Check out South Beach Wine and Food Fest Part 1
Schrager grew up in Long Island and moved to Miami at age 15. He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and in 1988, opened up the South Beach gay club Torpedo. He also owned and managed the
South Beach eateries Chow and Spot. Schrager then embarked on a 17 year career with the InterContinental Hotels group, making a name for himself in the Food & Beverage department. He joined
Southern Wine and Spirits in 2000, and turned what was then known as the Florida Extravaganza from a one-day event on FIU’s Biscayne Bay Campus into the weekend retreat that many consider to be the greatest wine and food festival around the world.
Schrager said 20 years ago, Miami had a small culinary scene, but events like the festival have given local chefs the chance to shine, not to mention helped boost South Beach’s tourism dollar.
“I’m confident that the media that comes down here for festival weekend has catapulted some of the chefs to the recognition they are getting,” Schrager said. “Also, we fill a lot of hotel rooms. We bring people down here that really help to stimulate the economy on the beach. It’s good for everybody.”
Many credit Schrager for having the vision to expand the festival every year and bring in big-name talent that really attracts the crowds.
“He’s truly the rainmaker,” said Hedy Goldsmith, the openly-lesbian Executive Pastry Chef at Michaels Genuine Food and Drink in Miami. “I’ve seen Lee evolve from this dynamo catering guru into this businessman with an enormous vision. But the best part is that he involves all the local chefs.”
Schrager said his favorite benefit from his job is he is the guy that gets the final say on all the big decisions.