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NYC Wine & Food Festival founder Lee Brian Schrager keeps it fresh

Lee Brian Schrager, Wine and Food festival founder

Lee Brian Schrager, Wine and Food festival founder and director. Credit: Lee Brian Schrager, Wine and Food festival founder and director.

How do you think the festival has evolved in five years? I just think we've done a good job of listening to what people like and don't like, and in keeping things fresh.

We've always focused on great chefs - whether they're local or Food Network stars. At how many festivals do you have brunch with Paula Deen on one stage, and one by Blackberry Farm on the other? I think we do a good job of brining pop culture and the greatest names in the food industry together.

There seem to be more small dinners this year. Yes, definitely. We have a series at the International Culinary Center, some at City Grit, some at Bank of America. I think we've maxed out our dinners. The thing is that there's a whole world of people who are just into food, not necessarily fans of the Food Network, and these appeal to them. The dinners are focused on fine dining and great wine - they're smaller, more intimate experiences.

You also run the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. How different is that? South Beach is much smaller, and most events are on the beach. One of the hardest things about producing the event in New York is finding the right venues. We try to use cool venues, but we really have to build events around the venues, not venues around the event. We don't spend money to recreate the space, so it needs to be just right.

What are some of your favorite events? I'm definitely looking forward to the Roast of Anthony Bourdain, and the Trucks & Train event, too.

If the Bourdain roast works out, can we expect a different chef roast each year? I hope so. He was the perfect one to start with. I have to say, I'd love for there to be more. I think Tom Colicchio would be a good one. I think I'll go after him next.


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