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Take Five: Wine & Food Festival founder & CEO gives us an inside peek into this year’s event

By TOM JOHNSON

Four years ago Stefanie Salem founded the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival. Later this month, Friday, September 29 through Sunday, October 1, the festival returns to the Civic Center Green.

We caught up with Stefanie to get the inside scoop on all of this year’s happenings.

Stefanie Salem

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Stefanie Salem, founder & CEO of the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival 

Q: Stef, what can people expect new this year at the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival?

A: Our biggest new event is our Saturday night (September 30) after party, “Havana Nights” and it will benefit our charity partner, Project Hope Alliance. This is an exclusive event, limited to 250 people at a private estate in Pelican Hill provided by MCKNOWN WEINSTEIN & ASSOCIATES. All of our guest celebrity chefs in town will be in attendance and Bravo’s Top Chef Masters Lorena Garcia, Art Smith and Rick Moonen will be creating Latin cuisine from Lorena’s new restaurant CHICA in the Venetian, Las Vegas. Guests can expect delicious food, live Cuban music, salsa, mojitos, a silent auction and more. This is an event not to miss.

At the daytime festival, we have cooking demonstrations, all by Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and All-Stars winners and contestants along with many new world-class restaurants and wineries. 

Our one-of-a-kind dinners where we bring celebrity chefs and local top chefs together to create a new menu has never been done before under the same roof. Friday, September 29, at the Winery, Chefs Hubert Keller, Yvon Goetz, Jean-Pierre Dubray and Rainer Schwarz will create a “Taste of Provence” experience with a 5-course tasting wine paired menu.  

Also on Friday, September 29, we have our Top Chef Women All-Stars event featuring season 14 winner Brooke Williamson, Shirley Chung, Casey Thompson and Rachel Haggstrom. 

Sunday, October 1, Nobu Matsuhisa will host a 5-course dinner with dishes off the menu and all paired with champagne from Moet Hennessy. Duke Spirits will create signature cocktails for all of our receptions.

Q: You really seem to get the top chefs. Who excites you and why?  

A: It’s difficult to pick just one chef that excites me as many of our guest chefs and local top chefs have become dear friends to me. All of them are incredible at their craft and I can’t wait to see and taste what each one brings to the table this year...but having Nobu Matsuhisa host our Sunday evening event is a particular honor. I have all of his cookbooks, have tried most of his recipes at home and have been going to Matsuhisa and Nobu for the past 25 years.

Q: Tell us about the different wine tastings?

A: We have our VIP Champagne and Caviar event with Master Sommelier Michael Jordan, Chef Alan Greeley and Christopher Klapp from Petrosian.

Guests will sip the best and most exclusive champagnes: Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage blanc, Ruinart blanc de blancs, Veuve Clicquot vintage rose, Dom Perignon 2009 blanc, Krug rose. 

Our VIP Riedel glass and Hundred Acre tasting will be led by the international V.P. of Riedel, Master Sommelier Peter Neptune and V.P. of Hundred Acre, Landon Patterson. Guests will taste how each wine is different in each glass and learn why it tastes best in the proper glass. Each will take home their own set of Riedel glasses.  

Michael Jordan will lead a Master Sommelier tasting panel: “Terroir of Willamette Valley” and sample three Pinot Noirs made by the same wine maker, but grown in different regions as well as a blend.  

Peter Neptune will lead a Master Sommelier panel: “Barolo and Brunello, Italy’s Greatest Red Wines” and do a comparative of some of the top wines of the two regions.   

Ted Talks star Wes Hagen will lead a tasting panel with J. Wikes wines titled: “Don’t talk about it, drink it. The hedonistic history of wine and fermented beverages.” 

Wine will be paired with each of our VIP chef demonstrations and guests will be able to sip 250 different varieties of wine in the Grand Tasting Pavilions.

Q: What was the thinking when you came up with the idea of a wine and food festival?  

A: When I started Newport Beach Wine & Food four years ago, there was no other food and wine event in Newport Beach so there was a void and need. I wanted to create something different, an event more like the best food and wine events across the country. Bringing in nationally recognized celebrity chefs, master sommeliers, executive chefs from the best local restaurants, exclusive wineries, spirits, live music and all set within an intimate and boutique experience where you actually get to mingle and converse with your favorite icons.  

Our constant goal is to provide something valuable for everyone involved. An experience for chefs and vintners to share and teach their passions, for foodies and wine lovers to indulge and for restaurants, wineries, sponsors and guests to all connect with each other in a welcoming environment. Being recognized on the world stage is our long-term goal.

Q: Cooking or wine? What does Stephanie Salem know more about?  

A: Definitely cooking. I grew up loving to cook with my mom and grandma’s, so I learned at a very early age that food brings people together. Food and different cultures have always been a driving force in my life. When I lived in Europe, Central Asia, Asia and Africa, I would have a local cook that made meals for our team. These cooks became my friends as we sat in the kitchen, taught each other our different languages and cooked together. 

I’m learning more about wine and would eventually like to take some of Peter Neptune’s classes at his wine school.

For more information of the Newport Beach Wine & Food Festival go to www.newportwineandfood.com.


Take Five: Who knew that former Council candidate and educator Tim Brown was really a baseball guy

By TOM JOHNSON

Tim Brown has many friends around town. His involvement in so many aspects of our community is impressive. He has been a longtime Commodore with the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, founder of Lobsterfest, and has spent years overseeing the organization of Leadership Tomorrow. Brown ran for City Council in 2014, while serving as a Planning Commissioner. Usually where you find Tim, you find his longtime girlfriend Stephanie Murguia.

Tim Brown

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Tim Brown, a former Planning Commissioner and City Council candidate, is an educator and now baseball coach

Q: Tim, we know you around town as an educator and a guy that’s been tremendously involved in our community. What’s this about a new summer job coming up for you?

A: I have been hired on to the coaching staff of the Vermont Mountaineers. The Mountaineers are a collegiate summer league team made up of college baseball players we recruit from major universities across the country. The team competes in the New England Collegiate Baseball League with 12 other teams located in Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The league is subsidized by Major League Baseball because it provides their scouts the opportunity to see draft prospects using wooden bats. In college baseball, the players use aluminum bats. We play 44 league games in just over seven weeks beginning June 5th and ending August 1st. The regular season is followed by a four-team playoff bracket so I expect to be home near the end of August. Our home field is historic Recreation Park located in Montpelier. I will be living in a residence hall at the Vermont College of Fine Arts with the rest of the coaching staff. The players and team operations interns are hosted by families. 

Q: You’ve obviously played a little baseball…give me the career highlights?

A: My professional career began as a high school physical education teacher and baseball coach, but I quickly realized that the public school system was not the best fit for me. After one year, I returned to graduate school and began my college-coaching career. I served two years as a Graduate Assistant Baseball Coach at Pan American University now University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley. We made the NCAA playoffs in 1978 and were eliminated by Mississippi State University. I was hired as the Assistant Baseball Coach in 1978 at UC Santa Barbara. In 1981, I was appointed by the United Baseball Federation to help develop youth baseball in Ecuador prior to baseball being reintroduced into the Olympic Games. UCSB made the NCAA playoffs in 1983 and missed a trip to the College World Series with a close loss to Stanford University. In the spring of 1984, I was appointed the Head Baseball Coach at Riverside City College where I still teach critical thinking but no longer coach. 

Q: I know you’re a great supporter of Arizona State athletics…tell me about your involvement, which I know includes attending a lot of games?

A: Arizona State University is my undergraduate alma mater, so although I have three additional graduate degrees, ASU is home to me. I remain very involved with ASU athletic fundraising for athletic scholarships and with my college fraternity Sigma Nu. Steph and I are season ticket holders for football and we attend every game home or away and have been doing so for about 10 years. As fans, we log a lot of miles to college towns all over the country, which can provide for some interesting experiences. We were actually refused service at a restaurant in Madison, Wisconsin because we were wearing ASU sweatshirts. Steph’s undergraduate alma mater is Cal State San Marcos, so she did not have the opportunity to enjoy college football and consequently has adopted Sun Devil football as her own. We attend as many men’s and women’s basketball games as we can, but because of the way they are scheduled, we are not able to attend them all. Of course, we support Sun Devil baseball by attending games when the team plays a series in California and if the team gets a bid to the NCAA playoffs.

Q: A few years back, you made a run for City Council…do you see another run in the future? If not, why?  If so, when?

A: I am not sure whether I will run for the Council again. I know that I am more excited than I thought I would be about returning to coaching baseball, and I was also more disappointed in the outcome of my Council race in 2014 than I thought I would be, particularly when I was not reappointed to the Planning Commission for my second term. I have kept my election committee organized, although I have not filed the “Intent to Run” form 501. I am hopeful that residents will come to realize that having a Council majority with an ultra-conservative political philosophy informing their deliberations, as well as promoting their own personal political aspirations, is not in the best interests of our city in the longer term. We deserve a deeper personal commitment from our civic leaders than that. If I get the sense the “political winds” have changed by 2018, then yes, I would consider running again. If not, then I will be spending my summers in Vermont.

Q: What do you feel are the biggest issues facing our town today?

A: The biggest issue in our city today is that we have four people sitting on our City Council that were not even full-time residents in our city five years ago. These Council members are making decisions about the future of our city with absolutely no knowledge of how our city has evolved over time. Context is vital in a decision-making role and, in my view, should be the driving force behind why someone desires to serve the community in an elected role, not personal ego or to champion a partisan cause. Without context, all you have is a political philosophy to guide you and frankly, that is why the make-up of our current Council disturbs me. Our residents should be confident in the wisdom of their Council members. Wisdom is derived from years of experience serving the city. Only two of the seven sitting Council members had a substantial record of service to Newport Beach before running.


Take Five: Steve Scott returns to participate in Spirit Run, again

By TOM JOHNSON

Had a chance to catch up with Steve Scott last week. Scott obviously is one of the greatest runners in American history. He attended college at UCI before embarking on a running career that took him around the world and to the top of his profession. Today, Scott coaches at Cal State San Marcos, where he has built one of the most successful NAIA collegiate track and cross country programs in the country. At San Marcos he’s led their women’s team to three National Titles and the men’s team to a runner-up for the National Title. Scott returns each year to the Spirit Run (Sunday, March 12) where he participates in the elite mile, but also uses his name and fame to attract and work with kids at the event.

Steve Scott

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Steve Scott, one of the greatest milers in U.S. history

Q: Why do what you do for the Spirit Run, year-after-year?

A: I have a special love for kids, so this gives me the opportunity to spread the word about track, cross country and running. It’s about getting kids exposed to running and helping to keep them fit. I see too many kids overweight, so if I can expose them to running and show them that it’s fun, then to me that’s rewarding. Too often we’ve looked at running as a punishment, like with a coach yelling, “Take a lap.” Running should be fun.

Q: What are your proudest memories of your storied running career?

A: The World Championships in 1983 (Helsinki) where I won a silver medal and then when I set the American record in the mile.

Q: What were your major disappointments?

A: The Olympics in 1984 (10th place)…I was coming in as one of the favorites. Instead of following my normal routine I let nerves get to me and then did things differently. I felt like the whole country was depending on me.

Q: What is training like today versus during the peak of your career?

A: At the peak of my career I would run 80-90 miles a week, fast. I’d average about 5:40-5:50 for 15 miles. Now, it’s 20 miles a week at a 7:30 pace. My wife said when we got married, “I married an Olympic athlete, you need to stay looking like one.” So I get on the scale every morning and that dictates my run.

Q: If you weren’t a runner, what would your fallback position in life have been?

A: I probably would have been a firefighter…definitely something in public service. I also looked into the FBI. But then my running career took off and I figured I could make a good living doing that.