A Great Weekend for FIU students

By Martin Mendiola….


Wow, what a great weekend! With Bobby, Rachel, Anne and Giada in town, there was excitement everywhere you went. Fans full of energy and enthusiasm flocked to the streets hoping to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrity chefs.

Everyone had his or her own expectations as to what would happen when meeting their favorite Food Network star. Even my wife, kept telling me how upon meeting Bobby Flay she was going to let him know that she “really” learned to cook from watching his shows ever since he first started on TV. I do not think that is the whole truth, for even thought his recipes are simple and easy to make, she always thought he was somewhat cute. Little does she know that I do not mind since I am the one reaping the benefits of her most improved cooking skills. Thanks Bobby.

There were many enjoyable events throughout the weekend and while the tasting tents are not among my favorites (I believe you really need a special appreciation for heat and sand), this event turned out to be a most enjoyable party. There were lots of old friends and many new ones, all having fun and enjoying the many different products available. One of the most interesting new products on display was the Agave Nectars, considered a sweeter and healthier alternative to sugar. With the many pending health issues concerning sugar, I am sure more will be said about this product in the near future.

Within the compound, there also was the very special Experience Italy Pavillion. The excellent aged Grana Padano PDO cheeses found here accompanied by the Regaleali Nero d’Avola from the Sicilian Tasca D’Almerita Agricultural Estate, made leaving this tent extremely difficult. When you add the great food from TiramisU and the wines from Pio Cesare, Antinori and Speri among others, leaving became almost impossible. If not for the pork belly and tamarind sauce, we saw the chefs from Barbados prepare at the Miami Beach Convention Center kitchen for the show, we would have been happy to stay in this one place.

As much enthusiasm as the celebrity chefs brought to town, they were not even close to the enthusiasm displayed by Marco, Elie, Roger and Jeannie in the Miami Beach Convention Center kitchen. They were part of the over 250 hospitality students from Florida International University who were chopping onions, dry rubbing meats and marinating shrimps alongside the celebrity chefs.

Supervised by Chef Michael Moran, Lead Chef Instructor at Florida International University the students were busy and motivated. Along with Chef Moran and overlooking the whole operation, was Executive Chef Jonathan Barnett whose dedicated staff manages the kitchen operations at the Miami Beach Convention Center for Centerplate the largest hospitality partner to many sports stadiums and convention centers.

Many of the students agreed that before their turn, Chef Barnett should become the next Food Network Superstar, for he is knowledgeable, funny and everyone felt he would make a good TV personality. Another plus is that he quickly recognized that nothing could be done without Marcia Brooks, his Executive Sous Chef.

As good as the South Beach Wine and Food Festival is and as much as everyone enjoys, the very best thing it brings to town, is the exposure it offers the FIU students. What a great opportunity for these young people and future Food Network stars!

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