Chef Tom Invited to Special Cooking Event

Originally written as a “company news” piece for All Things Barbecue

Every February, while most of the Northern hemisphere is chilled, the annual Food Network and Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) takes place in South Beach Miami.  Hundreds of chefs from around the world fly in to cook at various dinners and parties. They also compete, cooking side by side,at one or more of the over 90 events attended by over 65,000 people.

ATBBQ Chef Tom Jackson was invited to participate in the Burger Bash and Beachside BBQ competitions because of the following he has on YouTube.  With over 112,000 subscribers, the All Things BBQ video channel has fans from around the globe. So, this past weekend Chef Tom, along with ATBBQ cinematographer Justin Cary, flew to Miami Beach.  Once there, they met up with Kamado Joe Chef Eric Gephart.

Although the trip was off to a rocky start, with bad weather in Kansas resulting in flight cancellations and extreme departure delays, our crew arrived to find that event management had arranged to help make up for the lost time.  The travel delays cost the team a day of food prep. Student volunteers from Florida International University (FIU) Chaplin School of Hospitality were on hand to chop, dice and slice.

FIU students are the primary beneficiaries of SOBEWFF, which is in it’s 16th year.  Over 1,200 students volunteer their time working alongside the chefs and culinary teams, helping with food prep and serving during the event. The festival serves as an interactive educational platform students who will become leaders in the hospitality industry. South Beach Wine and Food Festival has raised more than $26 million for for FIU to date.

With all the prep done, it was time to start cooking.  Friday night’s event was the Burger Bash where Guy Fieri gave Chef Tom a “well done” fist bump for his “Bacon Jam Smashburger.”  Fieri was only one of many people that Chef Tom met during SOBEWFF.

“It was exciting for me to connect with people who have been watching me on YouTube for a long time,” said Chef Tom, “ And at the same time I was able to meet chefs that I’ve looked up to.“

But the best moment for Chef Tom came on the final day of the event.

“We were cooking flank steak on Sunday during the Beachside BBQ event.  There was a dance party going on. It was me, Eric Gephart and his wife, Justin and a few volunteer students from FIU.  We were enjoying the event, serving up the food and connecting with the people. It was a great time.”

Chef Tom summed it up, “The people we met, those connections will last beyond the weekend.  And their impression of us, of the company, they know us now as friendly and helpful.”