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South Beach Wine & Food Festival® embraces diversity
Local black owned business owner to make 21st birthday cake for SOBEWFF®

South Beach Wine & Food Festival® embraces diversity

January 28, 2022 at 1:30pm

The first time Deborah Suzette Williams tried her neighbor's peanut butter cookies as a child, she was hooked on baking. She made batch after batch trying to perfect the recipe.

"I would get my nine siblings to taste test them," she said.

Decades later, Williams now sells those cookies and many other baked goods throughout South Florida from her dessert food truck, Chewy Suz Sweet Treats. The Miami native is well known in South Florida for her delicious desserts, but for the first time is sharing what she calls her "God-given talent" for baking on a grand scale, after being invited to the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine and Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF®). She's not just invited; she's making a cake for the 21st-anniversary party.

"I got the call two months ago," she said. "I'm so thrilled to be around the other chefs and pastry chefs, so many who I admired for so long,"

Those chefs and talent include the Festival's iconic list of household names, like Rachael Ray, Guy Fieri, "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro, Marcus Samuelsson, "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto, Maneet Chauhan, Alex Guarnaschelli, and Geoffrey Zakarian, but this year also includes dozens of national and local chefs of black-owned and operated businesses. 

The focus on diversity this year comes after the addition of Lisa Davis as the Festival's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) consultant. The former Miami Gardens Councilwoman is the founder of the successful Miami Gardens Wine & Food Experience and is responsible for diversifying the talent pool, customer base and the Festival's marketing and media partnerships.

"Bringing in talent, that's what I'm here to do as far as inclusion is concerned," Davis said. 

Nyesha Arrington, Eric Adjepong, Derrick Turton aka Chef Teach of Miami's World Famous House of Mac, Chef Irie, and the Dukunoo family of Dukunoo Jamaican Kitchen in Wynwood are among the talented chefs joining this year's festivities. Former basketball star and 305 legend Dwyane Wade is hosting a new event, Foodventure at Citizens MiamiCentral Culinary Market, where he and Miami Heat teammate Udonis Haslem are debuting their 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen.

"It's just so important that we represent our community," Davis said. "I'm excited and the chefs are excited to be a part of this event."

Making the Festival feel or take on the makeup of its diverse South Florida community has always been a priority. Already, 1,200 students from FIU help plan and run the Festival, and many of the top student coordinators are from FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. To date, SOBEWFF® has raised more than $31.8 million for the Chaplin School, which graduates more undergraduate Black, Hispanic and international students than any other hospitality school in the country. Davis plans to bring in students from high schools in underrepresented communities for the first time as well.

“As a Festival, it is our goal to serve as a valuable platform that celebrates the diverse restaurant and bar community in South Florida while raising critical funds for the students at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management,” said Lee Brian Schrager, Festival founder and director. “Diversity and inclusivity make each of us better individually, but also collectively, as an organization, and we are committed to action and know that Dr. Davis and her team will help us move the needle forward when it comes to representation at the Festival.” 

For Chewy Suz, it's a dream come true. Now instead of perfecting peanut butter cookies, she's been baking away to make the absolute best 21st birthday cake and treats; she says she couldn't be happier.

"Knowing we're in the same space and having the world also getting to taste what I'm bringing to the world, I'm just uber excited," she said.

Deborah Williams of Chewy Suz Sweet Treats is getting ready to participate in SOBEWFF®.


Local chef's unique sweet treats to be featured at Festival.