Fundraiser’s Proceeds Will Fund Scholarship Program for Individuals with Disabilities

Emmy and four–time James Beard Award-winning chef and TV personality Andrew Zimmern is returning to the Food Network South Beach Wine & Food Festival presented by Capital One (SOBEWFF ®) for a special evening in partnership with FIU Embrace | Center for Advancing Inclusive Communities, whose mission is to empower persons with disabilities to live at their fullest potential through innovative and research-based programming, community engagement and professional skills development.

The dinner will take place at Toro Toro, the modern steakhouse inside the InterContinental Miami, and will feature a multi-course menu crafted by Zimmern and Richard Sandoval, the restaurant’s longtime executive chef, pairing their dishes with internationally acclaimed Mollydooker Wines.

“The dinner will focus on the importance of post-secondary education and employment opportunities among individuals impacted by a developmental disability as well as the value that this group offers to the hospitality industry in the form of a committed, employable and qualified workforce,” said Nicole Attong, Executive Director at the FIU Embrace Center. “The FIU Embrace Education and Employment programs are a reflection of the core work of the university. Just like the rest of the university, we graduate skilled individuals who are able to live their most fulfilled lives in the community.”

For the first time, FIU Embrace is collaborating with FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management to offer students the opportunity to earn micro-credentials in hospitality, while gaining hands-on learning experience at the Festival.

“The hospitality industry is one of the largest in the world and extremely inclusive. Having the right educational background and resume helps students go further in their career, so we’re excited to be able to offer the micro-credential to all FIU students, especially our FIU Embrace family,” said Michael Cheng, dean of the Chaplin School.

“As a parent, opening doors to the future of young adults with unique abilities brings hope for a brighter future,” said Dorcas Gonzalez, parent of an FIU Embrace Education student.

A first-of-its-kind dinner, all net proceeds will fund the development of an educational program that supports FIU Embrace Education students in jobs in the hospitality industry.  FIU Embrace Education students will also obtain valuable real-world experience as 34 of them will volunteer across 36 of the SOBEWFF® events.

“I feel good that I was selected to participate in the SOBEWFF® events.  They could have selected another student, but I am happy they chose to select me, ” said Evelyn Marin, student at the FIU Embrace Education Program. “I am very happy.”

FIU Embrace is one of the only university-based programs in the nation to promote the health, wellness and overall functioning of adults with autism, intellectual disabilities and other neurodevelopmental disorders, embracing these differences as variations on the human genome. Established in 2012, and now an NGO that has been accredited to the United Nations Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the program works to develop a model for society to integrate adults with developmental disabilities as full participants in the community. 

The application deadline for the FIU Embrace Education Program for the 2023-2024 academic year has been extended to March 3rd.  More information can be requested through

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