Culinary Convergence

SoBe Wine & Food Festival benefits FIU School of Hospitality

Martha Stewart with Chefs Michael Moran and Alex Kuk

When the greatest names in the restaurant industry converge for the 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, presented by Food and Wine Magazine from February 25 – 28 it will not only be for good food and good fun, it will also be for a good cause: Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. More than $2 million dollars has been raised for FIU School of Hospitality for student scholarships, and to enhance the experience of students by investing in program, faculty and facility enhancement.

For the 2010 Festival celebrity chefs and personalities such as Rachael Ray, Emeril Lagasse, Ming Tsai, Paula Dean, Bobby Flay, Michael Lomonaco will join famed South Florida based chefs such as Michelle Bernstein, Kenny Lyon, Michael Schwartz, Jonathan Eismann and Allen Susser – to name just a handful of participants — to once again position Miami-Dade County as the culinary capital of the world during the festival.

Formerly known as the “Florida Extravaganza”, proceeds from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival benefit FIU’s School of Hospitality. Over the past 10 years, more than $6 million dollars has been raised to enhance the students experience by expanding the School of Hospitality Teaching Restaurant and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were set aside for student scholarships.

Al Roker with School of Hospitality student Pamela Buque

In addition to lending their services to the cause of benefiting FIU’s School of Hospitality, many chefs will work with numerous students individually, offering the students an unparalleled experience. At this year’s Festival, students will be paired with, in a mentorship style relationship, the following chefs: John Besh (Restaurant August, New Orleans), Scott Conant/Michael Priolo (Scarpetta/ Miami Beach), Todd English (Olives, NYC), Adam Perry Lang (Daisy May’s BBQ, NYC), Emeril Lagasse (Emeril’s/New Orleans), Masaharu Morimoto (Morimoto, NYC), Tom Neely (Neely’s Bar-B-Que, Memphis), Alfred Portale/John Suley (Gotham Steak, Miami Beach), Sue Zemanick (Gatreau’s, New Orleans), among others.

“The students of FIU are the real winners of this festival. They provide tireless support for the four-day weekend of events while reaping indispensable real world industry experience,” says Joan Remington, Interim Dean, FIU School of Hospitality.

Ingrid Hoffman with FIU student chef Johnny Suggs

FIU Hospitality Management senior AJ Mindermann, assistant culinary manager at the 2009 festival, knows first hand the value of working with industry leaders in a real-world experience.

“The experience is priceless,” Mindermann said. “You can’t put a number on it. I got so many internship opportunities from chefs last year. The networking is terrific. It’s probably one of the biggest career-jumpers there is.”

Hospitality student Melissa Lumaghini and Chef Bobby Flay

Hundreds of other students benefit from real-world experience at the Festival. Experiences range from fulfilling thousands of ticket orders to restaurant solicitation, sponsorship fulfillment to meeting and greeting guests at myriad activities throughout the annual four-day festival. Overall, some 850 Hospitality majors – most with excellent internship experience already under their belts – work in a variety of key capacities both before and during the festival.

“I hear comments like ‘the experience changed my life’,” said FIU Chef-Instructor and South Beach Wine & Food Festival Culinary Director, Michael Moran. “You don’t expect to go to school and have a teacher say that there’s a field trip to cook barbecue for 500 people.”

It’s little wonder that so many famed names are willing to lend their time and expertise to the festival and to FIU students. Hospitality and tourism industry executives from around the world visit the school annually to interview and hire graduates for key management-track positions in the vast array of fields in which FIU’s students are prepared. Today many of the school’s 9,000 graduates hold prominent positions in the hospitality industry around the Western Hemisphere, Europe and Asia.

Students at FIU’s School of Hospitality are highly sought-after for key reasons. One is the comprehensive curriculum that includes tracks for Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Hospitality Management, Executive Master of Science in Hospitality Management Degree Programs, PhD in Business Administration as well as Certificate Programs in various hotel, restaurant, hospitality, travel and tourism specializations. More than 100 courses and 35 expert faculty members focus exclusively on hospitality and tourism management including finance, law, beverage management, culinary arts and hotel operations.

Chef Guy Fieri with FIU School of Hospitality students Kat Amador, and Jose Romero

Students are required to work 1,000 hours in the hospitality industry and then complete a 300-hour internship. Upon graduation, students are prepared to compete for top positions in every aspect of the hospitality industry. To date, the School’s graduates have a 100% career placement record.

FIU’s excellence was one reason student Caroline Karlberg chose it when she decided to leave the world of finance for logistics management.

“I wanted real, hands-on experience and that was definitely something FIU’s School of Hospitality offered in addition to its programs and staff,” Karlberg said. “I can’t believe this, but last year at this time, I was a financial analyst in New York City and this year I am a graduate student at FIU School of Hospitality, working as a member of the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival’s logistics team, the largest such event in the country.”

Caroline, assistant to SoBe W&F Logistics Manager Susan Gladstone, is also Student Associate Coordinator, working with her team of students to place 1000 students in various jobs at the festival.

School of Hospitality student Rachel Shaner with Chef Michael Schwartz

“We provide our students the opportunity to get their foot in the door in the hospitality field of their choice,” said Dean Remington, FIU School of Hospitality. “Our students work on the ground, having real life experiences while making important contacts with industry leaders. It is gratifying to the faculty to know that international hospitality companies and corporations are selecting our students.”

It is also reason why, year after year, top figures in the industry are eager to help contribute to FIU’s School of Hospitality.

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