Behind the immense success of Perez Art Museum’s third annual Art of the Party is a man for whom wine and food are more than a passion, it’s also a lifestyle. Lee Brian Schrager orchestrated the 2016 dinner in honor of Chuck Close, blurring the borders between art and cuisine. Featuring dishes by celebrity chef Alex Guarnaschelli, hors d’oeuvres, buffet style selection, and a sit-down dinner menu kept partygoers coming back for seconds. Pesto and ricotta Gemelli pasta, ceviche bites with paprika, and a vast selection of seafood reflected the elegance of the occasion. Yet wholesome, light, simplistic dishes like Gemelli also played an important role on the dining table. Like the visual presentations at PAMM, the various tastes of the night had layers and dimensions, from minimalist to avant-garde.
Most know Schrager creative genius as the creator of the Wine and Food Festival in Miami—which has now grown to include New York and is expanding to Fort Lauderdale. From Feb 24-28, the event attracts over 60,000 locals and tourists alike to try new and impressive culinary experiences.
Yet Schrager has his finger in almost every pie on the culinary scene. He is vice president of Corporate Communications & National Events for Southern Wine & Spirits of America, the Chief Lifestyle Advisor for Gilt City, serves as a regular contributor to Ocean Drive magazine, is the consulting director of THE TASTE in Los Angeles, and is a current board member for the Food Bank For New York City.
If that wasn’t enough, Schrager also explores and transforms his experiences with food as an author. His published books include Fried & True, and Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival Cookbook. L’Etage spoke with the brains (and heart!) behind the food festival about his inspiration and drive to combine art and cuisine.
How are you enjoying PAMM Art of the Party?
Lee Brian Schrager: So far so good! Beautiful night, beautiful food, the most beautiful backdrop for any party you could have—The Perez Art Museum Miami.
The Wine and Food Festival was also an immense success. Could you tell us a bit about how art and cuisine overlap?
LSB: I’ve always found, by taking to Alex Guarneschelli, that people who create food and recipes are artists. I think that many people and chefs appreciate both.
You mention that you seek to find and recognize the best food/chefs/wine/entertainment in your field of work. Can you speak a bit more about why that is so important to the WFF?
LBS: We’re always looking to keep it fresh and exciting so we seek out new talent. Not only are we looking at Michelin, white tablecloth chefs, but also at pop culture. That’s also important so we can appeal to all different ranges. We’re one of the few festivals that can have Rachel Ray on one stage and Jose Andres at another. We can have Bobby Flay and Alen Ducas. The beauty of what we do is bringing it all together.
Which wine and food trends do you think deserve more recognition? Which do you think are overrated?
LSB: I thought bacon was overrated, and sea urchins…so I’m kind of happy to see them go. As for underrated, I think spices deserve more attention. Also, where your food is coming from, who is growing it, like what farm is raising your oysters. Recently there’s more recognition and credit given to the farmer and I’m really glad about that.