From SOBEWFF® To Culinary Influencer

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By: Lee Brian Schrager, Founder and Director, SOBEWFF®

How Volunteering at America’s Favorite Wine and Food Festival Kick Started a Career

It’s just a few short weeks before thousands of famished foodies descend upon South Beach for the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF®) presented by Capital One. While most epicurean enthusiasts know the event for its eclectic mix of haute cuisine and pop culture celebrity, many don’t know about some of the surprising stars of today’s food scene who got their start in SOBEWFF®’s famous white sands. To provide inside scoop about a SOBEWFF® success story, Festival founder Lee Brian Schrager talks to Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan, VP of Culinary Operations for Rachael Ray and co-founder of her Yum-o! nonprofit organization that empowers kids and their families to develop healthy relationships with food and cooking. Kappy shares how his humble beginnings as a Festival student volunteer led him to his exciting career working with one of the most famous food personalities, and what he loves about today’s Miami food scene.

Lee: How did you come to work for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival®?
Andrew: While attending Florida International University’s (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, I saw posters for students to volunteer – it was only the second year the festival was on the beach. I asked my professor if I could help volunteer with some of the chefs and he made me a student lead for the celebrity chef culinary demo series. After my volunteer experience, the festival offered me a full-time job – this is how I met Rachael Ray.

Rachel Ray's Yappy Hour at SOBEWFF
Rachael Ray's Yappy Hour at SOBEWFF

Lee: What still makes SOBEWFF® different from other wine and food festivals?
Andrew: There’s nothing and will never be anything like it – the breadth of talent, the quality, consistency and creativity of events, and just for it being based in Miami as a destination. Where else do you get to interact with blocks and blocks of world-class chefs? So many restaurants in Miami and from around the world participate in SOBEWFF® and at the end of the day, the event is a huge benefit that is helping support future leaders in hospitality at FIU. There have been many incredible wine and food festivals launched since SOBEWFF®, but you can’t compare any to what has been built in Miami and how many people have benefited over the last 19 years.

Lee: What do you enjoy most about your current role with Rachael Ray’s organization?
Andrew: My current role is VP of Culinary Ops and co-founder of Yum-o! I love that it’s all things food and I love educating people about food. I like that every day is different, new and fresh. There’s always a new challenge, which is what makes it exciting.

Lee: What was the inspiration for your Beyond the Plate podcast?
Andrew: Beyond the Plate was many years in the making. I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the country and the world and eat at different types of restaurants, from small mom and pops to super fancy establishments. Through those experiences, I’ve made friends with many chefs and I know they are more than the food they prepare and serve. They are some of the most talented and giving people and I thought their stories should be told. That’s why I do the podcast.

Andrew Kaplan
Andrew Kaplan

Lee: What will people see on your @onkappysplate Instagram account?
Andrew: It’s all food. Now I have 16-month-old twins, so they show up from time to time too. But to me, food is power – it inspires people to connect. It’s not just me sharing what I’m eating. I would love someone to be inspired to go to a restaurant I posted about and try it. If that creates a memory and experience for them, I think I’ve done my job.

Lee: Who are some of your favorite local social media influencers? Who should we be following?
Andrew: Well, you are one of course! I like to see where you eat and also what new events are coming up. Zak the Baker is super talented – I’m annoyed that he wasn’t around when I lived in Miami! I love to follow Hedy Goldsmith. Everything she makes is delicious and comforting. I also follow Tamer Harpke from Harpke Family Farm.

La SandwicherieLa Sandwicherie

Lee: What do you think is unique about the Miami food scene?
Andrew: I love the Miami food scene for the old-school places that have stood the test of time and are traditional and authentic. I love La Sandwicherie for a great sandwich – whether it’s during the day and pulling up a stool at the counter, bringing a sandwich to the beach or going late night (not that I’ve ever done that). I love the iconic David’s Cuban Café for cafecito and croquetas. I also love Puerto Sagua for its down-home Cuban diner feel. When I was in Miami 15 years ago, there was a lot of fusion which was the hip new thing, but it wasn’t so good at the time. Today, there’s been so much growth with great quality food, great chefs from Miami and great chefs wanting to come to Miami. Miami has really upped its game and put itself on the map in the food world.

Now that you know a little bit more about what makes SOBEWFF® so special, take a peek at all the great events and parties happening at the 2020 Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival from February 19 – 23!

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