There are some pretty cool gigs that come with my profession and cooking at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival is definitely one of the best! I love traveling, giving back and creating delicious meals for people. Getting to combine these passions over the past weekend has been nothing short of amazing. Many people don't know this SOBEWFF is actually a fundraiser. 100% of the proceeds from the festival go to The Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at Florida International University. Between three events, my team and I prepared food for approximately 1500 people! I even had a special guest join us in the kitchen. I'm going to share some behind the scenes details about how we got it all done.
On Friday afternoon, we cooked a 5 course lunch at the Soho Beach House where we kicked off Women's History Month. I even got to incorporate my caviar into one of the courses pictured above. This is my Hamachi Tartare topped with a white chocolate and caviar ganache, yuzu vinaigrette and crisp shiso.
As soon as we wrapped at the Soho Beach House, we quickly switched gears and prepared hor d'oeuvres for the "Best of the Best" party at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. We served Colossal Grilled Basque Shrimp with a chimichurri sauce that night and it was a huge hit!
On Saturday night, myself and Chef Paula DeSilva hosted the CRAVE Greater Fort Lauderdale Dinner at the Ritz Carleton. The secret ingredient of the night was chocolate and we infused it in all of the courses throughout the dinner. The left photo is of myself and Chef Paula DeSilva holding the Chocolate and Espresso Dusted Beef Tenderloin with cauliflower cream, shishito peppers and dark chocolate picada. The dessert of the evening is pictured on the right. It's a Warm Chocolate Budino with a strawberry white chocolate milk shake and pistachio bark.
Preparation is key for every culinary affair, especially ones where you'll be feeding a large group of people. Months ahead of the event, I start thinking about a theme and start creating recipes around it. I also work with my team on the ingredient list, equipment list and all the production details.
If I have to travel for the event, communication is crucial between my team and the venue I'm partnering with. There are tons of calls, emails and even FaceTime meetings to ensure that everyone is on the same page. The venue will place my order for any ingredients I need. I make a conscious effort to include lots of seasonal, local ingredients. I also incorporate my favorite vendors for specialty needs, like a specific cheese or my own caviar line.
This weekend would not have been possible without my amazing, talented and hard working team. Whenever I'm cooking in a different city, they fly in with me a few days ahead of the big day and meet with all staff involved in the event.
They get acquainted with the kitchen and all areas where prep will take place. To have a seamless night of cooking and plating, my team goes through the flow of the evening from A-Z. If needed, they even go shopping for last minute ingredients or decor needs. It truly takes a village!
Next week, I'll be sharing a bit more about my time at the festival and will reveal the special guest who joined our team in the kitchen! Stay tuned!
Since we're all staying at home, it's the perfect time for me to connect with y'all as much as possible. With the help of my kids and my wonderful wife, I started a new series on Instagram, called CORA-ntine Cuisine. Everyday at 5 pm PST, I'll be cooking my favorite recipes. Be sure to tune in!