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Why Honoring Locals At The South Beach Wine And Food Festival Matters


About a year ago, the Miami Herald named business reporter Evan Benn its new food editor. He was appointed because Miami's paper of record noticed the importance of South Florida's booming culinary industry. 

That's an industry Benn is well connected with, and during this year's South Beach Wine and Food Festival, he's putting in the spotlight the people who make South Florida matter to the larger world of good cuisine.

The Herald's South Florida Food 50, published online Wednesday, is a list of 50 chefs, restaurateurs, brewers and more who are "shaping the way we eat and drink."

"Farmers like Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm and Teena Borek of Teena's Pride, pioneers of South Florida's community-supported agriculture programs and farm-to-table dining, who were advocating that way of eating long before they became foodie buzzwords," Benn said in an email. "Small-business owners like Luis Brignoni, who paved the way for the craft-beer wave we're riding here today by navigating through so much bureaucratic red tape to open his Wynwood Brewing Co., allowing others to easily follow."

Benn wrote that the Food 50 is a way to spotlight the people, not the places of South Florida's culinary landscape. And by honoring those chefs, bloggers, bakers and farmers, he levels them with the Food Network celebrities and star chefs of the SoBe festival. At a local level, these are our food celebrities.

On the eve of SoBeWFF, Benn is hosting a reception for the 50 local honorees. The event should set the tone for a long weekend of significant local participation in a nationally visible event, in a field which South Florida has long not been considered a player.

The Herald reported this week that about 150 of the 350 participating chefs at the festival are from Florida. Unlike Miami Beach's other massive festival, Art Basel, often criticized for its lack of support for local artists, SoBeWFF is taking notice of the talent and success going on at home.

In terms of American heritage, Miami is a young city. South Florida is seldom synonymous with culture among other big-city crowds. 

As WLRN has reported frequently, the arts are ever-growing here, putting us on the proverbial map. Recognition of local food-industry talent will do the same. Because who could ever have a big, globally relevant city littered solely with chain restaurants serving watery suds?