The 2009 South Beach Wine & Food Festival kicks off tonight with the Burger Bash, but since Monday 850 students from the Hospitality Management program at Florida International University have been hard at work getting the place ready. To the extent that they put the actual 'food' in Wine & Food, these kids are the engine of this festival: they'll prep, per F.I.U. bossman chef Michael Moran, 2 tons of pork and beef, 1 ton of seafood, and 2 tons of produce to plate 22,500 servings of food. Chef Moran also told us he'll use 2 miles of tin foil by the time they wrap on Sunday.
We caught up with the students in the belly of the beast, the Bubble Q prep kitchen, as Tom Colicchio's ingredients were arriving, a detail that is only relevant to the extent it allows us to name drop 'Don Tom' in this post. While the big man didn't come through himself, students did catch glimpses of "his sous chef," ostensibly one Damon Wise. Also making appearances in the prep kitchen today were Adam Perry Lang and Tom Douglas among others. As for the rest of the team on the ground here, Spike Mendelsohn, Randy Garutti, and about 30 of Rachel Ray's army are at the Burger Bash tents prepping; The Dash Feedbag and Restaurant Girl were last seen together, checking into separate rooms at the Royal Palms Hotel; and we have had zero, repeat zero, Rocco Dispirito sightings thus far. But dude is here somewhere.