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Go to the official site of the South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBE) held this past weekend, and you'll see the marks of wild success. Nearly every event is sold out. The highbrow events are sold out, the populist events are sold out. The events that boast Guy Fieri and Giada De Laurentiis are sold out, the Alain Ducasse tribute dinner is sold out.
What started as a fun vacation 10 years ago is now a supercluster of celebrity chefs, Food Network stars, Bal Harbour grandees, trophy wives, cooking demos, pounding techno music, amazing dishes, not-so-amazing dishes and hungry, excited foodies who collectively generated a deafening volume of Twitter static. There are three-star Michelin generalissimos and TV hosts who might not be able to pick one other out of a police lineup. SOBE is the place where the food world most visibly intersects with the country as a whole.
The writer goes on to say that the fringe elements of the American food experience are not represented: not the high-end new chefs or the locavore, all-natural proponents.
What happens in modernist restaurants and New Naturalist bistros is a vision of American food in its most idealized, uncompromised form. It's essentially culinary couture, the restaurant world's equivalent of the high-concept runway shows in Paris and Milan. The ready-to-wear version will show up soon enough in Cincinnati; Spokane, Wash.; and, eventually, South Beach.
If you can eat it in America and there's no trace of it at SOBE, there will be eventually. The truth is that SOBE and festivals that emulate it need the chefs that don't show up every bit as much as it needs the ones that do. The mainstream may be wide, but it can't be stagnant.
Ozersky is a James Beard Award-winning food writer and the author of "The Hamburger: A History."Watch TIME's video "How Top Chefs Get You to Eat Your Vegetables."