Catersource is part of the Informa Connect Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

First In, Last Out!

Last out of Vegas in ‘20 as the pandemic took hold of the world, and first into Miami Beach in ‘21 as cases diminished, Catersource + The Special Event made its triumphant return this past July. “The sun rises on our new industry... there’s a new day coming—this is the start of something new for all of us,” said Michael Cerbelli. “Live events are here, and they’re here to stay.”

Live entertainment throughout the evening accentuated the Closing Night celebration. 

Elegance was the name of the game during the Closing Night Celebration.

In the next few pages you will have the opportunity to relive the inspiration, memories, and Miami vibes that were over a year in the making. But first, we’d like to take this opportunity to not only thank this year’s attendees for bringing their enthusiasm, but also express our sincere appreciation to our speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors for providing the conference top-notch experiences this year.

A giant, glowing light bulb was a beacon to the bar.

eyecatching glassware added to the atmosphere during the Event Experience.

Back together & it feels so good

One of the overarching themes throughout the week was togetherness. Not only was the week about reconnecting with friends and colleagues, but it was also about the unified struggle and support that the industry encountered during the past year. 

Registration will open on Nov. 12 for Catersource + The Special Event’s co-located conference in Anaheim, CA, May 2–5, 2022. Go to for more information and for updates on speakers, sessions, and events.

“Yes, it was hard, yes there were trying times, but we made it through the way we always do: together,” said Aleya Harris, with Flourish Marketing. 

That feeling of togetherness could be seen in varying ways, even when there was a competition and trophy on the line. 

“We are not competitors. We are colleagues. We hold each other up,” said Julia Kendrick Conway of Assaggiare Mendocino, during the Diced Competition, held Wednesday morning on the Tradeshow Floor. 

Catersource + The Special Event’s Show Ambassadors: Heather Rouffe (Atlas Event Rental) and Bill Hansen (Bill Hansen Catering). 

The message of togetherness only became more powerful when discussing the industry’s future. 

“We need to come together as a family,” Cerbelli said. “We cannot trip right now.”

On the tradeshow floor, chefs Joshue Butler (left) and Frankie Ruiz (right) of US Foods, presented on the culinary main stage.

For keynote speaker Pablos Holman, it’s together that the industry can find the solutions to move forward and take action. 

“We need to identify what we can build from the rubble, together we can learn what’s possible,” he said. “We have to invent new tools for the arsenal, we need allies, and we need to find those people who know how to solve these problems.”

Keynote speaker Pablos Holman spoke to invention and innovation and how that can help solve the catering and events industry’s biggest problems. 

It’s time to celebrate! 

The feeling of togetherness was no more evident than during Catersource + The Special Event’s evening Showcasing Events, filled with smiles, conversation, and celebratory cocktail toasts. 

Leigh-Ann Reitze, System Marketing Events Coordinator at UPMC Pinnacle, and Teri Jakob, Making the Magic Happen, enjoy some taquitos during connect live.  

n assortment of delectable desserts were featured during the Event Experience.

The Hard Rock Café, the venue for Connect Live, offered breathtaking views of the Miami skyline. 

Tuesday evening kicked off with Connect Live at the Hard Rock Café for a night of networking and reconnecting, followed by the Opening Night Party on Wednesday at the Fillmore Miami Beach which featured live entertainment, appetizing bites and lush décor.

above: A lush and tropical archway greeted guests to the Event Experience at Jungle Island. 

Centerplate provided a plethora of bites during the Closing Night Celebration.

Thursday’s Event Experience at Jungle Island was a true food and beverage showcase with a tropical twist. Bringing this year’s conference to a close was the Closing Night Celebration at the Miami Beach Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom.

Food for thought

The Catersource Culinary Experience stage has always enticed guests with cooking demonstrations, displays, and trends. Chef Greg Taylor presented The Business of Food Displays, discussing ways to set up a COVID-safe buffet, showing a fully tricked out buffet that attendees could photograph; Chef Elgin Woodman and designer Ashley Deoleo presented Miami Styled Food Stations offering a lavish and colorful presentation that set imaginations afire. Chef Emily Ellyn discussed how to perfectly showcase, plate, and execute small-plated dishes during Small Plates, Big Return

During the Business of Food Displays session Chef Greg Taylor (Inset) showcased a beautiful buffet as a way to educate attendees about how to properly execute the client experience by building a food display. buffet Photo courtesy Amber Kispert 

Live cooking demonstrations included Sodexo’s Chef Joseph Pina on Toasts, Sandwiches & Sliders: The Perfect Serve, and cannabis expert and classically trained chef Brandon Allen prepared unique and appetizing tastes via his session, Cannabis Cuisine. Ellyn, well known for her prowess with cocktails, hit the stage once again for Shaking Up an Industry That’s Already Stirred. A playful addition to the culinary stage this year were café tables, set to the far sides, which offered attendees the ability to sit on stage near the presenter and experience the action close-up.

Chef Emily Ellyn gave a cocktail demonstration during her session Shaking Up an Industry That’s Stirred.

The art of beautiful plating was on the menu this year for Chef Keith Lord who shared his insider tips during his session Breaking the Culinary Rules: Adding Cash—and Cache—to Your Menu Offerings, before giving attendees a chance to test out their skills during his Hands-On Elevated Plating Techniques session. Click here for more Lord's sessions. 

“It’s about redefining what we’re doing with a simple tweak of the plate,” Lord said during his hands-on session. “It’s about identifying what we can do differently in order to keep people excited about our food.”

Attendees practiced their plating skills during Hands-On Elevated Plating Techniques. Photo courtesy Amber Kispert 

Chef Keith Lord shared his plating tips during two separate sessions, one lecture style, and one hands on.

One thing that will never change though is the ever-popular food trend sessions. The always charismatic Stavros of M Culinary talked tacos, street food, frozen treats, charcuterie, and even nacho bars with cheese on draft. Colorado’s Catering by Design’s Syd Sexton took trends one step further by additionally discussing how we serve with her session on Trendsetting Food Stations in Our New Normal

Get on Board

The annual Diced competition got a makeover for 2021 by challenging competitors to create grazing boards, which hit an all-time high in 2021 as an option for at-home entertaining, or as an alternative to traditional grazing stations.  

“It’s Lunchables for adults,” competition emcee Chef Emily Ellyn joked. 

Chef Keith Lord shared his plating tips during two separate sessions, one lecture style, and one hands on.

Chef Christopher Evan Taylor of Chris Evans Events and Catering took home the coveted Diced trophy and a $1,500 prize with a creative interpretation of a charcuterie board with his entry titled “Southern Hash Charcuterie Brunch Breakfast Yumminess,” which judge Ron Ben-Israel playfully renamed “Sunnyside All the Way.” 

Chef Christopher Evan Taylor of Chris Evans Events and Catering took home the coveted trophy during the Diced competition with his deconstructed breakfast board featuring a lamb hash topped with a spicy cheese fondue along with a yolky egg; and accompanied by crostinis and jam.

For the competition, Taylor prepared a deconstructed breakfast board featuring a lamb hash topped with a spicy cheese fondue along with a yolky egg and accompanied by crostini and jam.

“It is incredible. I love the creative remix on the idea of a tasting board. It’s not your typical platter,” Ellyn said. “This is très chic.” 

“Your egg yolk quivers like my heart, yet it stays firmly in my chest,” Ben-Israel said.

Chef Chip Olszewski from Bonura Hospitality Group was chosen as the People’s Choice Award winner with his board, “Country Harvest.” For that, he received a $500 Amazon gift card.

Chef Chip Olszewski from Bonura Hospitality Group was chosen as the People’s Choice Award during the Diced competition with his board, “Country Harvest.”

Sodexo’s chef Joseph Pina named his Diced board “Fusion for Ages.” 

Chef Robert Mitchell of Bold Catering & Design prepared “Late Night in Miami” for the Diced Competition. 

Chef Greg Taylor of Black Fox Co. named his Diced board “Florida Was a Good Trip.” Chef Ron Ben-Israel suggested “Orange Surprise,” given the carved orange bore his likeness. 

Julia Kendrick Conway of Assaggiare Mendocino submitted her board “Colors of the Rainbow, Flavors of World” in the Diced competition. 

Watch for Diced 2022 in Anaheim next May!

Where they lead, we will follow

If 2020 taught us anything, it was the importance of company leadership. During times of crisis, employees look to business owners and managers to help them navigate the unruly waters. 

Catersource + The Special Event recognized those leaders who were able to support their teams and navigate them through an unprecedented year during the Leadership Lunch, held at the W Hotel. This year’s recipients were Roy Porter (Michael Roman Lifetime Achievement Award), Connie Riley (Gala Lifetime Achievement Award), Robin Selden (Richard Carbotti Award), and Jaclyn Bernstein (Steve Kemble Leadership Award).

Grammy award winning musician, Tomasito Cruz (center) sang to guests as they entered the luncheon space. Photo courtesy Kathleen Stoehr

Robin Selden from Marcia Selden Catering was the recipient of this year’s Richard Carbotti Award, handed out during the Leadership Lunch. 

Roy Porter was honored during the Leadership Lunch with the Michael Roman Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Leadership also found its place among the conference agenda as well with such sessions as Anthony Lambatos’ Be the Leader You Want to Be; and Kate Patay presented Critical Leadership & Communication.

Celebrity event planner David Tutera delivered the closing keynote. 

David Tutera’s closing keynote, How to Be Bold in 2021, brought the point home as he explained his thoughts on another trait he felt leaders needed to embody: boldness. 

“There’s boldness in most people to become leaders,” he said. “Given the right set of circumstances, many will take action to better the world around them. There isn’t someone on a white horse coming; it might happen in Disney but it doesn’t happen here, so we need to rescue ourselves.

“More now than ever we need to find our footing, and step forward with boldness and confidence.”

Back in the event groove

Identifying creative event ideas and trends also played an integral part throughout the week with sessions on wedding trends (Meghan Ely; Robin and Jeffrey Selden), bringing fundraising events virtual (AJ Williams), and CeCe Todd spoke about how to Elevate Your 2021 Events with Florals

2021 was supposed mark the 20th anniversary for Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™, which it was, but next year will be the “21st birthday party edition, the biggest, baddest production you’ve ever seen,” Cerbelli said. 

Finally, each year Michael Cerbelli (Cerbelli Creative) presents Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™, highlighting the best event and catering trends through performances, demonstrations, and onstage spectacles. This year he took a slightly different tact, focusing heavily on conversations with industry partners (Jordan Kahn, Rob Barber, David Lombardo, and others) regarding the future of the industry, and how they were able to weather the pandemic. “We need to take a look ahead at the industry that was forced to catapult five years into the future,” Cerbelli said. 

Connecticut’s The Cup Bearer, a cocktail experience company, offered a live mixology demonstration during the Hot List. Shown: Flair bartender Andre Ichim

Throughout the entire Hot List, Michael Cerbelli and his on-stage guests, including David Lombardo, were served various cocktails by Justin Pasha of The Cup Bearer.  Shown here Lombardo and Cerbelli enjoy Candelas.

Jordan Kahn (Jordan Kahn Music Company) represents many bands throughout the United States, including Stratosphere who performed during the Hot List.

Funny Face Bakery can make edible depictions of any number of people or things, including David Lombardo.

Following the Hot List, Justin Pasha of The Cup Bearer provided a champagne pour for a communal toast.

Dr. Elvis Francois, who became a viral session during the pandemic with his version of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” closed the Hot List with a performance that didn’t leave a dry eye in the house. 

Ever-popular comedian Harrison Greenbaum presented a virtual routine that left the audience in stitches, and despite the early morning, everyone in the audience wanted to try the spectacular cocktails presented with finesse by Justin Pasha of The Cup Bearer. Brett Culp opened and closed the show with a follow up to his 100 Million Moments video of 2020. Finally, a live performance from viral sensation Dr. Elvis Francois (the ‘Singing Surgeon’) stunned the audience with its beauty and reminded us all how much our frontline caregivers gave of themselves during the worst of the pandemic. A subdued Michael Cerbelli? Yes. A beautiful and transformative event? As always. 


All photos courtesy WTA Photo via SpotMyPhotos unless otherwise noted

Amber Kispert

Content Producer

Amber is the Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.