One of the nation’s most popular wine and food festivals is calling all FIU students to help make it happen.
Panthers with an interest in event management, marketing and the food and beverage industry have a unique opportunity to gain professional experience while supporting an event that has raised more than $26 million for the university: the star-studded Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
More than 1,000 student volunteers from a variety of majors work more than 3,000 shifts during the five-day festival, interacting with media, working alongside chefs, and assisting with event management, logistics, ticket sales and more.
In addition, students who qualify have the opportunity to participate in paid or for-credit internships. Interns work up to 20 hours a week in the months leading up to and following the Festival. (An internship with the Festival can fulfill the 300-hour internship requirement for undergraduates in the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management.)
Here are five ways students can benefit from volunteering and interning with SOBEWFF®:
1) Killer connections
Breaking into the hospitality and tourism industry as a young professional is easier when a student can make connections with leaders and potential employers.
Working SOBEWFF® puts students face-to-face with professionals such as chefs, events coordinators, restaurateurs and food and beverage suppliers.
Hospitality management alumnus Max Albano ’12 considers his time at SOBEWFF® the main reason he has a job. As an FIU student, he organized chef schedules and trained volunteers in basic knife skills and kitchen terminology.
At the Festival, Albano met his current employer, who happened to be an alumnus of the same culinary school he attended before coming to FIU. The two hit it off, and the week after Albano graduated FIU, he offered Albano a position with his company, Sunnyside Restaurant Group.
“That’s what I feel like the Festival is all about – connecting with chefs and with management,” said Albano, who now serves as a corporate executive chef with the company. “If you want to go into the culinary industry after college, SOBEWFF® is the end all be all for meeting top chefs. You’re front-and-center in front of 40 to 50 of them all in the same room.”
2) Top-notch experience
Associate Dean of the Chaplin School Mohammad Qureshi sees the Festival as an opportunity to gain experience in the field. Regardless of which area a student works at the Festival, it helps students develop their skills and professionalism.
“You learn how to plan, organize and conduct yourself during an event,” he said. “Something hard to teach in the classroom is emotional intelligence. That is developed when put to work.”
Qureshi has also seen students take on leadership roles with the Festival, an experience he feels is invaluable for young professionals.
“No matter where they go, even if they do not stay in the hospitality industry, that experience is so useful. Any time you give a student the chance to stand up and be a leader, that’s excellent to a potential employer,” Qureshi said.
3) Behind-the-scenes peek
Using classroom knowledge in a real-world setting pays off big time.
Qureshi views the Festival as an opportunity for students to practice the principles of event management, from planning and organizing, to hands-on activation and running events, to post-event assessment. The Festival helps students understand the work that goes into a successful event.
“Under the umbrella of hospitality management, we teach various aspects of event management and related things such as marketing, ticketing and budgeting,” Qureshi said. “Those students who work the Festival get a hands-on, practical understanding of working in the real world.”
4) Resume builder
Helping to execute one of the country’s most prestigious gourmet gatherings sets students’ resumes apart in the job application pool.
“I think a lot of people in the industry understand the work that goes into SOBEWFF® and understand what it says about you as a person to take on an event of this magnitude as a college student,” Albano said. “To help execute an event like this shows you have a lot to offer companies, and I think employers really value that.”
Said Qureshi: “All the interaction you have with people on site will be something you can talk about in an interview.”
5) It’s fun!
Students who work SOBEWFF® have the chance to network with celebrity chefs, top industry executives and fellow Panthers under the sun and stars on South Beach.
“Just do it,” Albano said. “It’s a wonderful experience, and it will help you further your career in hospitality.”
For more information on volunteer and internship opportunities at the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival, visit www.sobewff.org/about/volunteer and www.hospitality.fiu.edu/sobefest.