Now Playing

Lab Work

With three new culinary laboratories at FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, the South Beach Wine & Food Festival makes good on its promise to tomorrow’s professional gourmets.

FIU Chaplin School students learning the intricacies of the grape at the Wine Spectator Restaurant Management Laboratory

If you ever wondered what happens to the millions of dollars that are raised annually by the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, you’re probably not alone. After all, the fine print that says how the profits benefit Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management is a rather nebulous statement. But rest assured, the funds do go directly into the culinary arts as promised and the results are visibly educating tomorrow’s chefs, sommeliers and food-and-beverage managers for the better.

That’s because Festival founder and director Lee Brian Schrager’s hard work has resulted in three new, cutting-edge culinary and beverage management laboratories where students can practice real-world concepts in a fail-safe environment. And, at least one of the labs, the Wine Spectator Restaurant Management Laboratory, will be open to the public for special events, so festival-goers can see for themselves the results of their altruism. This particular workshop allows students to brainstorm and test entrepreneurial theories and advanced management techniques, all centered around one of Miami’s favorite beverages. The highlight of the Wine Spectator lab, as you might suspect, is a double-story wine tower that holds almost 1,000 temperature-controlled bottles.

Another beverage facility, the Brewing Science Laboratory, a facility designed for research and development, is what FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management Dean Mike Hampton calls “a major differentiator for the university’s hospitality curriculum.” As far as analytic chemistry instructor Dr. Barry Gump knows, only UC Davis has a similar facility. “The FIU brew lab will allow our academic students to see and utilize more sophisticated brewing equipment than that used in our basic brewing experiences,” he says. “Interested students will also be allowed to work with more advanced student brewers to better their skills and become more consistent. There will be opportunities to collaborate with commercial brewers to attempt to craft new products and the facility will also be used in testing any new brewing yeast developed at FIU.”

Finally, the Food Production Laboratory will provide chefs-in-the-making room to craft their responses to exercises that are both experimental and those that have real-world application. Indeed, the 38-plus-foot cooking line and 385-square-foot kitchen prep area, replete with custom workstations, will be used for both low- and high-production events. These include, of course, the high-energy SBW&FF fundraiser that gifted them these opportunities in the first place.

The dining room of the Restaurant Management lab