South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Lee Brian Schrager, one of the nation’s preeminent event planners and public relations experts, serves as the Vice President of Corporate Communications & National Events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America. He joined the company in 2000 and oversees projects for the company in all 30 states in which it does business.
Most noteworthy in Schrager’s extensive resume is his creation of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival® from a one-day event known as the Florida Extravaganza, held at FloridaInternationalUniversity’s Biscayne Bay Campus. In 2002 Schrager evolved the event into a national star-studded, three-day weekend destination event; benefiting the Florida International University School of Hospitality and Tourism Management and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center, attracting the who’s who of the wine, spirits and culinary world to the sand, surf and sun of South Beach. Relocating to SouthBeach, the renamed South Beach Wine & Food Festival® attracted close to 7,000 guests to a series of dinners, seminars and the Grand Tasting and Live Auction in its first year. Now heading into its tenth year, the ninth annual Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival was attended by approximately 53,000 people hungry for a taste of the festival’s impressive lineup of events filled with the biggest names in the culinary world and a wine program second-to-none.
As the South Beach Wine & Food Festival® approaches a decade of hosting the best in the business, Schrager is working on the release of his first book, Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook (Clarkson Potter, November 16, 2010; $35/hardcover).
In October 2008, in conjunction with many of the same partners that support the Festival in SouthBeach, Schrager launched the inaugural Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival which benefits both the Food Bank For New York City and Share Our Strength®. Last year, the event hosted over 30,000 guests, taking place throughout New York City – from the Meatpacking District to Pier 54 – and is entering its third year, taking place over Columbus Day weekend.
A SouthBeach visionary, Schrager opened Torpedo, one of the first bars in SouthBeach in 1988. He then opened a health food restaurant, Chow, in SouthBeach and joined forces with actor Mickey Rourke to open Spot, a popular dinner club.
Prior to joining Southern Wine & Spirits of America, Schrager spent 17 years with InterContinental Hotels across the country where he began as a room service manager and worked his way up to Vice President of Food & Beverage at the InterContinental Hotels. Schrager studied at the Culinary Institute of America and at the School of Hospitality Management at FloridaInternationalUniversity. Schrager has also been awarded the Community Service Medallion from FloridaInternationalUniversity. An active philanthropist, Schrager was a founding member of the White Party, a benefit for South Florida's oldest and largest HIV/AIDS service organization,Care Resource; Chairman of the Make A Wish Foundation Gala for the past 10 years; Chairman for Jackson Memorial Hospitals Golden Angels Gala for 4 years; as well as a current member of the Board of Directors for the Food Bank for New York City. Lee received the prestigious Food Arts Silver Spoon award in January of 2008 for his creation of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival®, and was inducted into the BizBash Hall of Fame in April 2010.