MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It’s a big step starting over again for the South Beach Wine and Food Festival – this year celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The pandemic forced organizers to push the date back two months from its usual late February run.

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Now, with strict safety guidelines and a strong passion to support local restaurants, the party is back on May 20 to the 23.

CBS4’s own local foodie, Lisa Petrillo, went one-on-one with Lee Schrager, the festival’s founder, about what it feels like to be the first big event in 2021.

“Twenty years of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. I’ve been there since day one. A different look this year but excited anyway, right?” Petrillo asked him.

“We’re going to look different, we’re gonna feel different, but the message remains the same – to eat, drink and educate,” Schrager said. “And this year were tagging on support local because I think this is the year that we really need to give back to that local community that has supported us for the past 20 years that you’ve been with us.”

Due to shutdowns, the festival was the last big event of 2020 in February of last year. It will now be the first large scale event of 2021.  That said, capacity will be cut in half and almost all the events will be held outside.  All who come to festival must have proof of vaccination or a negative PCR COVID test within 72 hours at the door.

“There’s no prize for being the first. We didn’t have to be the first. We wanted to do this because we felt it was important to focus and to help rebuild the hospitality industry. To give back to this amazing community that’s been so supportive of us, and to do it correctly, make it comfortable. And safety is our number one priority moving forward, so that other events, whether it’s in Miami or whether it’s in Milwaukee, can kind of take the lead from us,” Schrager said.

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Eventgoers can also expect this 20th year to have the biggest names in the food business coming back to the beach.

“Starting out Thursday night, Giada De Laurentiis will be at the Italian Bites on the Beach,” Schrager said. “Friday night, Bobby Flay is filling in for our friend Rachel Ray, hosting Burger Bash for the first time. Saturday night, Guy Fieri is hosting our BubbleQ… Sunday night, the Bacardi closing party hosted by Andrew Zimmern, where we are bringing back someone whose participated in the festival over the 20 years.”

“So Burger Bash, I’m a judge this year… Any tips?” Petrillo asked.

“Spandex is my best advice. And no matter how great that burger is, if you start with that first burger, and the first one’s always your favorite because you haven’t had 20 others, take a small bite and don’t go back. Take one bite, make notes and move on,” Schrager responded.

“What are you most excited about at this year’s festival?” Petrillo asked.

“That we’re back celebrating 20 years of eating, drinking and educating and raising funds for the [FIU Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management] that’s what I’m most excited about,” he said.

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The South Beach Wine and Food Festival is on May 20 to 23. Tickets are on sale now, which you can find here.

Lisa Petrillo