South Beach Wine & Food Festival's Best Kept Secret

Meet the chef behind the celebrity chefs at the Miami Beach Convention Center

By Adam Kuperstein
|  Thursday, Feb 24, 2011  |  Updated 12:51 PM EDT
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Foodies are already licking their lips at the thought of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, but what  a lot of people probably don't know is who is behind the delicious dishes served at a lot of the parties.

Foodies are already licking their lips at the thought of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, but what a lot of people probably don't know is who is behind the delicious dishes served at a lot of the parties.

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Inside the kitchen at the Miami Beach Convention Center, you'll find the South Beach Wine & Food Festival's best kept secret: the chef behind the chefs.

Jonathan Barnett is an executive chef for an event catering service called Centerplate. He and his crew are preparing the food for the two biggest events of the weekend, "The Bubble Q" (hosted by Bobby Flay) and "Let Them Eat Cake" (hosted by Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse).

"It's crazy pressure," said Barnett. "Not only is it for my peers, but we have a lot of logistics going on. And it's Martha's friends and it's Emeril's friends and at Centerplate we want to be part of this year after year.

"We gotta make sure we live up to our standard and we deliver for these people."

And these aren't just any people. They pay a lot of money, and expect high-quality food.

And Barnett has big plans. On Wednesday, he was testing out a few of his recipes for Friday night's "Let Them Eat Cake" party. He picked all the savory dishes that will be served at the reception before the celebrities unveil their desserts. But he couldn't do it alone.

Thanks to Chef Michael Moran, 1,100 students from Florida International University's School of Hospitality and Tourism help out and learn from the best at the same time.

"They are instrumental to what we do," Barnett said. "We need all of them to make this happen. We are only two people."

At the Bubble Q, 30 celebrity chefs will present dishes that were prepared at the Miami Beach Convention Center. The recipes were chosen by the celebrity chefs, but the people devouring the food probably have no idea that Centerplate deserves a lot of the credit.

"I'm very cool with that," said Barnett. "That is typical of a kitchen. We do a lot of what we do, not for the recognition, but for our own personal satisfaction."


Follow Adam Kuperstein on Twitter
@akuperstein
 

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