Epic Epicurean

When Lee Brian Schrager joined Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in 2000 as their Director of Media & Special Events, they had just started the Florida Extravaganza with FIU; what we know today as the epic South Beach Wine & Food Festival.
Words by Stacy Wynn | Portrait by Melanie Dunea | January 25, 2023 | Lifestyle

“I’m really looking forward to launching FoodieCon this year, bringing influential digital creators together. The Sunday Table Jazz Brunch will be hosted by James Beard Award-winner Mashama Bailey along with an exceptional line-up of chefs.”

The first Florida Extravaganza was a 1-day wine tasting on FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus that drew 600 people and raised money for the Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management. “I took one look and saw great potential to move it to one of the world’s most beautiful beaches and turn it into a destination event,” says Lee Brian Schrager, the Founder & Director of Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival and Senior Vice President, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. “Here we are, 22 years and $34 million in proceeds later, drawing about 60,000 guests and giving more than 1,200 student volunteers real-world hands-on experience in the hospitality industry.” In fact, the event has grown so large he advises attendees to plan ahead and pace themselves. “Our website is an all-encompassing source of information — look at who’s coming to what event and map out who you really want to see and meet,” he says. “If you’re going to multiple events, don’t forget to drink lots of water in between and wear comfortable shoes. And don’t forget your stretchy pants!” This year, he cannot wait to celebrate his dear friend Alex Guarnaschelli at Tribute Dinner. “She is so deserving of the award and it will be wonderful to have all her friends come together to honor her,” he says. When not working, Lee loves to spend time with his dogs “The Browns” as well as travel and frequent his favorite restaurants;