New to This Year’s Menu at Southern Food Festivals: Diversity

Over the last weekend the streets of Miami were filled with more than the usual food and wine lovers that frequent Miami. These guests were anxiously awaiting the opening of the Food Network South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF) or more easily known as #SOBEWFF! However, there was one thing missing in years past from the festival: diversity! Though the SOBEWFF is held in the multicultural City of Miami Beach, the festival lacked black and brown representation in years past.

Diversity and Food & Wine Festivals

"As a Festival, it is our goal to serve as a valuable platform that celebrates the diverse restaurant and bar community in South Florida while raising critical funds for the students at Florida Internationals' Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management," said Lee Brian Schrager, Festival Founder & Director. "Diversity and inclusivity make each of us better individually, but also collectively, as an organization, and we are committed to action and know that Dr. Davis and her team will help us move the needle forward when it comes to representation."

SobeWFF 2022
SobeWFF 2022

The initiative comes after Lee met with a group of journalists in the Fall after an outcry of lack of diversity represented at the festival. The National Association of Black Journalists South Florida Chapter discussed the need for more black chefs to be invited, black media credentialed and black dollars going towards advertising.

Lee admitted more could be done and hired black consultant Dr. Davis to meet the festival's needs to be more inclusive. A scroll through the events homepage showed a plethora of chefs of colors in this year's line-up.

But the festival still has ways to go to be more inclusive. Tickets for the event start around $75 per person with most ranging from $200-$400. And for many, it's simply not affordable.

"I've been pretty impressed with what I've seen so far. Last year they had no black judges during the burger competition, and this year, they have so many," said Chelsea Miller.

Miller attends a few events every year during the festival, but says the prices keep her from attending more. She hopes the calls for inclusion were a wake-up call to the organizers.

"I'm glad that the organizers are finally embracing diversity more seriously, but I still think more can be done with having more black chefs and making the tickets more affordable for people like me," she said.

"But it's a good start," she finished.

The average income of Black families in Miami-Dade County is $57k compared to their white counterparts who bring home $86k a year.

Dr. Lisa Davis shares that "It is an honor to be joining this great Festival, I am excited and look forward to working with fellow industry leaders to open the door and create opportunities for everyone and to ensure that we leverage the festival's expansive platform to promote diversity."

Charleston Wine & Food Festival Brings Diverse Offerings to the South

A few states away, the Charleston Wine & Food Event takes center stage in South Carolina. Festival Organizers promise attendees a fun time to include various brunches to an epic Southern Styled barbecue and everything in between.

cook at charleston wine and food festival
CHSWFF

Tickets hover around $100 with most events already sold out.

Throughout the weekend, organizers plan to showcase their motto "Love thy neighbor. Support local business. Rally for our community; for good food, good drink, and good company. Together is just better."

A quick glance on their website shows a diverse selection of chefs, artists, and judges with the goal of sharing with the world that Charleston is a culinary destination bringing & international attention to the city through the production of food and wine.

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