Behind the Scenes at Jose Andres SOBEWFF Tribute Dinner
Have you ever been to a wedding, dinner or event where 600 people are sitting down to eat fancy fare? I have many times and have never ever contemplated what it takes behind the scenes to get the food out to all these picky and ravenous (staaarving) guests. Well welcome to your peek behind the kitchen curtain at the SOBEWFF Tribute Dinner. It is sheer orchestrated madness in the kitchen and witnessing it was one of the coolest foodie experiences of my life. If you are wondering what some of the others were, check out my reviews of:
Each year at South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF) the Loews Miami Beach Hotel is Foodie HQ. They host a $500 a ticket SOBEWFF Tribute Dinner to honor world’s most recognized leaders in the culinary and beverage industry. This year they honored the funny, deeply passionate and profoundly talented Chef José Andrés and I was invited in to witness the madness behind the stage.
The schematics and logistics were quite precise. The details and coordination to pull this off is astounding. The kitchen action is run by the sweet, talented and impressive Chef Frederic Delaire. Delaire began his career in the United States working as a culinary supervisor with Chef Pascal Oudin, a renowned Chef and owner of several acclaimed South Florida restaurants. Additionally, his culinary repertoire includes positions at Michelin-rated restaurants, working alongside legendary French Chef Alain Rex at the famous Jules Verne, located on the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower; and at three Michelin-star restaurant L’Aubergade with Michel Trama.
This Chef has tremendous stature and pedigree and his passion is infused through the cuisine as well as his staff.
The evening was guided by Master of Ceremonies Anthony Bourdain. When I met the chain smoking Chef Rockstar I offered him some of my exquisite California bubblegum flavored weed and he responded “Only if I can take it to go.” I quipped back that “I like you, but I am not gifting you my pen.”
Andrew Zimmern is a cheeky mofo. I enjoyed watching/stalking him and witnessing him using his always handy swiss army knife, helping Chef Voltaggio whose artistic plates required assistance because of a shortage of time and him incessantly cracking jokes.
The Tribute dinner is freaking immense. They need 600 plates for all 5 courses to be served in 6 to 8 minutes!!! The 5 courses worked out to 3,000 plates that night. They have around 60 cooks involved and including volunteers and Chefs close to 75. They also have to take care of the reception, with 4 appetizers which adds another 2,400 servings to this daunting odyssey.
It takes 1 month to organize all of this, a dozen of real meetings and hundreds of emails. On the service side they have 90 waiters including the managing staff. To execute it the delivery they setup 4 double lines of tables(8 for the math wizs) and each line sent 75 dishes. This video captures the madness in all it’s glory:
I bet you are wondering what a $500 SOBEWFF Tribute Dinner menu looks like? Well wonder no longer! The evening’s divine culinary offerings were created by freaking All star Chefs including:
- Frederic Delaire
- Emeril Lagasse
- Michael Voltaggio
- Aitor Zabala
- Andrew Zimmern
Andrew Zimmern – Oyster Vichyssoise, Caviar and Sea Urchin Panini
Champagne Louis Roederer, Cristal 2009, Reims, France
Emeril Lagasse – Stuffed Pasta Shell with Crawfish, Wild Mushroom, Ricotta and Black Truffle Sauce
Domaines Ott, Clos Mireille Blanc de Blancs 2015, Côtes de Provence, France
Michael Voltaggio – Grilled Lamb Belly with Charred Lettuce, Anchovy, Lemon Jam, Black Garlic and Black Olive
Domaine Anderson, Pinot Noir “Estate” 2012, Anderson Valley, USA
Frederic Delaire – Braised Ox Tail with Creamy Saffron Senia Rice, Piquillo Pepper Emulsion
Château de Pez 2010, St. Estèphe, France
Rene Contee – Chocolate Indulgence – Alpaco Chocolate Chiboust with Red Currant Gelée, Crunchy Caramel and Chocolate Crust
Ramos Pinto, 10 Year Tawny, Oporto, Portugal
The food was prolific living up to the loft expectations I had for these marvelous chefs. The Crunchy Caramel and Chocolate Crust was one of the best things I ate at the entire SOBEWFF. I still dream about that golden sparking chocolate Nrivana.
The night also became more meaningful then just a dinner when Chef Jose Andres took to the stage. “Recently awarded the 2015 National Humanities Medal by President Obama for both cultivating palates and shaping culture, Andrés has been named one of the most influential people in the world on the prestigious Time “100” list, as well as awarded the honor of “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation. The chef/owner of ThinkFood Group is also an author, educator, television personality, and relentless advocate for food and hunger issues.”
During his award acceptance speech he took well deserved shots at the White House, peeled off his angelic chef coat unveiling a t-shirt that read “I am an immigrant.” The empire building Chef was born in Spain and became a U.S. citizen only three years ago. He pledged solidarity with US immigrants including those who came in illegally and those who stay past their visas. Immigrants are part of the backbone of America’s kitchens. The moment was applauded vociferously and you could feel the power of the moment reverberate through the banquet hall. Andres concluded by saying, “The American dream of the 21st century is to be an America of inclusion, not of exclusion.” I could not think of a better way to have concluded the SOBEWFF Tribute Dinner.