking. $20.
▪ Lucky Chopsticks: Travel Channel’s Andrew Zimmern curates this year’s closing event, an Asian-style night market on the sand behind the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. $150.
“The closing typically highlights mostly South Florida chefs, and we have a great selection of restaurants lined up to participate,” Schrager said.
Evan S. Benn is Miami Herald food editor; on Twitter: @EvanBenn.
If you go
What: 15th annual South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
When: Feb. 25-28.
Program: Available Sept. 8; sobefest.com.
Tickets: On sale Oct. 19 (MasterCard presale Oct. 5).