Meet the Godfather of Celebrity Chefs

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March 18 (Bloomberg) -- Lee Schrager, founder and director of the Food Network's South Beach Wine and Food Festival and vice president of communications for Southern Wine and Spirits, discusses the business of celebrity chefs with Pimm Fox on "Taking Stock." (Source: Bloomberg)


It beats the cold weather.

I want to talk about cold weather taking place not here but half a world away.

You were talking before you came on about the situation that exists in crimea and president putin of russia and president obama and the european union.

You said something very interesting.

Most important things happen over a meal.

I think every important decision that happens in everyone's life, happy or sad occasions, it takes place over a meal.

Maybe we bring everyone to the table over a great meal and work out some world stuff.

I would make myself available.

You made yourself available in the world of culinary arts in so many ways.

Start by talking about how, in your mind, did culinary arts become celebrity chefs?

The food network.

They celebrated their 20th anniversary in october and i think they made its accessible --. what could be more inviting than rachel ray or bobby flay -- but there were chefs before.

Julia childs and the galloping gourmet.

They made it accessible and they made it friendly.

The food network talent made a cool and made it look like fun.

Julia childs, you were cooking a dinner.

If you aren't, you had no interest in how she was making the chicken.

Even if you don't cook, you are interested in what they are doing.

I had dinner in washington dc with my brother and his girlfriend who was saying that she doesn't cook at all.

But she loves the food network.

Why would you watch the food network echo she says, i? she says, i watch everything.

They make it so inviting.

They love those familiar faces coming into your home every day.

Wax it is a social experience as much as anything else.

That is something you have taken into this level of creating these festivals.

Wax you eat out bec you'd eat out, not because you're hungry but because you want to do something.

It is social and obviously when you're hungry.

What we have done is really listen to the people.

We take the greatest pop-culture culinary talents.

We take the greatest chefs and we have the super bowl of food weekend.

Everything from a 4000 person burger bash to a talk oh and tequila event.

A fried chicken event.

-- to a taco and tequila event.

A fried chicken event.

Not everybody is into the ballet or fashion, but everybody eats.

It has to be expensive to put on.

It is expensive.

Tell people how you're a charity.

I am a person, but the event.

The south beach festival benefits the florida international university -- 100% of the proceeds go to them.

We have raised $23 million to date.

And the new york city festival benefits the food bank in new york city.

100% of the benefits go to them with over $8 million to date.

Hospitality is a word that encompasses hospital he not only at your table but someone else's as well.

We bring pleasure to people's lives.

It when people wake up, what do they do?

They talk about what they ate in her -- dinner last night.

At lunch, they talk about where they are going to eat that night.

I think there will always be a place that our festival.

I want to ask about one particular chef.

I'll it dean.

-- paula deen.

She will be opening a brand-new restaurant and chose your festival in miami beach in south beach to kind of make sure that people were aware of this.

What do you think about this?

She was in movies at one point.

She was in elizabethtown with orlando bloom.

What do i think about her comeback?

Not surprising.

She needs to work like everyone.

I think that she went through a rough time and she made some mistakes.

At south beach, she said, if i offended you or because i offended you, i am sorry.

It wasn't a matter of if.

Clearly, her comments offended many people.

It was important for her, once again, to say hey.

Not if, but that i offended you and i am sorry.

It is interesting you say this because when you have -- the difference between a culinary chef and a celebrity chef, someone whose name and comments will get talked about no matter where they are.

You are also well connected with other celebrity chefs.

Bobby flay, for example.

How it has the extra sparkle that they will beat that combination of chef and celebrity and person that you want in your house in the morning?

Speaking of bobby, he has a new restaurant in new york city.

We have reservations.

We are coming in.

Does something happen?


I remember the first time i had seen paula dean on tv.

I remember being at home and turning on the tv and there was a mature woman who -- there was something about her and i remember taking out my blackberry and writing her name down.

I remember what she was making.

A blueberry tart.

I remember e-mailing, find out of that lady is and who represents her.

I was not surprised at all that she became a huge star.

I remember the first time being at the william morris offices 10 years ago.

One of the agents showing me this real and he said, look at this girl.

Tell me what you think about her.

I remember saying, she is going to be a big star.

John rosen said, next year when she is a star, we will bring her to your festival.

I said i don't want her next year, i want her now.

People will remember that they saw her.

The girl next door, a lot of food network personalities that were great cooks.

There was something about the way that she handled a knife.

There is something about -- you

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