For the 20th year, the white sands of Miami Beach will be home to some of the world's most renowned wine and spirits producers, chefs, culinary personalities and students taking part in the South Beach Wine & Food Festival®.
While the event will look different and follow all safety and health guidelines, one thing remains the same, FIU students will be there to help as they've been for the last 20 years.
"I am so excited about taking part in the Festival again this year," said Fabiana Gutierrez, a graduate student at the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. This is her fourth year volunteering, and she is serving in her biggest role yet—graduate assistant of the volunteer program. In this leadership role, she oversees more than a dozen coordinators, who oversee hundreds of students.
The Festival's roots started at the Chaplin School at Biscayne Bay Campus when it was called the Florida Extravaganza. To date, the Festival has raised more than $31.8 million for the Chaplin School and every year it gives 1,200 students the opportunity to help run the Festival’s 3,200 shifts.
The mission for 2021 is not only to cultivate the future leaders of the hospitality industry but to aid the South Florida hospitality industry during the regrowth phase, giving participating chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs a platform to promote their business.
“We also recognize the impact our Festival has on the local hospitality industry and the economy at large. Since the start of the pandemic, our entire Festival team and partners have been focused on developing a program that highlights and benefits the local industry, while simultaneously putting a premium on the health and safety of everyone involved to ensure we provide an exceptional guest experience," said Lee Brian Schrager, Festival founder and director.
A year ago, the Festival partnered with the Chaplin School to launch the SOBEWFF® & FIU Chaplin School Hospitality Industry Relief Fund, which raised more than $1.6 million to aid furloughed workers at more than 500 restaurants and bars in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
To ensure the safety of Festival-goers and Festival staff, SOBEWFF® has consulted with the FIU Healthcare Committee on COVID-19 Health & Safety Protocols that follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), State of Florida Department of Health, Miami-Dade County, and the City of Miami Beach.
In addition to safety protocols, visitors will notice that some of the open-air tasting tent events like the Goya Foods' Grand Tasting Village featuring Grand Tasting Tents & Publix Culinary Demonstrations sponsored by Sub-Zero Group Southeast will have not just one, but two sessions a day to accommodate capacity restrictions.
As for Gutierrez, she's going to soak it all in since she graduates this spring, and this year will be her last Festival as a volunteer.
She says: "I've gained so much experience over the last four years and will use every bit of it to reach my career goals."