The team at Catersource + The Special Event is deep into planning for a week of stellar learning, networking, and opportunity next February 11–15, 2024 in Austin, TX, a walkable city with tremendous restaurants, cozy cocktail bars, inviting event venues, and accommodating hotel properties. Core team members visited the first week of May to explore the possibilities, with the help of Visit Austin.
Establishments touting various types of barbecue are rampant in the city. Being Lockhart, TX, just 30 minutes away, is considered the epicenter of barbecue in the entirety of Texas, the nearby capital city of Austin benefits greatly from proximity. Tex-Mex, southern emphasis, old school, a little bit of New Orleans, and a whole lot of deep-fried goodness categorize much of the offerings (and there are many) in the capital city of Austin.
A typical Franklin BBQ spread. Photo courtesy Wyatt McSpadden
Probably the most famous of the barbecues is Franklin, which started in Aaron and Stacy Franklin’s backyard, moved to a small trailer in 2009, and today has fed everyone from Jimmy Kimmel to President Barack Obama. Aaron Franklin won a James Beard Award for Best Chef in 2015 and was inducted into the American Royal Barbecue Hall of Fame in 2020.
Most recently, Aaron Franklin and partner Chef Tyson Cole opened Loro, an Asian smokehouse featuring grilled and smoked meats with Southeast Asian and Japanese-inspired sauces. Keep that thought in your head, people; there may be a class at Catersource + The Special Event 2024 focusing on this very topic—how companionable Texas barbecue and Asian flavors truly are. Who will be teaching it? Stay tuned!
Chef Aaron Franklin. Photo courtesy Wyatt McSpadden
Near the convention center, Moonshine Comfort & Cocktails offers classic American comfort food in a charming setting. In the basement (Wednesday through Saturday after 5:00 p.m.) you will find Kinfolk: a historic cellar built in the 1850s. Now an award-winning 20-seat bar, Kinfolk features a refined list of cocktails bolstered by a unique collection of spirits. Reservations required.
Crispy calamari with arugula salad and remoulade at Moonshine. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr
At ATX Cocina, modern Mexican rules the menu with sharable plates highlighting masa, pequenos, and crudo, all crafted in a completely gluten-free kitchen. Highlights include brussels sprouts with spiced agave vinaigrette, huarache, burrata y fresa, and enfrijolada with poblano ricotta.
Banger’s on Rainey Street is all about the beer (over 200 types always on tap) and sausage. Sausages are made onsite, as well as house-made pickles and sauerkraut, too. All quality food, made from scratch.
Bangers and mash with kale salad topped with pickled onions at Banger’s. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr
Finally, at Fixe Southern House, order the Fixe biscuits with fruit preserves and organic Texas honey; deviled eggs with smoked trout roe; and shrimp and grits to share at the table. Add in lobster and crawfish pot pie, fried chicken, and beet salad to finish and you will leave stuffed and happy.
Lobster and crawfish pot pie with mushrooms and sweet corn bechamel at Fixe Southern House. Photo courtesy Fixe Southern House
Beyond the Austin Convention Center, where the conference and tradeshow will take wing, the team toured a variety of potential event spaces. They included:
Austin City Limits Live at The Moody Theater on Willie Nelson Boulevard – This is the permanent home of the acclaimed Austin PBS produced television series, Austin City Limits, the longest running music series in American television history and also the first mixed-occupancy building of its type in the world to be LEED certified. Three levels offer 2,700+ capacity with an outside plaza and mezzanine gallery of historical ACL music photos that dazzle.
Palmer Events Center on Barton Springs Road – With an incredible view of the downtown Austin skyline, this venue ticks all the boxes for a memorable evening event. Covered outdoor canopy space abutting Butler Park, quiet indoor spaces and covered balconies, and a large hall for activations inside. It’s a stunning space, but…is the elevator haunted?
Superstition on Riverside Drive – An elite multi-room nightclub channels the energy of the 1970s, with 12,000 square feet of elevated space, a cocktail lounge, the “Gold Room,” and patio area. It’s a stunner of a venue, and very new to the Austin area.
Banger’s Austin on Rainey Street – Indoor, outdoor, and outdoor-covered options in a casual setting with a basement speakeasy as well as over 200 beers on tap always. Live fire cooking, plenty of seating, nooks for quiet conversation, and walking distance from the convention center make this a solid choice for an event.
The outdoor stage at Banger’s on a sunny day in Austin, TX. Photo courtesy Visit Austin
Speakeasy on Congress Avenue – Located in the historic Kreisle Building, the old bones of this building come to life in three levels: music lounge; bowling mezzanine; and the ballroom, the Kabaret Room, and the rooftop lounge. Apparently, another spirit haunts this establishment as well. Woooooooo!
800 Congress on Congress Avenue – This smaller venue in downtown Austin showcases views of the Capitol, an open warehouse look with exposed brick that’s industrial, yet polished, and is A/V ready.
800 Congress is an “open book” space with roll up garage doors. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr
Copper Tank Event Center & Micheladas Café y Cantina on Trinity Street – A private venue in the heart of downtown within walking distance of the convention center, Copper Tank is attached to Micheladas, with a wide variety of spaces, from rooftop patios, to walk-up street counters, a full kitchen, courtyard, and plenty of seating.
The walk-up bar outside of Micheladas Café y Cantina. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr
Antone’s on Fifth Street – Downstairs concert hall marries upstairs event space for an intimate venue that celebrates the blues. An adjacent record shop and entry foyer featuring an antique shoeshine stand imbue loads of charm.
An antique shoeshine station can be rented for guests to spiff up before hitting the dancefloor. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr
Bullock Texas State Museum on Congress Avenue – For those who love the grandeur and history that museums bring to any event, the Bullock is a real treat. The plaza outside plus first floor rotunda with soaring spiral staircase are already dressed up and ready for an elegant night. Additional levels overlook the rotunda to create memorable experiences.
A view of the Bullock Texas State Museum plaza. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr
Distribution Hall on 4th Street – This mid-century structure features a studio warehouse with infinity wall, an open-air hangar, and a gorgeous 7,000 square foot courtyard and lawn with a gnarly old pecan tree towering over it majestically. Load-bearing truss and solid concrete floors inside can accommodate just about anything you’d want to showcase at an event.
Central Library on Cesar Chavez Street – Even the Uber driver gushed about this property as he dropped off his charges. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook Lady Bird Lake, a covered patio area for arrivals is large enough for activations and pre-function space, coat-check room, and green room is included in the rental.
The February 2024 schedule of happenings
Sunday, February 11th: After a very successful relaunch in Orlando this past March, Art of Catering Food (AOCF) will return with an all-new lineup of chefs to learn from and with a focus on innovation. Produced in conjunction with the International Caterers Association, AOCF will bring exclusive culinary training, trends, ingredients, and techniques taught by successful catering chefs. Day 1 will start with a light breakfast followed by short sessions; next up is lunch, and then we’ll continue with culinary, venue, and cultural tours in the late afternoon.
Monday, February 12th: Art of Catering Food continues with its Day 2 education, tastings, and networking, and industry associations and groups will hold everything from board meetings to full-day thought leadership gatherings. Venue tours for event professionals will start in the afternoon and a culinary tour for catering professionals is also in the planning stages. As day moves to night, Catersource + The Special Event will open the doors on its Connect Social (formerly Connect Live) evening event, a chance for those already checked in and ready to engage and kick-off the week. It’s a great evening, spirits are high, and the week is wide open with possibility for networking and interaction.
Tuesday, February 13th: Catersource + The Special Event opens, with a conference-only first day and an opening night event. Its sister media brand, MeetingsNet, also returns with conference sessions geared directly to the meeting planner audience (available to those who purchase a TSE or All Access pass).
After the conference closes for the day, groups such as International Caterers Association Educational Foundation (ICAEF) will celebrate its scholarship recipients in a private gathering; various exhibitors will host invitation-only events; and then the evening will culminate in the Opening Night Party, with more details to follow in our Fall issue or online at https://informaconnect.com/catersource-thespecialevent/
Wednesday, February 14th: An Opening General Session launches a full day of activity on the exhibit hall floor (open 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) including conference sessions on the Ignite and Culinary stages. There will, as always, be hundreds of exhibitors to visit, experience, and learn from and activations to enjoy.
The tradeshow during Catersource + The Special Event will have plenty of inspiration and samples February 14-15, 2024. Next year will also mark the return of the DICED competition to the tradeshow floor. Photos courtesy WASIO Faces
The annual DICED competition will move back to the tradeshow floor and bring chefs together for a fun-loving but highly competitive contest, Battle of the Burgers! Pitting six chefs against the clock (and each other) to create a winning creation, three judges will decide who will take home the $1,500 prize and the 2024 DICED champion trophy.
In the afternoon, additional sessions in conference rooms begin at 1:00 p.m. and end at 5:00 p.m.
Call to Arms!
If you would like to be a part of the planning committee for any of CS+TSE’s evening Showcasing Events, a Call to Arms will be held soon. You can also express your interest to Show Manager, Jesse Parziale, at [email protected]. Watch the websites or our weekly e-newsletters for more information.
Later in the evening the annual Special Event Assistance, Relief & Crisis Help (SEARCH) Foundation’s Signature Event fundraiser will bring like-minded people together to raise money through auction for those in need. A spectacular charitable event, Catersource is a proud donor and hopes to see you there!
Thursday, February 15th: Always known to go big on its last day, Catersource + The Special Event will offer a 9:00 a.m. Closing General Session that will inspire you, another full day of exhibit hall browsing and buying (10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.), more conference education, and then it’s time to celebrate! You’ll start the night off with the “Oscars” of the catering and events industry: An elaborate awards ceremony featuring the ACE, CATIE, Leadership, and Gala awards with pre-show cocktail reception and heartwarming awards presentation for work exceptionally well done (see below for more information on the ACE awards).
After that, join award recipients and exhibitors, sponsors, speakers, and attendees for one last industry week hurrah as we say farewell at our Closing Night Celebration.
All the other good stuff
Registration: Registration opens in August! Super Early Bird rates will be in effect so you can take advantage of the lowest prices available. Go to https://informaconnect.com/catersource-thespecialevent/ for more information.
Norm Bennett accepts the National Caterer of the Year award on behalf of his company, 24 Carrots Catering and Events. Photo courtesy WASIO Faces
Call for Speakers: Our call for session speakers has been extended and the full educational schedule will launch mid-fall of 2023. Stay tuned as we start teasing out sessions and speakers in our Fall issue, out September 30th.
And the award goes to...
It’s once again time to celebrate the best of the best! Nominations are now being accepted for the Catersource 2024 Achievement in Catered Events awards (ACE)! We invite you to submit your best work from the past year (see eligibility period below). Join in the excitement and the spirit of our industry as we celebrate the hard work and exceptional accomplishments of our peers. Here are the categories:
- National Caterer of the Year
- International Caterer of the Year
- Best Off-Premise Catering, for companies under $2 million annual revenue
- Best Off-Premise Catering, for companies above $2 million annual revenue
- Best On-Premise Catering, for companies under $2 million annual revenue
- Best On-Premise Catering, for companies above $2 million annual revenue
- Catered Social Event of the Year
- Catered Fundraising Event of the Year
- Catered Wedding of the Year
- Catered Micro Event of the Year
- Product or Technological Innovation of the Year
- Sustainability in Catering
To submit an entry to this year’s ACE awards and see the full list of categories, please visit our awards portal at https://ace-gala.awardsplatform.com/
- Sept. 1, 2022–Sept. 30, 2023 | Eligibility Period for Entries
- Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023 | Regular submission deadline ($99 fee)
- Tuesday, Oct. 31, 2023 | Late Bird submission deadline ($160 fee)
Want to learn more about the categories for the Special Events Gala awards? Head over to Special Events and read all about them!