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FIU students take SoBe by storm


A small army of hospitality students will be instrumental in ensuring the success of the 10th annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Feb. 24-27.

It’s the biggest – and let’s face it, the sandiest and the most fun – classroom School of Hospitality and Tourism Management students have at their disposal: the beaches of South Beach.

The challenges they encounter at the different locations of Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival events range from the mundane to the intricate. Figuring out what shoes work best to make way on the sandbar. Quickly and efficiently moving thousands of pounds of food and drink to a beachside tent. Building and running a three-block village to welcome thousands of guests over the span of four days.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of “SoBe,” the festival that began as the one-day Florida Extravaganza at FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus and has grown into its current incarnation as a four-day, world-class event on South Beach. The tireless efforts of FIU students have been a critical component of the festival’s growth and success.

“We have around 975 students working the festival this year,” said Vanessa Rajnish, an FIU student associate coordinator. “That’s compared to 834 students last year.”

This small army of Panthers will rub elbows and work alongside chefs and culinary world personalities such as Paula Deen, Bobby Flay, Bethenny Frankel, Michelle Bernstein, Martha Stewart, Ming Tsai and Alain Ducasse, among others. The exposure to talent of this caliber and the opportunity to work hands-on in every aspect of the four-day event is something these students have described as “overwhelming,” “unbelievable,” “incredible,” “unparalleled” and “a rush.”

Chef Michael Moran ’86, MS ’03 and a group of these students were hard at work at the Miami Beach Convention Center Feb. 23, prepping for the Feb. 25 Perrier-Jouët BubbleQ at the Delano Hotel. Check out some of the action:

To date, SoBe has raised more than $11 million for the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, for student scholarships and to improve the experience of students by investing in program, faculty and facility enhancement.