The 11th edition of the Saborea Puerto Rico culinary fest is expected to draw at least 6,000 “foodies” from the island and beyond this weekend, organizers confirmed.
A roster of chefs from Puerto Rico, the U.S. mainland and Canada will headline the cooking demonstrations, while some 70 restaurants will showcase their signature dishes during the event that kicked off Thursday night with the “Bubbles and Bites” celebration.
Clarisa Jiménez, president of the Puerto Rico Hotel and Tourism Association — which organizes the annual event — said this year’s edition will be reduced and has been “tweaked” in the wake of Hurricane María’s devastation six months ago.
“We felt we had to celebrate Saborea because, not only did we receive phone calls asking if it was still on, but we have to show the world that Puerto Rico is back to business. And that tourism is back to business,” she said.
“For us it represents a great achievement as a destination to be able to realize this great event after the challenges we have experienced in the past months. It is a mix of effort, dedication and desires to show the world one of the best characteristics that we have as destination, which is our gastronomy,” said Jiménez. “This is a great opportunity for all Puerto Ricans to come together in a scenario full of the best of our food and drink, all in one place.”
The event — whose main sponsor is MasterCard — will take place at the Carolina public beach, where it held its first edition. The beach has been closed since Hurricane María struck, coming back from about $1.5 million in damages, the town’s Mayor José Carlos Aponte confirmed.
“The new vote of confidence that Saborea’s organizers gave to Carolina validates the hard work that as a municipal administration we have undertaken for the past 10 years, as it validates our strategic vision of betting on our economic recovery, and the entire island,” he said, adding that 1,400 parking spaces will be available at the beach, as will the town’s public transportation system, known as the SiTrac.
This year’s Saborea will go down Saturday, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. with the restaurant booths and music, and on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with kitchen demos by local and invited celebrity chefs.
The roster of professional cooks includes Puerto Rican Chefs Monti Carlo, Ibrahim Sanz and Giovanna Huyke; Erick Howard — a 28-year-old firefighter and chef; Shawn O’Neale, winner of the 7th season of “Master Chef;” Afrim Pristine and Mat Dean Pettit, from Canada; Ryan Scott, of Bravo TV’s “Top Chef;” Miami Chef Chris Valdés; and the island’s culinary team headed by Chef Augusto Schreiner.