FIU Students Help Make Wine & Food Festival a Success

Miami Beach is getting ready to stage its biggest annual food and wine event: the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival.  Now in its 9th year, the four-day extravaganza will star world renowned chefs and culinary celebrities like Daniel Boulud, Rachael Ray, Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, Masaharu Morimoto, Anthony Bourdain and more.

Like any successful production, it’s essential to have a strong supporting cast.  Working behind the scenes ahead of the festival and throughout the weekend will be more than 800 students from Florida International University’s School of Hospitality.

The festival gives the students invaluable hands-on experience that will help them in their careers, whether it is as a chef or a manager of a restaurant, hotel or cruise ship.  The massive student effort is coordinated by chef-instructor Michael Moran who teaches a course in quantity food production as well as a popular class where students run a restaurant that is open to the public.

The students’ work starts well before the festival kicks off on February 25th.  Early next week the students will leave FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami for the Miami Beach convention center to get ready for the Perrier-Jouët BubbleQ on Friday night.  In the convention center’s commercial kitchens the students will spend approximately 3,500 man hours preparing food for the more than 3,000 people attending the extravagant barbecue and Champagne party on the beach.

It’s quite a feat to put on the feast.  For last year’s BubbleQ the students prepared 1,800 pounds of pork, 1,500 pounds of beef, 1,000 pounds of chicken, 1,200 pounds of fish and 800 pounds of cabbage, as well as several hundred pounds of potato salad, coleslaw and other side dishes.  That’s more than 22,000 portions of food, enough to sate any cowboy’s appetite.

The students’ work isn’t finished once the food is packed onto refrigerated trucks and delivered to the Delano hotel, the site of BubbleQ.  At the event the students will assist professional chefs from around the country including Emeril Lagasse, Michelle Bernstein, Tim Love and John Besh as they cook and serve their mouthwatering dishes.

In addition to BubbleQ, the students will work throughout the festival weekend in a variety of key capacities, including ticket sales and greeting guests at seminars and events.  They’ll also be participating in the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village, serving up a taste of their hard work.

Besides the important real-world experience for students and the chance to network with chefs and people in the food and beverage industry, the festival serves as a fundraiser for the School of Hospitality.  Last year almost $2 million was raised for the teaching restaurant program, which went towards student scholarships and enhancing the faculty and teaching facilities.

As you’re enjoying the delicious food next weekend, take time out to think about who helped prepare it.  After all, you could be tasting a dish from one of the next big culinary stars!

The 2010 Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival will be held February 25th through 28th.  For more information visit sobefest.comClick here to learn more about FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.