Creation, recreation and, perhaps most importantly, re-creation are the driving forces behind the Vero Beach Food, Wine & Music event, Feb. 16-18 at Riverside Park.

VERO BEACH, FL, February 03, 2018 /24-7PressRelease/ — For organizer Fe Domenech, there’s more at stake than just presenting premier culinary and musical experiences by celebrity talent.

“I’m a single parent and a two-time cancer survivor,” she said. “It’s very important to me to convey to my son that you can literally do anything. It doesn’t matter what you did before.”

Each of the chefs for Vero Beach Food, Wine & Music has a story that embodies that principle. And the proceeds from their efforts will benefit local nonprofits that help turn lives around after homelessness and cancer, as well as assist the environment on its own comeback trail.

Chicago’s Graham Elliot is the festival’s highest profile culinary participant. An up-close-and-personal encounter with this TV fixture and restaurateur, who prepared President Obama’s 49th birthday dinner, will kick off the foodie portion of the festival on Saturday night.

Elliot’s experience with re-creating himself came a few years ago when he lost 150 pounds. To cap off that laudable transformation, he ran the Chicago Marathon in 2014 to raise money for charity.

After the tasting demonstration with Elliott, the multi-course Chef’s Dinner commences, featuring creations by Alex Thomopoulos, Shaun O’Neal & Christi Ferretti.

Thomopoulos was a stand-up comic before she became a multimedia chef, who is known for her appearances on the Hallmark Channel and MTV; O’Neal was a Las Vegas DJ who changed careers to become a winner on Fox’s Master Chef; and Vero Beach’s own Christi Ferretti was a teacher and yearbook salesperson before moving to North Carolina, where she opened a market cafe and an award-winning catering company. She has served celebrities from Paula Dean to Paula Poundstone, Ben Carson to John Edwards.

Each renowned chef “demonstrates that you can transition into anything and be amazing at it, as long as your heart is in it,” says Domenech.


Making these stars shine will be a staff who are the weekend’s most inspiring reinvention stories: the students and graduates of the Source’s Dining With Dignity culinary program led by Chef Joe Wisor. He will be collaborating on a dish or two with a celebrity chef while his students take care of “back of the house.”

Proceeds from the Chef’s Dinner will go right back to Dining with Dignity, a 12-week course offered to individuals who were experiencing homelessness before they joined the Source’s programs.

It’s turning out top-flight workers: 28 of their students have been placed in restaurant positions in the past year.

“We have six students, every 12 weeks,” said Tony Zorbaugh, the Source’s executive director of development, “And within three or four weeks of starting our program, they’re becoming employed — while they’re still finishing, here.

“Waldo’s, Chili’s, Costa, C.J. Cannon’s, Vero Beach Country Club: you name the restaurant, we have an individual working there.”

The prep work for the evening will be done at the Source’s kitchen, bringing people at the top of their field right into the students’ classroom.

“It’s cool that our clientele gets to see that,” said Zorbaugh. “It’s also cool that the chefs get to see what we’re doing and how we’re trying to help the less fortunate in our community.”

That’s what it’s all about, says Domenech.

“The chef’s table dinner brings together what we’re trying to achieve: providing an elevated dining experience while showcasing what a charity can do and what their process is.”

International vision

Every event at the festival benefits a local charity, including the Friday night concert by Matteo Bocelli, who at age 20 is already an internationally hailed classical vocalist like his father Andrea.

The intimate performance will be held in a “supper club” atmosphere with plenty of foods and wines to accompany the soaring sounds. United Against Poverty and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary will be the beneficiaries.

Bringing in that caliber of artist will help make Vero Beach Food, Wine & Music become a destination happening. And that will, in turn, fulfill Domenech’s vision of relieving some of the fundraising burden from local charities.

She’s a highly experienced event organizer who — after glamorous assignments like the Latin Billboard and MTV Music awards, as well as food events in Miami Beach and Pebble Beach — first came to Vero to help with events for Gloria and Emilio Estefan.

Since she’s moved here, her skills have been largely devoted to organizing benefits for March of Dimes, Hibiscus Children’s, the American Cancer Society, the Humane Society and many more.

One of the things she realized is how many galas compete with one another for local patronage.

But Domenech’s aim is to make this a destination event: the kind of high-caliber happening that people schedule their vacations around. That will, in turn, give the nonprofit beneficiaries access to a larger pool of out-of-town funders, in addition to boosting tourism dollars spent in local businesses.

She says that’s what happened at Pebble Beach, a small, wealthy seaside community she describes as being similar to Vero,

“It’s a formula that works,” she said. “I’ve seen it and I’ve done my research.”

All together

Christi Ferretti is happy to be coming home for the event, where she grew up in an Italian family “where everything happens around the table,” she said.

“I just love what happens when people come together over food,” said Ferretti — a fitting summation of what will make the entire weekend meaningful.

“It breaks tensions. It makes people more at ease. It gives people something to talk about. It’s the most wonderful place to gather that there is.”

For information about sponsorships, call at 877-85-TOAST or [email protected].

For event details go to the Vero Beach Calendar and to purchase tickets visit

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