PB Food and Wine Fest: Five big food stars you’ve never heard of

If you watch Food Network competition shows or Bravo’s “Top Chef” series, you’ll recognize a lot of the culinary talent at this year’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, which runs from Dec. 8 through 11. There’s Robert Irvine of “Restaurant Impossible” fame. There’s Jeff Mauro of “The Kitchen.” There’s Marc Murphy of “Chopped.”

But some faces are less familiar, except maybe to in-the-know gastronomes. Here are five big food stars you may not know, but should.

George Mendes

Chef George Mendes (center) poses with fellow stars Mike Lata (left) and Daniel Boulud (right). (LILA PHOTO)
Chef George Mendes (center) poses with fellow chefs Mike Lata (left) and Daniel Boulud (right). (LILA PHOTO)

This New York City chef/restaurateur creates dishes that reflect his Portuguese roots. At his restaurant Aldea, Mendes’ refined touch has earned the spot a Michelin star every year since 2010. Last year, he opened Lupulo, a Lisbon-inspired “cervejaria” (brew pub), which houses a daytime takeout window called Bica. Mendes has been a semifinalist for the prestigious James Beard Award for “best chefs in America” four times.

Mendes is scheduled to appear at the “Sustain” dinner at PB Catch in Palm Beach on Dec. 8. That event costs $170 per person.

Mike Lata

Charleston star chef Mike Lata. (LILA PHOTO)
Charleston star chef Mike Lata at last year’s festival. (LILA PHOTO)

If you’ve flocked to Charleston for the great foodie scene, you may have dined at one of Lata’s acclaimed restaurants. A pivotal figure in the city’s culinary renaissance, he’s the star chef behind FIG Restaurant and The Ordinary. FIG is a local favorite, serving farm-inspired Lowcountry food. The Ordinary is Lata’s “fancy seafood” spot. Lata is a James Beard Award winner for best chef in the Southeast. He was a nominee for the prestigious award twice before. Most noteworthy perhaps: Lata is a self-taught chef.

Lata will participate in three festival events, a dinner at Buccan Palm Beach, a street food competition at the Four Seasons and a brunch with Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud. All three events are sold out.

Lee Wolen

Michelin man: Chicago chef Lee Wolen. (Contributed by Lee Wolen)
Michelin man: Chicago chef Lee Wolen. (Contributed by Lee Wolen)

Here’s a cook with a dream resume. Wolen has worked in the company of great chefs throughout a career which has taken him into the kitchens of some of the world’s finest restaurants, the legendary, late El Bulli among them.

The Cleveland native polished his craft at Eleven Madison Park, the famed three-Michelin-starred New York restaurant. More recently, in Chicago, Wolen earned a Michelin star at The Lobby at the Peninsula, where he was chef de cuisine. In 2014, he became executive chef/partner of Boka Restaurant in that city, helping the restaurant maintain its prized Michelin star for three years. Last year, the Chicago Tribune named him Chef of the Year.

Wolen will appear at the festival’s “Rise and Dine” breakfast at the Eau Palm Beach Resort on Dec. 10. Tickets are $75 each.

Anita Lo

Anita Lo at Annisa, Greenwich Village. (Contributed by Annisa)
Anita Lo at Annisa, Greenwich Village. (Contributed by Annisa)

She’s the chef and creative mind behind Annisa restaurant in Greenwich Village, where the refined dishes reveal Lo’s Asian roots and high-end French training. (Her miso marinated sable with crispy silken tofu in bonito broth is simply divine.) Lo is a Michigan-raised, first generation Chinese-American who as a college student plunged herself into French food, language and culture. She honed her French culinary techniques in top restaurants in Paris and New York, coming into her own with the opening of Annisa in 2000. Almost instantly, she amassed accolades. Then, 9 years later, a fire destroyed her restaurant. Lo spent a year traveling and rebuilding, reopening Annisa in 2010. As the chef returned with renewed inspiration, the raves returned as well.

Lo is set to appear at the “Sustain” dinner at PB Catch in Palm Beach on Dec. 8. That event costs $170 per person.

Jose Mendin

Rock star in the 305: Chef Jose Mendin of the Pubbelly Miami. (Galdones Photography)
Rock star in the 305: Chef Jose Mendin of the Pubbelly Miami. (Galdones Photography)

You may know this name if you’re familiar with Miami’s vibe-y dining scene. Mendin is chef and founding partner of the Pubbelly family of hot and happening restaurants, three of them clustered on one South Beach block. As a chef, he fuses global flavors and ideas into “soul” dishes reminiscent of Mendin’s Puerto Rican roots.

Some of this – like the Pubbelly gastro pub cochinillo (sucking pig) with green apples and fennel and chanterelles and soy butter jus – shouldn’t work. But it does. In many ways, Mendin is the chef who best reflects right-now Miami. In the 1980s, that rather fantastic reflection came from the famed Mango Gang of award-winning chefs. Today, it’s Mendin and his “Pubbelly boys” who translate the 305 dialects most exquisitely onto the plate.

Mendin is appearing at the festival’s “Rise and Dine” breakfast at the Eau Palm Beach Resort on Dec. 10. Tickets are $75 each.

 

PB Food & Wine Festival: ticket sales strong, Coolio out, new stars join

Coolio, rapper and unexpected foodie, will not appear at December’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival after all, thanks to his recent arrest in Los Angeles on gun charges, organizers say. The 90s star also known as Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was charged with felony firearm possession after a gun was found in his backpack during a security check at Los Angeles International Airport last month.

But here’s an actual culinary star foodies can get excited about: Chef Lee Wolen of Chicago’s Michelin-starred Boka Restaurant recently joined the festival lineup. The James Beard Award nominee will be cooking at the “Rise and Dine” breakfast Saturday, Dec. 10.

Star chefs Marc Murphy (left) and Jeff Mauro, beneath the Palm Beach sun. (LILA PHOTO)
Star chefs Marc Murphy (left) and Jeff Mauro, beneath the Palm Beach sun. (LILA PHOTO)

Also new to the festival, which runs from Dec. 8-11, is food TV personality Adam Richman, of “Man V. Food” fame, who is scheduled to appear at two prime Saturday events.

Like Coolio, Richman is not without his own controversies. He has now regained status in the food TV world two years after a blistering Instagram rant derailed his Travel Channel “Man Finds Food” series. (The show premiered the following year with a new name.)

Before the Insta-rant: Adam Richman on set in 2008. (Cox Newspapers photo)
Before the Insta-rant: Adam Richman on set in 2008. (Cox Newspapers photo)

Wolen and Richman join a food star lineup that includes nationally acclaimed chefs like Jonathon Sawyer, Daniel Boulud, George Mendes, Ken Oringer, Mike Lata and Anita Lo, TV celebrity chefs like Jeff Mauro and Robert Irvine, and star Miami chefs like Michelle Bernstein, Jose Mendin, Brad Kilgore, Giorgio Rapicavoli and Timon Balloo.

“The festival is continuing to add new and fresh faces and exciting talent,” says festival organizer David Sabin. “We’re now finalizing the participation of other award-winning and notable chefs.”

Add to those Palm Beach stars like Clay Conley, Lindsay Autry, Tim Lipman, Zach Bell, Rick Mace and Julien Gremaud and you have the largest congregation of chefs in Florida in December.

Refined bites at the festival's "Sustain" event in 2015. (LILA PHOTO)
Refined bites at the festival’s “Sustain” event in 2015. (LILA PHOTO)

With two months still to go till its kickoff event, the Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival has sold out nearly half of its events.

The four-day festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in December, also has sold out of its four offered ticket packages.

Of its 15 scheduled events, top-sellers include the festival’s “Street Food” competition, the “Kids Kitchen” cooking classes (both at the Four Seasons Resort), and the “Chef Welcome Party” at The Breakers. The fest wraps up with a “Grand Tasting” bash and chefs’ throw-down at The Gardens Mall on the night of Dec. 11, a Sunday.

Ticket sales are exceeding expectation, says Sabin.

“It’s a testimonial to the thriving dining culture in Palm Beach County,” he says. “Year to year, festival-goers are growing more familiar with the venues and our staple events. It’s obvious in the response we’ve received to our signature events.”

Snack + snap: A Four Seasons Resort cook prepares party food at the fest. (LILA PHOTO)
Snack + snap: A Four Seasons Resort cook prepares party food at the fest. (LILA PHOTO)

Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival

The festival, which celebrates its 10th anniversary, runs from Dec. 8 through 11. For information and tickets, visit PBFoodWineFest.com.

Who’s coming to PB Food & Wine Fest? Stars revealed, tickets on sale

The Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest celebrates its 10th birthday this year. (LILA PHOTO)
The Palm Beach Food & Wine Fest celebrates its 10th birthday this year. (LILA PHOTO)

Foodie alert: Tickets are now on sale for December’s Palm Beach Food & Wine Festival, the four-day culinary bash featuring some of the top chefs in the country. And Coolio.

More on the Palm Beach/ Gangsta’s Paradise mashup in a bit.

This year’s festival, which runs from Dec. 8-11, welcomes new faces in the food world as well as some returning stars. And the 10-year-old fest welcomes at least one veteran rapper who dubs himself “The Ghetto Gourmet.” Here’s a rundown.

Chef Jose Mendin is shown here after a big win at the Cochon 555 regional fest. (Galdones Photography/COCHON 555)
Miami chef Jose Mendin. (COCHON 555)

New faces include Miami powerhouse chef Jose Mendin, whose Pubbelly Restaurant Group has redefined local-meets-global cuisine in that city and “Top Chef” winner Jeremy Ford. They will be joined by fellow Miami chef Richard Hales, whose Asian-centric restaurants Sakaya Kitchen and Blackbrick Chinese are among Miami’s most popular, and by James Beard Award-winning chef Michelle Bernstein. Also a newcomer to the festival: Amanda Cohen, chef/owner of New York City’s Dirt Candy vegetarian restaurant.

PHOTO GALLERY: 2015 PB FOOD & WINE FEST SCENES AND FACES

Returning faces include Food Network stars Robert Irvine, Jeff Mauro, Marc Murphy, celebrity chefs Daniel Boulud, Jonathon Sawyer, Elizabeth Falkner, Anita Lo, Johnny Iuzzini, Virginia Willis, Stephen Stryjewski, George Mendes, Mike Lata, Timon Balloo, Giogio Rapicavoli, Ken Oringer and Beau MacMillan.

Local top chefs include Lindsay Autry, Clay Conley, Tim Lipman, Julien Gremaud, Sean Brasel, Zach Bell, Rick Mace, and others.

While the festival returns to The Gardens Mall for its big closing-night finale, it also adds new events and venues to the mix this year.

There will be a plant-based, multi-course dinner at Avocado Grill, a “Southern Revival” lunch at Lindsay Autry’s soon-to-open Regional Kitchen & Public House, a rare lunch at the always-busy Palm Beach Grill and at least one late night party that’s already sold out.

"Ghetto Gourmet" Coolio will be food-festing in Palm Beach. (Cox Newspapers photo)
“Ghetto Gourmet” Coolio will be food-festing in Palm Beach. (Cox Newspapers photo)

Which brings us to Coolio, headliner at that sold-out late-night party.

“But you will see him throughout the whole weekend, enjoying the festivities,” says festival director David Sabin, who suggests he and his staff may have “a couple more surprises up our sleeves.”

What does Coolio bring to a culinary fest?

The recording artist who calls himself “The Ghetto Gourmet” does have a cookbook: “Cookin’ with Coolio.”

Here’s what his website, coolioworld.com, says about his cooking skills:

“His style is brash and in your face, for which he doesn’t apologize.”

It offers this quote from the veteran rapper: “People learn better when they’re entertained. Cooking isn’t just for the starched-stiff elite. Everyone should know how to cook something.”

Boom!