On Thursday night, the 2014 South Beach Wine & Food Festival got off to a rollicking start with its first big event under the big tent, The Q, formerly known as Bubble Q. Nearly 40 chefs staked their claim and served their best interpretation of barbecue (or a reasonable facsimile thereof), and the results were, in a word, outstanding.
When we say that some of the country’s most wildly successful and renowned chefs were on hand, we’re not exaggerating. Frontera Grill’s Rick Bayless commanded the longest line, and his carne asada-style skirt steak was stunning. Geoffrey Zakarian served the only ribs of the evening, sweet and tangy cinnamon and pomegranate glazed pork ribs. Marco Canora served grilled quail; Dale Talde served a smoked Vietnamese shirt rib lettuce wrap; Joey Campanaro served a sliced skirt steak that would make any steakhouse chef envious; Marc Vetri served smoked chicken thighs; Paul Kahan served perhaps the evening’s most unique dish, a Cubano sandwich with a vitello tomato twist; Michael Solomonov served a smoked brisket slider; Floyd Kardoz served grilled kalbi short ribs.
It was clear from chatting with the chefs that they were extremely grateful to have the opportunity to escape from the frigid and snowy Northern winter for a brief respite. “Two days ago I was in New York, and now I’m standing 200 feet from the ocean!,” an excited Chris Santos, who served a BBQ beef cheek soft taco that tied for the Creekstone Farms “Fire Up the Flavor” award with Campanaro, told us. “We live to make guests happy, and this is an opportunity to interact with those who care.”
While there were plenty of chefs who run restaurants that aren’t barbecue-centric on hand, some of America’s barbecue titans were also present, including Chris Lilly, who served an uncharacteristic pulled pork taco (“I like to mix things up at this event,” he told us); Myron Mixon, who served a smoked brisket with Brunswick stew; Mighty Quinn’s Hugh Magnum served a melt-in-your-mouth smoked beef cheek; Hill Country’s Elizabeth Karmel served smoked beef tenderloin; and 17th Street BBQ’s Mike Mills served a whole smoked hog alongside his daughter Amy, which ended up taking the win for best overall dish, presented by The Kitchen’s Jeff Mauro and Katie Lee.
“People come from all across the country to be here, and they’re hungry to see what chefs all across the country are doing,” Mike Mills, who hasn’t participated in this event for eight years, told us. “You can get a taste of what’s going on all across America, and that’s what makes this better than any regional competition.”