The Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE gives thousands of FIU hospitality management students hands-on experience and invaluable networking opportunities each year.

Melissa del Toro is a data analyst at Carlo’s Bakery. Her experiences at the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by FOOD & WINE have helped her land her dream job with Buddy Valastro, also widely recognized as the Cake Boss from the hit TLC series.

Demi Marroquin, an event manager at the Turnberry Isle Miami, now oversees social and corporate events at the upscale resort, an opportunity resulting from a connection made at SOBEWFF®.

While working as a student lead, Stephanie White was hired on the spot by Deco Productions, a preferred décor vendor of the Festival.

These are just a few of the student success stories from SOBEWFF®, which held its 15th edition from February 24 to the 28. Just like Del Toro, Marroquin and White, over 1,200 FIU students got the same exposure to potential opportunities when they volunteered for more than 3,700 shifts at this year’s Festival.

SOBEWFF® gives students the opportunity to gain valuable skills, exposes them to every aspect of producing one of the country’s most popular wine and food festivals, and allows them to gain first-hand experience alongside event organizers, more than 200 sponsors and partners, and world-renowned chefs, like Bobby Flay, Katie Lee, Masaharu Morimoto, Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Martha Stewart, and more.

Their experience pays off with connections and, in many cases, career opportunities.

“SOBEWFF® was pivotal for my career. From developing very simple skills to exposing me to situations I had only dreamed about, the experience was priceless. Anyone can get a degree in hospitality but FIU and the SOBEWFF® really set the bar and offer students an opportunity you can’t get anywhere else,” del Toro said.

To date, the Festival has raised more than $22 million and driven international awareness for the highly rated Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at FIU.

Watch the Recap Video of SOBEWFF® 2015