“Being in Miami you kind of get used to seeing celebrities out and about. But when I see the celebrity chefs that I watch on TV and sometimes mimic, the guys who have set trends in the industry for years and years, that’s always really exciting.” –Chef Andy St. Ange
Chef Andy St. Ange isn’t hoping to defend the “Red Stripe Burger Bash” title his American Social Brickell Restaurant team from Miami won at the 2021 South Beach Wine and Food Festival – he’s planning on it.
“I am not going to try to defend the title – I am definitely going to defend it. We’re bringing that trophy back again,” said St. Ange, American Social’s Executive Chef, with conviction. “We’re coming with a different challenger this year so we’re keeping it low key and quiet. It’s going to be a very, very Miami-based competition with our burger this year.”
The Red Stripe Burger Bash will be hosted by TV’s Rachael Ray and Chef Jose Andres. It takes place on the schedule beside the Ritz Carlton South Beach just before the Wine Spectator “Best of the Best” tasting event, which is at the famed Fontainebleau Hotel.
In 2020, the Westin family from little, unassuming Kewpie’s Restaurant from Lansing, Michigan, drove down to the South Beach Wine and Food Festival and upset the high-powered field with its olive burger. So, what was the secret to St. Ange’s “Social Smash Burger” 2021 victory in the annual Burger Bash competition?
“Definitely the ‘social smash sauce.’ It had Asian flavors with some sesame and had some kick to it. People don’t usually think of Asian flavors when they think of burgers. I think it caught them off guard and pleased the crowd,” explained St. Ange.
Dipping Down in Class?
The win was a triumph, but what’s an acclaimed chef who completed a degree in Culinary Arts and became a professor at South Florida’s Le Cordon Bleu school doing flipping burgers?
“Burgers are my ‘go-to.’ My wife gets tired when we go out to places and the first thing I do is order a burger with all the fancy food I have eaten and cooked over my career. A burger is just all-American. You can’t go wrong with a burger,” insisted St. Ange.
2022’s edition of the annual, splashy South Beach Wine and Food Festival is held on Miami Beach February 24-27. The weekend includes, among many other events, many sold separately, a lavish Oyster Bash; a Bacardi Tiki Cocktail Showdown with TV’s Andrew Zimmern; a brunch by Jean-Georges Vongerichten; and a daily, festive Goya Foods Grand Tasting Village with live music, day drinking and dancing right on the sand near Lummus Park right across from the art deco hotels of Ocean Drive.
Celebrity Chef Status
St. Ange, a Haitian who began his career as a busboy and spent years working in a kitchen, is now out front as one of Miami’s most high-profile celebrity chefs. Even so, he admits to getting a little star-struck during the celebrity-laden South Beach Wine and Food Festival, where in 2020 the likes of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, stars of television’s “Breaking Bad,” were on-site serving their mescal.
“Being in Miami you kind of get used to seeing celebrities out and about. But when I see the celebrity chefs that I watch on TV and sometimes mimic, the guys who have set trends in the industry for years and years, that’s always really exciting. It’s the most fun part of it,” he admitted.
Celebrity chefs and television stars like the human firework Guy Fieri, from “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” will open the festival with a Thursday night live version of his TV show with 40 chefs who have appeared on it; and Chef Michael Symon will appear in Miami’s Design District, for instance. The irascible Robert Irvine, who harshly remakes kitchens on the television reality series “Restaurant Impossible.”
St. Ange will also be appearing with country music star Trisha Yearwood at the “Southern Kitchen Brunch” during the South Beach Wine and Food Festival, staged annually in late February. “That’s an exciting event to do. It always gets us rave reviews.”
Celebrities, on a regular basis since it opened in 2014, frequent St. Ange’s Miami busy Brickell neighborhood restaurant – American Social Brickell.
“They find nothing but good times, good views and good drinks. You come out there and it’s quintessential Miami.’ It’s got a 3,000 square-foot patio right on the Miami River. Beautiful scenery. Multi-million-dollar yachts pulling up and people jumping off and celebrities driving by. You often get Miami Heat players coming in there,” said St. Ange. “We have some of the best burgers and cocktails you will find in Miami. And late night turns into a huge party.”
The menu’s social bites include goat cheese croquettes with a red chili guava glaze. Large plates of slow-cooked, St. Louis-style ribs and roasted Buffalo-sauce wings are served. The non-meat eaters might opt for the pan-seared salmon and a raw bar with a Poke tuna tower or a vegetarian chili bowl.
Paying it Forward
The amiable St. Ange loves to share his talents and expertise by teaching cooking.
“You can’t take it with you, so why not pass it on?” he asked.
But apparently his celeb status can intimidate some of his students. He tries to show them they know more about cooking than they think.
“When I teach, I put a chicken in front of people. It’s the same chicken they’ve cooked their whole lives, but they all of a sudden get stage fright and they don’t know what the hell to do,” he chuckles. “So, I tell them, ‘Look, this is the same chicken you cooked with grandma back in the kitchen. No need to get scared. Grab your knife and do what comes instinctively.’”
Not everyone comes ready to learn open-mindedly.
“The other side is the ‘students’ who say, ‘I know, I know, I know.’ Those are the ones I tell, ‘Shut the hell up you don’t know anything.’”
Attendees of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival will learn a lot, laugh a lot, and taste the international world of food during the fun and frivolity of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival.
“We are ready to eat, drink and entertain here in South Florida,” said Lee Schrager, the festival’s founder. “It’s open to the public. You can buy tickets on our website. There’s something for everybody. Thursday night is a big taco event on the beach. We have about 40 small dinners and brunches. We have wine seminars and hands-on masterclasses in cooking and spirits.”
Where to begin?
“As a first-timer I would take it slow. A lot of people who have never been here come down and buy so many tickets they can’t appreciate it. They’re out all day,” Schrager cautions. “Try one or two big signature events. Mix it up with a wine seminar. Put together your own Chinese menu or of events that suit you.”
Tickets and the “menu” are at SoBeWFF.org