What Will Florida’s Largest Food Festival Look Like in 2021?


The culinary world is only a few days away from its first large-scale meals occasion happening in a time of elevated vaccine availability, when the Meals Community & Cooking Channel South Seaside Wine & Meals Pageant (SOBEWFF) returns for its twentieth yr from Thursday, Could 20 via Sunday, Could 23.
This yr’s model of the competition — which historically takes place in late February, however was delayed till Could this yr as a consequence of COVID-19 considerations — will look very completely different than in years previous, incorporating a slew of security precautions meant to maintain friends and taking part cooks secure like a contactless ticketing system, temperature checks, capability restrictions, cleansing, sanitization, limiting bodily contact, implementing strict masking necessities, and creating one-way site visitors stream contained in the (all outside) occasions, and extra.
“For those who’re not consuming, otherwise you’re not seated at a desk, you’re sporting a masks,” stated Lee Brian Schrager, competition founder and director. “And the times of going throughout the tent and flip-flopping from that aspect and getting into all instructions are carried out.”
Marquee occasions like Better of the Finest, which often brings in crowds of over 3,000 into a big indoor ballroom will now happen exterior over two nights with 500 friends at every session. Burger Bash, one other longtime favourite of the competition that usually seems a crowd of over 4,000 individuals, will host two classes from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. with time reserved in-between for cleansing the tent and restocking the tent with private protecting tools (PPE). Each classes will solely host 1,000 individuals.
“There’ll be a thousand individuals in the identical sized tent, the place you may have the identical variety of cooks that we’ve all the time had, so it’s actually going to be the final word expertise for any client coming,” Schrager says.
The seated dinners will even look completely different this yr. As an alternative of getting 80 to 100 individuals per dinner, every occasion will solely host 50 to 60 individuals per dinner. In lieu of the big communal tables of years previous, friends will purchase a desk of two, 4, or six, to make sure that no person is sitting with anyone they don’t know.
Coordinating the taking part cooks for the 70 plus occasions primarily based on their particular person consolation ranges this yr has additionally been has additionally been a novel problem for the competition that was as soon as nicknamed “spring break for cooks.”
“I’ll inform you, they had been both 100% in instantly or wanted to consider it or simply weren’t comfy committing,” Schrager says. “We didn’t need to push anybody. I’m identified for getting a solution out of individuals, however I didn’t need anybody to come back right here and never really feel comfy.”
Cooks taking part within the occasions might be supplied with protecting gear in an effort to restrict their publicity to the shoppers who could or might not be vaccinated. Initially the competition needed to ask each visitor to both present proof of vaccination or a destructive COVID-19 take a look at taken inside three days so as in an effort to enter the occasion. Nevertheless, final month, Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis banned any enterprise within the state from requiring individuals to point out proof of vaccination. Including yet one more hurdle for the workforce that’s throwing a big scale occasion in a state that’s nonetheless reporting 1000’s of latest COVID-19 circumstances every day.
“We legally can’t ask you, however we will ask you to attest to it,” added Schrager. “Which means it’s like the consideration society; you’ll signal a doc otherwise you’ll obtain an app that can make you attest to a destructive take a look at and, God prepared, everybody might be sincere about it. However everybody gained’t, we all know that.”
One problem that the competition isn’t dealing with? Staffing points which can be at present hampering the restaurant business aren’t a lot of a problem for SOBEWFF — due to the scholars and volunteers, including that the competition is sort of 100% staffed.
“We’re additionally utilizing much more college students as a result of they’re doing double shifts,” provides Schrager. “The scholars have been nice at FIU (Florida Worldwide College) and Southern Glazer’s staff are volunteering, so everybody’s chipping in to verify we will pull it off.”
With ticket gross sales minimize in half this yr, the competition is ready to lose a whole bunch of 1000’s of {dollars} in an effort to placed on the occasion. Whereas Schrager is the primary one to confess that the competition isn’t going to have a terrific yr financially, he is also success from a special lens in 2021.
“A very good yr to me is that we’re again, we’re doing it safely, and other people have a great expertise. We aren’t judging success this yr by ticket gross sales. We couldn’t.”

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