the-neelys_web.jpg MIAMI BEACH — Patrick and Gina Neely dressed Miami’s culinary palate during the 2010 Food Network South Beach Food and Wine Festival.   

Co-owners of Neely's Bar-B-Que restaurant, the Neelys share their life in food on Food Network's Down Home with the Neelys. The program, which has been on the air two years as of last month, debuted as the highest-rated series of Food Network’s “In the Kitchen.”
The Food and Wine Festival took place Feb. 26-28. Festival organizer Lee Brian Schrager said the event did as well last year, which was the best to date. Given that the country is in a deep recession, Schrager called the success “pretty amazing.”

The success of the event has everything to do with the talent he brings and the sponsors who participate, he said.

“We really look at who is a big draw,” Schrager said of whom he invites. “They wouldn’t be there if they weren’t.”

The Neelys’ faces are all over cable TV, and their restaurants can be found in Memphis and Nashville. Building on a $20,000 loan, hard work and consistency, the high school sweethearts, now husband and wife, gives us a glimpse into their lives through the camera.

The show is filmed in their Memphis home, surrounded by family and friends, and now airs seven days a week on Food Network.  Last May, the Neelys released their first cookbook titled Down Home with the Neelys (Knopf, 2009), which quickly earned a place on The New York Times' best-seller list.

It is because of these accolades, Schrager said, that he invited the Neelys to show off their cooking might. The Neelys attended the BubbleQ at the Delano Hotel and teased folks with tasty morels in the Whole Foods Market Grand Tasting Village.

Hosted by Southern Wine & Spirits of Florida and Florida International University, the South Beach Food and Wine Festival benefits the Teaching Restaurant and the Southern Wine & Spirits Beverage Management Center, both located at Florida International University.