Lee Schrager

We have Lee Schrager to thank for 10 years of eating, drinking & national attention. The vice president of corporate communications & national events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America created the South Beach Wine & Food Festival a decade ago to help raise money for FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. Ten years later, he’s a foodie legend. We chatted with Schrager about a decade of highlights, Festival advice and BubbleQ’s swan song.

Congratulations on 10 years – quite an accomplishment!
Thanks, it’s a long time for anything nowadays. We’re excited to be celebrating 10 years and the next 10 years – we’ve got a great lineup from all over the world. Our days of calling people and them not knowing who we are done for the most part. I’m already planning 2012.

What are you excited about for 2011?
Honoring Alain Ducasse –he cooked at the first Tribute Dinner 10 years ago and was the first superstar chef that supported us. I really thought honoring him for the 10th year would be extra special.

Seems there’s a lot of pork this year
Yes, a lot of pork – Shine & Swine, BBQ & the Blues, BubbleQ – it goes in waves, one year it’s a lot of shellfish, this year there’s a lot of pork.

And there are some new events for 2011
Yes, the 10-year anniversary party that Martha [Stewart] & Emeril [Lagasse] are hosting. The location is my favorite in the city, that 1111 [Lincoln Road] Parking Garage. And Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach, I think it’s going to be spectacular. We asked 20 people to pick their favorite foods they ever ate on a beach in the U.S. and we’ve got KC & the Sunshine Band performing at this great beachside venue.

Any advice for festival attendees?
Don’t do too much. Don’t overdo it. Pick two events a day that are really special to you and enjoy them. Wear comfortable shoes and bid on our live auction items.

What are this year’s don’t miss events?
BubbleQ. The Best Thing I Ever Ate at the Beach. The 10-year party at 1111. The Ducasse Tribute Dinner. The Dolce brunch at the Delano hosted by Gail Simmons and Michael White. And I think the one event that most sums up the festival is the Grand Tasting Village – it’s a great value and it’s spectacular to be drinking & eating while walking around seeing the festival.

Rumor has it this is the last year of BubbleQ
I hope so, but I hope it’s not like Cher, who keeps making a comeback. I kind of said I won’t think about ending it until after the festival. BubbleQ put us on the map, there’s nothing that can do for us what BubbleQ did.

Lee Schrager’s Top 10 SBWFF Moments

  • The big rainstorm year in 2006.
  • Honoring the Mondavi brothers at a tribute brunch in 2007. “It was a very emotional day for everyone.”
  • The King & Queen of Spain meet Mario Batali in 2009 and Mario drops the f-bomb.
  • Gordon Ramsay coming and going in 2003. “He came, he was committed to do two things, he left and we never heard from him again. We thought he was dead. Turns out he had gone home.”
  • Honoring Jamie Oliver in 2008. “I’m a huge fan of his message and listening to Alice Waters present the award to him was something I won’t forget.”
  • Honoring Ferran Adrià in 2006.
  • The first BubbleQ. “It still feels magic when I think about it. I kind of knew right then that this was something every special.”
  • Honoring Francis Ford Coppola with a tribute brunch in 2005.
  • Country music legend Willie Nelson performing at the 2004 Bubble Q.
  • Launching the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook. “100 recipes from the greatest chefs in the world.”


Thanks for checking out our new site! We’ve changed a ton of stuff, and we’d love to know what you think.
Email feedback