This year, the South Beach Wine and Food Festival® celebrates its 20th anniversary on the sands of South Beach. But did you know before the Festival blossomed into the world-renowned event it is today, it got its start five years earlier at FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management on the Biscayne Bay Campus (BBC)?
The roots of SOBEWFF® started in 1997 when late FIU hospitality professor Patrick "Chip" Cassidy brought founder Harvey Chaplin and Mel Dick of Southern Wine & Spirits and Marvin Shanken of Wine Spectator Magazine in to sponsor the one-day wine and food festival called the Florida Extravaganza.
For five years, from 1997 to 2001, the Florida Extravaganza showcased wines from national and international wineries paired with food from local restaurants and chefs. Back then, like today, chefs worked with FIU students to share their delicious dishes with attendees. Today, in addition to South Florida's most well-known gourmands, the Festival includes big-name culinary personalities from the event's title sponsor, the Food Network & Cooking Channel, such as Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis.
"Professor Chip Cassidy was an icon in the wine industry and the foremost expert in wine education," said Michael Cheng, dean of the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. "He built our world-class wine program and his legacy lives on today through the South Beach Wine & Food Festival® and the thousands of students and alumni working in the hospitality industry, who he taught and mentored."
In 1999, the partnership with Southern led to the establishment of the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center at FIU hospitality.
In 2002, then Director of Special Events & Media Relations at Southern Wine & Spirits of America and visionary, Lee Brian Schrager, relocated the Florida Extravaganza to South Beach, renamed it and expanded the event. His vision has resulted in more than $31.8 million dollars for the school and turned the Festival into a global destination. The partnership is a real example of a public and private partnership impacting a community, students and the hospitality industry.
This year, the Festival celebrates a big milestone, 20 years on South Beach. Although it will look and feel a little different due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, the motto of Eat. Drink. Educate. that professor Cassidy embodied in his more than 30-year career at FIU, remains the same. Cassidy, also known as "Mr. Wine of Florida", passed away from esophageal cancer in October 2019. He was 72 years old.
Professor Cassidy's love of wine and his legacy also lives on in his much-beloved library of more than 7,000 wine books. Construction is now underway at BBC to encase his massive library and his former office in glass to preserve his legacy and impact on the school.
Students will be able to check out books from the library. Among the 7,000 titles are Cassidy's own penned works, "Chip Cassidy's Wine Travels" that chronicle professor Cassidy's insights and extensive tasting notes from his travels to more than 30 countries and wine regions around the world.
To date, the Festival has raised more than $31.8 million for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. In celebration of Professor Cassidy's life and as a commitment to preserving his legacy, the Chaplin School continues to raise funds for the Chip Cassidy Distinguished Professorship Endowment.
The endowment ensures the sustenance and prominence of the Chaplin School's wine program, supporting in perpetuity the honored role of director in which professor Cassidy served so proudly and so effectively. For more information about The Chip Cassidy Endowment Fund, visit FIU Hospitality.