The culinary world is only days away from its first major food event, which takes place at a time of increased vaccine availability Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) returns for its 20th year from Thursday May 20th through Sunday May 23rd.
This year’s version of the festival, which traditionally takes place at the end of February but has been postponed until May of this year due to COVID-19 concerns, will look very different than in previous years a number of safety precautions This is to ensure the safety of guests and participating chefs, e.g. B. a contactless ticket system, temperature checks, capacity restrictions, cleaning, disinfection, limitation of physical contact, implementation of strict masking requirements and creation of a one-way traffic within the (all outdoor) events and much more.
„When you’re not eating or sitting at a table, wear a mask,” said Lee Brian Schrager, founder and director of the festival. „And the days of walking through the tent and flipping in all directions from this side are over.”
Marquee events like Best of the bestThe event, which typically attracts more than 3,000 spectators in a grand ballroom, now takes place outdoors over two evenings with 500 guests per session. Burger bashAnother long-time favorite of the festival, which typically attracts more than 4,000 people, will host two sessions from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., with time reserved for cleaning the tent and replenishing stock in between the tent with personal protective equipment (PPE). Both sessions will only accommodate 1,000 people.
„There’ll be a thousand people in the same-sized tent, with the same number of chefs that we’ve always had. So it really is going to be the ultimate experience for any consumer who comes,” says Schrager.
The sitting evenings will look different this year too. Instead of having 80 to 100 people per dinner, each event will only accommodate 50 to 60 people per dinner. Instead of the large communal tables of the past few years, guests buy a table with two, four or six tables to ensure that no one is sitting with someone they do not know.
Coordinating the participating chefs for the 70+ events based on their individual comfort level this year was also a unique challenge for what was once referred to as the “Chefs Spring Break”.
„I’ll tell you they were either 100 percent there straight away, or had to think about it, or just weren’t satisfied,” says Schrager. “We didn’t want to push anyone. I’m known for people getting an answer, but I didn’t want anyone to come here and not be comfortable. „
Cooks attending the events will be given protective gear to limit exposure to consumers who may or may not be vaccinated. Originally, the festival wanted to ask each guest to provide either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, which was done within three days in order to attend the event. Last month, however, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis forbidden Every company in the state requires people to provide proof of vaccination. Adding another hurdle for the team triggering a major event in a state that is still reporting Thousands of new COVID-19 cases daily.
„We can’t legally ask you, but we can ask you to confirm,” added Schrager. “That means it’s like being in an honorary society. You sign a document or download ap to confirm a negative test, and if God willing, everyone will be honest. But everyone won’t, we know that. „
A challenge that the festival does not meet? staff Problems What is currently hindering the restaurant industry is not a big problem for SOBEWFF. Thanks to the students and volunteers, the festival is almost 100 percent occupied.
“We also employ a lot more students because they work double shifts,” adds Schrager. „The students at FIU (Florida International University) have been great, and the Southern Glazer staff are volunteering.
With ticket sales halved this year, the festival is just around the corner to lose Hundreds of thousands of dollars to organize the event. While Schrager is the first to admit that the festival won’t have a great year financially, he also looks at success in 2021 from a different perspective.
“A good year for me is that we’re back, do it safely and people have a good experience. We don’t judge the success of this year by ticket sales. We could not. „