FIU Students Partner with Celebrity Chefs During Next Week’s SOBE Wine & Food Festival

After weeks of preparing with faculty and one another, a team of 1,000 students from Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management will take part in a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience at this year’s Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, presented by Food & Wine. The event – celebrating its 10th year since being transformed by Founder and Director Lee Brian Schrager – takes place Feb. 24-27.

“Our involvement in the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival exemplifies Florida International University’s Worlds Ahead mission, encouraging students to go beyond what is expected, today and in their future careers,” said Dr. Mike Hampton, dean of Florida International University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.  “Together with our exceptional faculty, curriculum, Miami location and alumni, this event is part of what keeps us a front-runner in the hospitality management arena.”

Festival Participation Provides Real-Life Experiential Learning

Each year, the Festival serves as a hands-on, experiential learning opportunity for rising stars from the school’s Hospitality Management Degree Program and Certificate Programs in Restaurant Foodservice Management, Wine and Beverage Management, and Special Event Management, as they serve on the prep teams for the Festival’s featured chefs.

Once chosen, students undergo weeks of training under the direction of instructors Chef Michael Moran and Chef Roger Probst, as well as Adjunct Instructor for Event Management Susan Gladstone, activation director for the Festival.  Throughout the four-day Festival this year, students will log more than 30,000 hours combined throughout their pre- and on-site involvement, including the following areas of responsibility:

  • Human resources management (through a specially-created software program)
  • Sponsorship activation
  • Operations and Logistics
  • Marketing and Public Relations
  • Auction Coordination
  • Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village coordination

In recognition of the hard work by the students participating, various awards will be presented in 2011, including Barilla’s “Student Chef of the Year”, along with scholarships from companies like Certified Angus Beef.

There are several standout stories of students participating in this year’s Festival, including:

  • Shena Corrado, Student Associate Program Manager In her third year participating in the Festival, Shena, who earned a Master of Science in Hospitality Management, screens participants for the various positions, handles database management and on-site coordination.
  • Matthew Moran, Logistics Coordinator – In his third year as a Festival participant, this Hospitality Management graduate student is in charge of event logistics. He also manages the Student Social Responsibility Team, coordinating recycling, compost and food bank initiatives throughout the Festival.
  • Nicole West, Prep Kitchen Manager – Nicole served 18 months in Kuwait, preparing food for 11,000 troops. She is now in her senior year at FIU and will manage the prep kitchen at the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival, overseeing set-up and maintenance for 100+ exhibitors and sponsors.

Alumni have moved on to serve in positions such as director of Rachael Ray’s nonprofit organization, Yum-o!; sous chef at Kyma Restaurant in Atlanta; and environmental development manager at the Grand Hyatt New York.

Funds Raised Create Exceptional Learning Opportunities for Students

As a founding partner in the Festival, alongside Southern Wine & Spirits, monies raised annually – more than $12 million to date – have been re-invested in the industry’s future via scholarships and programs to enhance the school’s infrastructure.  For example, funds raised from the Festival have supported the expansion of FIU’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management’s dining room into a full-service Teaching Restaurant.  Other revenue from the Festival supports beverage management classes and maintenance of the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center, a 4,500 square-foot facility that features the latest technology for beverage tasting and analysis.

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