Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Price Fame, SBWFF?

Time Out New York's Feed blog pipes in with an insight about how Miami pimps itself out (either passively or proactively) to the annual food fest.
But for a visitor like me, it’s tough to tell how much the event has to do with Miami itself. I am guessing that the connection, much like NYCWFF’s to New York, is incidental. The Food Network/Food & Wine festival is primarily a showcase of its own talents, a traveling chef show that could be transplanted to any city, anywhere. Which is the beauty of it for organizers, should they wish to expand. But that very flexibility also adds to an untethered and somewhat hollow quality after all is said and done. How much better would the overall festival be if the celebrity- and sponsor-driven programming were more supported by events that were connected to the fabric of the hometown food scene? They are called the South Beach and New York Wine & Food Festivals, after all.
The truth is, almost all the restaurants represented at the Tasting Village are local spots so there is a bit of synergy there. Sure, these folks are not celebrated like the chef glitterati from the Food Network. Instead they slog it out in the hot tents, graciously serving food for 5+ hours to increasingly sloshed, sloppy festival goers. And the financial burden of participating must be getting less and less attractive for these restaurants. But they must benefit from it and from the exposure to affluent festival-goers. Otherwise, why would they do it?


Anonymous said...

This is what I meant when I said that we, as local chefs, are the bastard step children of the fest. It's truly sad that there is no single focus on Miami food.. to which there is much much more than simply Van Aken's name and cuisine (no offense, but come on). Times have changed, and SBWFF needs to catch up. Since last year, I have heard more and more chefs speak of boycotting it... and what will they do with their high priced tickets when no chef wants to donate much of their time and product for absolutely nothing... and I mean zero, nada. I've noticed much more cop-out dishes being served like low-cost items instead of food of quality and value. It's hard to convince restaurants to donate money when they see no return, and if the chef isn't getting his due, then what's to keep him from trying to persuade his upper management?
I hope this message grows louder and clearer before the next NYCSBFNWFF (New York City South Beach Food Network Wine & Food Fest). Why should the Neely's get more press and visibility than a chef cooking on Ocean Drive?

sara said...

Chad - it's so refreshing to get the local chef's perspective on this. I've been wondering how restaurants justify the cost. I guess for some who are backed by hotels and big corporate owners, it's not that big of a burden, but for the smaller indie restaurants it's got to be really difficult.

And here's a suggestion for the organizers - maybe less liquor and shift the focus back to wine and, um, food?

SteveBM said...

I couldnt agree more with each of you. Its almost like the event has gotten too popular and is more about the TV scene than it is about the actual food. And didnt it used to be called the FOOD and Wine Fest, not the other way around? Either way, the food definitely takes a backseat to the booze at most of the events which is exactly why I avoid them. My money went to the Dinner in Paradise which was a kickass event that focused on various chefs, both local and out-of-towners, making use of local ingredients. It was worth every penny and then some.