Archives for March 2012

Prepare Your Palate!

I had the immense pleasure of interviewing Mr. Lee Brian Schrager recently in anticipation of the upcoming South Beach Wine & Food Festival® (SOBEWFF), taking place for its eleventh consecutive year on February 23 to 26, 2012.  The Festival is held at some of the most exciting venues in Miami Beach, and over forty unique events will take place during the four-day Festival.  Each event has a theme, a particular food or wine concept, and collectively they offer a global perspective on the amazing palates of food and wine.

 

Mr. Schrager, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, is Vice President of Corporate Communications and National Events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America, and Founder and Director of the Festival.  He is delightful, passionate and a true visionary.  The festival began as a one-day event and garnered a respectable 7,000 guests.  In ten years, the prestigious festival has grown in scope, size and sophistication.  The event has become “de rigueur” for food and wine aficionados worldwide, last year attracting over 57,000 guests, top chefs, and nearly everyone from the “who’s who” of the culinary and wine world.  The events range from large tasting formats to intimate, themed affairs to targeted seminars. Each event represents the best of its respective category – from gourmet foods to grilled cheese.

 

This Festival is extremely important for the economy of Miami Beach – vastly benefitting the revenues and brand awareness of its many participating restaurants, hotels, markets, food and beverage companies and the many ancillary companies connected to the event.

 

It is also extremely successful and impressive in fundraising. At the close of last year’s Festival, approximately $14 million has been raised for Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management (SHTM).  The Festival is produced by Southern Wine & Spirits in conjunction with SHTM, and this partnership is a great example of “win-win.”

 

To execute this scale of event, it requires precise preparation and exacting logistics.  Schrager and his team are assisted by over 1,000 students from SHTM, and, according to Lee, over two-thirds of his staff are recruited from this school.

 

The students have the opportunity to experience one of the premier Festivals in the country, and apply this invaluable experience to their education.  All the while, the level of excellence of the SHTM students’ performance is honed by working side by side with the Schrager team, whose requisite level of expertise is exceptional to produce such a prestigious and successful affair.

 

In addition to the event planning aspects of the Festival, the SHTM culinary students receive the rare opportunity to work alongside and learn from some of the most celebrated chefs in the world.  As Schrager noted, one of the keys to the growing success of the Festival is the heightened consumer appreciation of food and wine, and popularity of chefs – with the explosion of cooking shows and visibility of chefs and restaurateurs.  These days, the “celebrity chefs” are truly rock stars- including Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Eric Ripert, Ferran Adria, Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller and Nobu Matsuhisa- all who are involved with the SOBEWFF, amongst many other great chefs..

Students and Festival guests are also fortunate enough to meet and work with some of the world’s most respected wine personalities and taste wines from some of the world’s most renowned wineries.

 

The charitable aspects of the Festival extend beyond the direct contributions of the Festival proceeds.  Two other exciting extensions of the Fair produce important funds for the school- an online auction and a book!

 

The Online Auction is an exciting vehicle that not only raises money for the charity, but sustains the buzz about the Festival after the event is over.  This year the auction runs from January 23 until March 5.  When I asked Schrager about the auction, he confirmed its financial significance – last year the proceeds from the auction contributed about $400,000 to the charity.

 

Schrager commemorated the special tenth anniversary last year with the release of his first book, Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, $35/hardcover).  Like the overall Festival, all proceeds from the cookbook benefit the Florida International University SHTM.

 

LEE’S FAVORITES, HIGHLIGHTS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

 

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT: Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink

FAVORITE SPECIAL OCCASION RESTAURANT: Azul

FAVORITE WINE: Rose Champagne (he politely declined to designate a favorite brand)

FAVORITE US FESTIVAL (other than SOBEWFF):  Aspen, the “Classic”

BEST EXPERIENCES FROM PAST FESTIVALS: The commemoration of Peter and (the late) Robert Mondavi.  The brothers had become estranged, and bringing them together was a memorable experience.  Also, last year the Festival celebrated Alain Ducasse, one of the world’s greatest chefs.

BEST RECOMMENDATIONS FOR NEW EVENTS THIS YEAR: “Trucks on the Beach”, hosted by Andrew Zimmern; “Salsa at Sea” brunch hosted by Douglas Rodriguez and Aaron Sanchez; (reintroduction of) of Moet Hennessy’s “The Q” hosted by Emeril Lagasse and Guy Fieri

BEST EVENT FOR GUESTS WITH LIMITED TIME OR BUDGET: Grand Tasting Village- guests may experience and sample literally hundreds of wines and foods

Arte Americas – Reflections on Latin American Art

 

 

Launched in 2003, the year after the first Art Basel Miami Beach, Arte Americas celebrated its tenth edition in early March.  The importance of Arte Americas to metropolitan Miami is paramount.  Not only does our geographic location represent the primary gateway to Latin America, but provides a visible showcase to some of the most important art and artists emanating from Spain, Mexico, Central and South America.

The show was created under the direction of Dora Valdes-Fauli; is backed by a veritable “who’s who” in the art world- with Leslie Pantin as President, Emilio Calleja as Vice President, and an advisory committee of over eighty members, including Paul Cejs, Carlos and Rosa de la Cruz, Bonnie Clearwater and Silvia Karman Cubina. This year’s fair contained works from forty-eight local, domestic and international galleries, and included several exceptional projects.  “Art Talks,” open to the fair attendees, approached important topics regarding Latin American art – from current trends and history, to collecting and programming.  The panel included our own Arts and Culture Council board member, and Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Bass Museum-Silvia Karman Cubina.  The final lecture, entitled “Living in Color” featured the life and work of the brilliant Carlos Cruz-Diez.

I was honored to attend the opening night of the fair, and was dazzled by the vibrant sounds, sights and feeling swirling around the space.  While all of the galleries presented beautiful works of art from very talented artists, a few highlights stood out for me.

Most Magical: Rafael Barrios, represented by Art Nouveau Gallery, creates illusions that defy gravity.  His works seem to literally bounce in the air, yet they are masterfully rooted, with a base that appears delicate and improbable.

I had the delight of meeting the artist at his vernissage last month, and have a deeper appreciation of his work.  In addition to the pieces exhibited here, he has also been commissioned by the city of New York, with a series of nine huge pieces adorning Park Avenue from March through June, located directly in front of the Armory building.  The Armory show, the most important contemporary art fair in New York, also occurs in March.

Most Powerful: The powerful work of Manuel Carbonell was highly visible in the fair.  The smooth, strong, black forms are a joy to behold. To quote the artist, “I search in my sculpture for the essence of the forms and the absence of detail while I struggle to obtain a feeling of monumentality…”

Most Dynamic: George Billis and his New York-based George Billis Gallery.  I chatted with George about his Gallery, and the beautiful and whimsical work of Alejandro Mazon, “The Memory of Rabbits” is a collage of nostalgic images- imbued with religion, family, work, love, heaven and beyond.  It is a fantasy created in acrylic, vintage papers, found objects, and mounted on canvas.

In addition to his Gallery, he directs Red Dot Fairs, present at both the Armory and the prestigious satellite during Art Basel Miami Beach.

Most Creative: West Encounters East, “Light and Shadows” curated by Stella M. Holmes

This exhibition is part of an evolving concept created by collector and museum trustee, Stella M. Holmes.  Cross-cultural ties bind all of the artists represented in this exhibition – Latin American artists with Asian heritage.  The influence of multi-cultural backgrounds is apparent in all of their works.  In particular, I was mesmerized by the photography of Guillermo Ueno, born and working in Buenos Aires, Argentine.   His work demonstrates a juxtaposition of light and dark, emotion often hidden from the faces of the subjects, or obscured from view.  Beautiful.

Most Forward-Thinking: Office of Engaged Teaching, Scholarship, and Creative Activities (ETSCA), established by Dr. Brian Schriner, Dean of FIU Architecture and the Arts, Chair of the Miami Beach Arts and culture Council.

As previously reviewed in an earlier column, the focus of the Office of ETSCA is “create, innovate and inspire a more beautiful, sustainable, healthy, and just tomorrow” through the Arts.  It is committed to research and activities that will impact the health and sustainability of local and global communities; it will bring together various FIU offices, local governments, business leaders, students, alumni and faculty to accomplish its mission.

FLOR500 is a multidisciplinary project developed by Miami artist Xavier Cortada to commemorate Florida’s quincentenniel in 2013.  500 Floridians will be selected to depict 500 native wild flowers- the same species that adorned the landscape when Ponce de Leon arrived in 1513 and named it “La Florida” from the Spanish word for flower. There will be more exciting components to this project, with connection to the community and the land, thereby fulfilling the mission of the ETSCA.

Arte Americas is an integral and invaluable part of the Miami landscape.  The role of promoting and highlighting a vast range of artists from around the world, with connections and ties to Miami, is critical for the further development of our culture.  From the well-established masters, to the innovative and bold students, the works exhibited at Arte Americas is a beautiful showcase for the past, present and future of art in Miami, resonating with the important heritage from Latin America.

Bravo to the countless individuals who have contributed to the success and ensured the future of this wonderful fair.  We look forward to seeing you all again in 2013!

Lights, Cameras, Fashion!

 

 

 

Miami is home to some of the most incredible fashion statements.  At the cross roads of Latin America and the United States- with many Europeans finding their way here as well, we have so many inspirational flavors to enjoy every day… from the “eye candy” on Lincoln Road to the flamboyant art scene in Wynwood, the Miami community is surely the hottest place for fashion.

 

Getting ready for the biggest and one of the most prestigious fashion events of the year outside of New York, Milan, London and Paris, I am excited to preview some of the plans for the upcoming Miami Beach International Fashion Week (MBIFW), created by Sobol-Perry Fashion Productions.  The fourteenth annual event will take place from March 21st through March 24th at the Miami Beach Convention Center. This year, the stylish and iconic Dionne Warwick will join the show, and share some of her fashion secrets.    Mrs. Warwick will host a media seminar for students and designers where she will discuss her life, her style, and offer the guests advice on how to succeed in following one’s personal passions.

 

In just fourteen years since its inception, this prestigious event has grown to become the fifth largest and one of the most important fashion weeks worldwide. Unlike many other shows, where the reigning designers showcase their new collections, the focus here is on new creative talent, bringing exciting trends to the stage, and incorporating emerging designers from around the globe.  In 2011, fifty-five designers from thirty-two countries were represented.  The event garnered an impressive 740 million media impressions, was promoted through 650 media outlets, and brought much excitement to the international fashion scene.

 

This year, President and Executive Producer Sobol promises even more designers, and more amazing new talent!

 

A preview of this year’s highlights include the Miami Style Showcase featuring Florida’s top designers Viviana G for Petit Pois, Ema Savahl Couture and Kayce Armstrong of Art of Shade among others.  The Prêt-A-Porter Designer showcase will feature the winner of Bolivia’s Mision Moda.  Banja Luka Fashion Fair Designer Showcase will present Marina Banovic, Liliana Majkic, and Davor Sladakovic from Bosnia & Herzegovina and Montenegro.  Latin Fashion Weeks Council introduces the best designers from throughout Latin America.  Additionally, for the first time in the U.S., Walla Al Alawi of the Kingdom of Bahrain, widely considered the trendsetter for the Gulf region, will grace the runway with her latest collection.  Walla’s customers include numerous royal family members and her designs have already been selected by Saks Fifth Avenue Bahrain.

 

MBIFW has become a preeminent source for introducing the American fashion world with amazing designers from around the world who then continue on to long and successful careers.  Traveling the globe throughout the year, seeking out original new talent from around the world is one of the keys to the event’s success.

 

“Over the years, discovering the world’s best emerging designers has been a wonderful and exciting experience.  By creating the international platform through MBIFW that allows these designers to be seen by the entire world, we have been able to launch their careers to the next level,” cites Sobol.  “Many of our young designers, including Colombia’s Esteban Cortazar and Silvia Tcherassi,  Peru’s Sitka Semsch, Chile’s Ruben Campos, Manish Arora and Sabyasachi Mukherjee from India, Furne One for Amato Couture in Dubai and Heather Jones from Trinidad & Tobago are just a few of today’s fashion industry stars who have emerged from our runways.

An important aspect of the event is recognizing and rewarding new talent in multiple creative arenas through the International Student Designer Competition.  This year is the fifth annual Student Fashion Designer Competition.  The producers seek out the best student designers in the world to spotlight in the “New Stars in Fashion Installation.”

The award categories are: Emerging Designer, Student Designer, Jewelry Designer, Student Photography and Student Graphic Artist

Student Designers specializing in men’s wear and women’s wear (day or evening) have already been juried, and the three finalists per category are currently featured on the website.

The installation will be viewed each evening by local, national and international press, buyers, celebrities and VIP guests attending the event. One student designer per category will be chosen as the “International Student Designer of the Year” and honored at the opening press conference on March 21st.

The winner of the best Student Graphic Artist award has just been announced.  His work represents this year’s poster, pictured here.   Congratulations to Kleuddy Abreu, of The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale.  Bravo!  Also featured is the work of the very talented Student Photography Winner, Carlo Fernandes from Curtin University, Western Australia.

Knowing the passion, talent and drive of Ms. Sobol, and her partner Aaron Perry, we can be assured that this year’s event will be even more glamorous and memorable than ever!