What started as a small, one-day event known as the Florida Extravaganza has blossomed into one of the largest food festivals in the United States.
Lee Schrager is the man behind the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) and all that it’s become. Now, more than two decades in, he’s as pumped as ever.
The 2024 edition of SOBEWFF is happening February 22 through 25 at varying venues throughout the 305 and beyond, spanning Miami Beach, Hallandale Beach, Wynwood, and points between.
“It’s all still very exciting to me here 23 years later,” he tells New Times. “At this point, we’re always looking to make it better and not necessarily bigger. With that, and for this year, I think we have one of the best lineups we’ve ever had in terms of the level of diversity and talent.”
Among the events, a standout for Schrager is the festival's own “crown jewel,” the Tribute Dinner, which will honor Italian icon Massimo Bottura, as well as Luca Garavoglia of Campari Group.
Another event Schrager is most looking forward to is the Best of the Best event at the Fontainebleau, which features more than 60 chefs and nearly 70 wineries from around the country.
Plus, the now sold-out and first-of-its-kind Sushi Omakase Collective is slated to bring together some of Miami's best Japanese omakase restaurants, including MILA, Nossa Omakase, and Sushi by Scratch, all under one roof.
“The fact that we continue to attract and secure these big names, I certainly don’t take it for granted,” says Schrager.
"People move around, venues change management, and the industry is always changing," he explains. "We’re always looking at new marketing and advertising strategies. Every year is a new year, and we always strive for the best.”
Reflecting on SOBEWFF’s impact on Miami’s culinary scene and how it has helped solidify the Magic City as a foodie city, Schrager has fond memories.
“Twenty-five years ago, it took a long time to decide where to eat; we had very little in-between options,” he says. “Now we have huge names and big companies opening up, with dozens upon dozens of great places to eat every single night. The festival can’t take credit, but it has certainly helped in putting Miami on the culinary map.”
South Beach Wine & Food Festival. Thursday, February 22 through Sunday, February 25; at various locations; sobewff.org. Ticket prices vary.