What started as a small gathering of industry professionals coming together for a good cause has evolved into — well, a much larger gathering of industry professionals coming together for a good cause. A Taste of NACE, hosted for the seventh year running by Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Panache Party Rentals, stayed true to tradition by pairing caterers with decorators for a unique networking event.
The gathering raised $13,000 for the Foundation of NACE and its chosen beneficiary — South Florida's Daily Bread Food Bank.
The brainchild of Kelly Murphy, who co-owns Panache with husband Bob DeFriest, A Taste of NACE was originally a 12-vendor, 90-guest experiment. At its inception, the event was organized by Panache staff working with members of the South Florida NACE chapter. In recent years, Murphy says, it has become an “all-industry event,” involving members of ISES, MPI, HSMAI and the Florida Speakers Association.
Three months before the event date — always the third Tuesday of August, during the region's slowest season — the organizing committee met to plan the 2001 event, pairing more than 50 caterers and decorators. Each partnership was assigned a 10-by-10-foot space in Panache's 45,000-square-foot warehouse in which to show off their combined skills with a decorated food station.
While many of the participants return year after year to donate their products and services to the event, Murphy says the committee works hard to “get some fresh blood going.” She adds, “We try and mix it up and look at the personalities of people, see who would work well together. We've been pretty lucky — we've made some nice little marriages.”
As the event date approached, Murphy's staff temporarily relocated some warehouse inventory to accommodate vendors while continuing to conduct daily operations. Murphy says it's always a challenge, but explains that organizing deliveries of props and nonperishable setup materials over the course of a few days prevents gridlock. Logging and tagging vendor vehicles to prevent cars from becoming blocked helps too, she adds. Most important, she notes, is having her staff monitor arrivals so that the dock door can be shut several hours before the event — a measure that's crucial to cooling down the warehouse's interior temperature, which, according to Murphy, can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit during Florida's summer months.
The 2001 A Taste of NACE celebration welcomed almost 600 attendees into a scene of nonstop activity, eclectic decor and abundant food. At a marquee-tented entry with a “South Beach club” theme, guests encountered a black-clad “bouncer” in dark sunglasses and a headset, who controlled the flow by checking names on a playfully exclusive list, Murphy says.
Inside the warehouse, guests encountered “Zones of Creation.” The Epicurean Zone and Libation Zone offered food and drink. In the Revue Zone, a Polynesian fire-dance proved popular. Stilt-walkers and magicians completed the entertainment picture.
As much about business as pleasure, A Taste of NACE gave associations the opportunity to set up information tables and network with attendees in exchange for their own contributions, including publicizing the event to members.
Being an event-industry matchmaker is no easy task, to say nothing of coordinating a multi-vendor extravaganza in a working rental warehouse.
Then there's the issue of motivation, Murphy says. “Special event people are fabulous when they're getting paid to do events,” she explains. “However, when you're trying to get them to do something for free, they know they're going to do it, but sometimes it's hard to get information out of them.” This year, she credits Panache staff with ensuring that participants submitted contact information for the event's program, as well as menu selections “so that we [were] not having salmon at every station.”
For the 2001 event in particular, teamwork was the source of success. “We broke it up into little groups of responsibilities,” Murphy says. “The place is so big, and there are so many places to hide that one person would just pull their hair out.” Panache employees Jane Vicale and Tiffany Heard were among those instrumental in making sure that didn't happen, she adds. “I'd love to take all the credit, but this was the first time I didn't stress out about it. The staff here really did a tremendous job.”
Laura Silverman, advisor to the board of the South Florida NACE chapter, agrees that 2001 was a great year for A Taste of NACE. “It was very, very organized,” she says, adding, “I think all the associations that participated were very happy. It's always an excellent event. Kelly and Bob and Panache do just a phenomenal job.”
Please contact Panache Party Rentals for a full list of vendors for this event.
State of Taste
A wide range of Florida caterers contributed menu items to A Taste of NACE. Here, we list a sampling of four participants.
Louisiana Firecracker Oysters with Green Apple Vinaigrette and Mango Curry Wasabi
Blue Moon Fish Co., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Braised Moroccan Lamb Shank Over Garlic Couscous
Eggwhites Catering, Miami
Chicken Pad Thai with Broad Noodles, Cucumber, Edamame, Sprouts and Crushed Peanuts
Elan Catering, Miami
Pan-Seared Jumbo Sea Scallops and Sweet Potato/Butternut Squash Mash with Banana Chutney and Drizzled Wild Berry Vinaigrette
The Grapevine Gourmet & Catering Shoppe, Plantation, Fla.
Panache Party Rentals
650 S.W. 16th Terrace
Pompano Beach, FL 33069