Chefs’ Tips for Conquering the South Beach Wine & Food Fest

Stay hydrated, and pace yourself!

Michy's Michelle Bernstein will be hosting a dinner during the festival.

The South Beach Wine & Food Festival is fast approaching, and whether you’re planning on attending just one event or are making a full weekend out of it, it can seem rather overwhelming — One tasting event alone can present you with more than 20 different food and drink options! So in order to help you take on the beast and succeed with flying colors, we reached out to some of the leading chefs from the area who will be participating in the festival, as well as one NBA star. Here’s what they had to say:

Norman Van Aken, Chef/Owner, Norman’s Orlando (FIU’s Wine Spectator Restaurant Management Lab & Mel Dick Wine Tower)
Go Ocho!South Beach may be the libido of Miami, but Little Havana is the aortic valve! Get a sense of why Miami is so unique and wander Calle Ocho. It is too long to walk the whole way, but even if you cab a bit and walk a bit you will see and taste why. Standouts for me include Los Pinareños Fruiteria, highest quality fruits and juices; Azucar Ice Cream Company, amazing and diverse flavors; Exquisito, classic Cuban food, and Versailles, for pastry, café espresso or con leche.”

Dena Marino, Chef/Owner, MC Kitchen (Bella Cucina Dinner)
Pace Yourself: “There is so much to enjoy; food, wine, beer and sun.  Make sure that you take it in slowly so that you will be able to enjoy it all weekend long. “ 
Embrace The Weather: “With so many events outside in the beautiful Florida sun, be sure to make time for the beach and stay hydrated.

Michelle Bernstein, Chef/Owner, Michy’s and CRUMB on Parchment (Spice it Up at Four Seasons! Dinner)
Keep it Simple: “The best way to have fun and see as much as possible during the Festival is to rent a bicycle, wear a back pack and bring clothes for an easy change.  Ladies, bring a little black dress, lipstick and wedged heels — no pumps as there is lots of sand. Bring a few pain killers, plan your hangover well... and don’t forget to eat! I know that seems unfathomable at a food festival, however if you drink before eating you won’t last.”

John Rivers, Pitmaster/Chef, 4 Rivers Smokehouse & The COOP (Amstel Light Burger Bash)
Moderation: “Fitting for South Beach, from the lyrics of Jimmy Buffet's Barometer Soup, ‘moderation seems to be the key.’  Pace yourself to enjoy more; small bites… lots and lots of off-the-charts small bites.”

Diego Oka, Executive Chef, La Mar by Gaston Acurio (Life’s a Beach, Then You Eat! Dinner)
Try This! “Medianoches & Mixology is the first Festival event taking place in the burgeoning Wynwood Arts District. There’s no better way to experience Miami than by tasting our iconic dishes and cocktails surrounded by incredible local street art in this trendy neighborhood.”

Best way to get around Miami Beach: “Parking in the South Beach area can be a little difficult during the Festival. I recommend parking on the West side of town and using the great DecoBike program. It’s a bike sharing service that allows you to rent a bike on an hourly basis. You can rent and park bikes at dozens of stations across the city and ride from event to event.”

David Sears, Executive Chef, SUSHISAMBA Coral Gables (Thrillist’s BBQ & The Blues)
Don’t Race Through The Experience: “As a first-timer to the Festival I’ll share a recommendation that I'll be following: not to get overwhelmed at the many options when walking into an event. Try to pace yourself through the process and utilize those the hours of your event to slowly and purposefully work your way through each station. With so many great restaurants under one tent, who wouldn’t want to try everything?”

Timon Balloo, Executive Chef, SUGARCANE raw bar grill & Bocce Bar (Swine and Wine)
Explore The “Other” Miami: “Enjoy the Festival, it’s an amazing experience, but if your schedule permits, see the other side of Miami. Visit me at my new restaurant, Bocce Bar in Midtown Miami, and be sure to hit up The Broken Shaker just a bit north of the Beach, for cocktails and ping pong. If you have a car, make the drive and grab Miami Chicharrones and juice at El Palacio De Los Juegos.”

Erwin Mallet, Executive Chef, Villa Azur (The Best of The Munchies)

Stay an Extra Day: “Replenish your system with much needed vitamins and nutrients and put in one more South Beach day. Grab a coffee, rent a bicycle and get yourself over to The Lincoln Road Farmers’ Market. The green market features the freshest fruits, vegetables, fresh cut flowers, plants and other items, such as bread, honey and jams. Immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of one of South Beach's most famous streets. Take in the picturesque scenery, bask in the tropical weather and of course do some people watching while truly experiencing Miami like a local.”


Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (Kitchen Heat!)
Make room for Brunch:I love the brunch at Eating House. The Cuban bread torrejas and Cap'n Crunch pancakes are some of my favorites on the menu. The Latin American influence mixed with the American breakfast staples makes this a delicious combination of the perfect breakfast. As someone who enjoys cooking, I admire the chef's voice and creativity in the taste of the food and the menu. Who knows, I just may try cooking this for my family.”