Blake Dowling: All hail Florida — a glimpse of the post-pandemic world

Post-covid-19 era concept
There’s positive news on some fronts, same old story on others.

Last weekend, I attended an event with celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian.

If you are not familiar with the chef, he is restaurant mega-royalty and a genuinely nice person; I loved meeting him and talking shop for a few minutes.

The event in Tallahassee — called “Cleaver and Cork” — raises money and awareness for Tallahassee Community College. TCC created one of the most elite events in the region with the celeb chef experience, having not just one event, but a series throughout the week.

An evening with celeb chef and Tampa resident, Geoffrey Zakarian.

Included in the events: a cooking demo with Zakarian, a signature dining experience, and even an auction for dinner at your house prepared by Geoffrey.

I have been to a lot of charity auctions in our state; the final bid here was the highest single item bid I have ever seen. Great work by all involved.

I had a conversation with TCC Foundation Executive Director Heather R. Mitchell, and later talked with her at a red light the next day on the way to work (you got to love living in a small town).

Mitchell said about the event: “Cleaver and Cork, one of our community’s top signature events, is so very important as it raises critical private dollars that supports Tallahassee Community College.”

The event is also interesting in that it was the last large event I attended in March 2020 and the first one (besides those socially distanced strange but awesome 2020 Gator games) in a year now in March 2021.

The evening had a “Welcome Back, Kotter” vibe in the air for sure.

It was still very 2020/2021; of course, there were temperature checks at the door, tables were spaced out, and masks required for entry — but it was still an in-person event.

Geoffrey was a fantastic host and chef, and one of the first things he said to the group was that last year he moved full time to Tampa from New York — and he isn’t going back.

He told some funny stories about going to a Winn Dixie in Florida for the first time, with people saying “hi.” He assumed it was because he was famous; he eventually realized was because people are generally nicer here than in the Big Apple.

On a side note, I am surprised Winn Dixie has not come into the crosshairs of “cancel culture,” not just because it has “Dixie” in the name, but because they never have what you are looking for, not ever.

Artichoke? Nope. Cilantro? Nope.

Moving on.

Obviously, Florida became more attractive last year to people like Geoffrey. People have always flocked to the Sunshine State because of our natural wonders and awesome communities.

This time, there was the added bonus of Florida actually being open.

As we all know, Florida residents pay no state income or estate tax. Plus, you receive homestead exemption dollars on a primary residence.

Couple that with the added value of a dollar in NYC versus here and having more space, it is a win-win-win (except at Winn Dixie, no winning there).

The real estate stats out of Miami for example are staggering; luxury home prices are up 42% and Palm Beach is called by The Next Miami as the “hottest market in the world.”

This month, there is positive news almost everywhere you look, not just with events, vaccines and real estate.

A Tallahassee Democrat column this week used the word “plummeting” in a headline about COVID-19 numbers. I love to see a COVID-19 headline with the word plummeting in it.

This is a most welcome word after the past year and awesome in almost all scenarios unless you are a financial planner or sky diver. If you package all that together it makes you proud to live in the Sunshine State.

So here we, as 2021 plows onward; there’s positive news on some fronts, same old story on others.

On the cybersecurity front, hackers recently targeted Microsoft, you can read all about that email attack here. Long story short, If your email is in the cloud you are good, if you happen to have an on-premise exchange you might need to look into this further (more on that next week).

On the pandemic front, there is still a long road ahead, so don’t go burning your masks just yet, as millions need vaccinations.

However, one year removed from this exact day last year when the SEC basketball tournament (and all others) were canceled, things feel pretty optimistic.

To those new residents, like Geoffrey, we welcome you to Florida.

Cheers to it and welcome back Kotter (and everyone else) to a small taste of the post-pandemic world.


Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. He can be reached at [email protected].

Blake Dowling

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies. His technology columns are published by several organizations. Contact him at [email protected] or at


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