At F1 Miami and Kentucky Derby, Food Is a Big Part of the Spectacle

Venus Williams, LL Cool J, Jeff Bezos, Lauren Sánchez, Ken Griffin, David Solomon and Eric Schmidt all made the trip to Major Food Group’s Carbone Beach.

A chef with curly grey hair and black glasses plates food at an event.
Chef Massimo Bottura headlined a $6,000-per-seat Friday-night pop-up at F1 in Miami. Everlast Production

Being a mogul on the Spectacle Circuit means you don’t have to choose between over-the-top events that happen in different cities on the same weekend. So at 8 a.m. on Saturday, when an employee at Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport said there were close to 75 private planes flying that morning from Miami’s Formula 1 week to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby, nobody was surprised.

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F1’s Miami Grand Prix and the Kentucky Derby are obviously two of America’s biggest sporting spectacles. And when you get this kind of crowd, there’s plenty of auxiliary world-class entertainment (like nights with Deadmau5, Tiesto and DJ Snake that Zouk/Resorts World Las Vegas curated at Miami club E11even, or the exclusive Louisville party that featured an after-hours performance from Jack Harlow). But dinner is also very much the show during weeks like this.

So in Miami, Massimo Bottura headlined a $6,000-per-seat Friday-night pop-up and the $3,000-per-seat, four-night American Express Presents Carbone Beach was back for its second year. And in Louisville, visiting chefs including Shirley Chung, Brooke Williamson, Sam Fore, Silvia Barban, Sam Mason, Aaron Bludorn and Kevin Gillepsie cooked at the annual Taste of Derby blowout.

Two men sit at a dinner table, laughing. Wine glasses are in front of them, as is a sign with the number '8'
Ken Griffin and Jeff Bezos attend American Express Presents CARBONE BEACH on May 06, 2023 in Miami Beach, Florida. Getty Images for American Express

On Thursday night at Major Food Group’s Carbone Beach (which Venus Williams, LL Cool J, Jeff Bezos, Lauren Sánchez, Ken Griffin, David Solomon and Eric Schmidt visited during the weekend), Diana Ross performed for guests including Miami Dolphins owner/billionaire developer Stephen Ross. Stephen Ross, of course, spearheaded the creation of Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix at his Hard Rock Stadium. He, not incidentally, is also an investor in restaurants including David Chang’s Momofuku.

At Carbone Beach, Mario Carbone put together a menu with Carbone greatest hits like spicy rigatoni, Caesar salad and veal Parm, which were served after an extravagant cocktail/appetizer party with oversized made-to-order toro/caviar/uni hand rolls and a chilled seafood bar on an elaborate ice sculpture. 

A plate of rigatoni.
Carbone’s famous spicy rigatoni. World Red Eye

My friends at inKind Hospitality, which provides non-dilutive financing to more than 700 restaurants in the United States (Carbone Dallas included), were at Carbone Beach on Thursday, too. While inKind’s CEO and co-founder Johann Moonesinghe stood in line for caviar-topped hand rolls, he ran into various venture capitalists and real estate heavyweights and explained that his company funds restaurant expansion for Danny Meyer, Michael Mina and José Andrés by buying food-and-beverage credit and selling it on its app. 

Food, celebrity and business also overlapped again and again Friday at the GR8 Experience’s Once Upon a Kitchen dinner, where Bottura served dishes like his pasta-less “pasta al pesto in abstract” to guests including Lindsey Vonn and Maverick Carter (both of whom also attended Carbone Beach). Stephen Ross, Nathan Forbes and Greg Maffei were there, too, as Bottura explained how his “crunchy part of the lasagna” dish was inspired by childhood memories. Then Bottura told the affluent guests that another dish, his “beautiful psychedelic, spin-painted veal charcoal-grilled with glorious colors as a painting,” was a nod to Damien Hirst. Bottura also said that his first Miami restaurant, Torno Subito, should open in a few months and that Mayor Francis Suarez assured him this was possible.

A spread of Greek food.
The spread at Doya. Doya

Another dining highlight of the week was a Thursday lunch at Wynwood hot spot Doya that I shared with hospitality tech-stack entrepreneur/investor Shu Chowdhury (who successfully exited Salido in 2020 and has a portfolio of startups at Bowery Engine) and power real-estate publicist Caroline Underwood Burman of Kreps PR. Doya, where 2023 Miami Grand Prix winner and two-time defending F1 world champion Max Verstappen has dined multiple times, serves chef Erhan Kostepen’s glorious Mediterranean food like muhammara, spicy yogurt, charcoal-grilled octopus and lamb kebabs at a beautiful indoor/outdoor setting.

After the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, I opted for two dinners instead of the Jack Harlow party. The first stop was esteemed Louisville chef Edward Lee’s Nami, a modern Korean steakhouse that debuted just in time for Derby weekend. At Nami, Lee makes fennel kimchi and beet kimchi. He serves steamed shrimp mandu with chili crunch oil (and might even top dumplings with caviar for VIPs). In addition to kalbi, he’s using prime tenderloin and wagyu rib eye for Korean barbecue.

The second stop was on-the-rise chef Ming Pu’s new Outcast Fish and Oyster Bar in nearby New Albany, Indiana, where I joined Chung, Fore, Barban and Mason for a feast that included peel-and-eat shrimp, wood-grilled oysters, panko-crusted calamari, blackened fish tacos and fried rice with andouille. Pu, who is Taiwanese-American, likes redefining classic genres and weaving his heritage into his restaurants. He’s building an empire in New Albany, where he also has steakhouse Brooklyn and the Butcher. And he has plans for another restaurant that will be Taiwanese but with a Southern twist.

Back in Miami on Sunday, high-profile chefs including Lorena Garcia (whose Chica restaurants in Miami, Las Vegas and Aspen are on inKind’s app) cooked at Hard Rock Stadium during the big race while the Casa Tua members club and restaurant’s on-site F1 pop-up served octopus salad and white truffle risotto. At the same time, the premium small-batch tequila flowed freely inside the Cincoro lounge, which fed VIP guests Petrossian caviar all weekend at the Miami Grand Prix’s Paddock Club

Not incidentally, the Miami outpost of Chica recently unveiled a new menu with standout riffs on Mexican food like al pastor baby back ribs and a tomahawk that’s lit on fire tableside and comes with tortillas, poblano queso and chile padron salsa. The Spectacle Circuit comes and goes in cities all over the world, but the grind for chefs in these cities never stops. 

At F1 Miami and Kentucky Derby, Food Is a Big Part of the Spectacle