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Super-Sized Keynotes Inspire at CS+TSE 2024

It’s been quite a roller coaster for the catering and events industry thanks to lingering effects from the pandemic followed by substantial growth during recovery, forcing everyone to embrace a new normal. Fluctuating prices, technological advancements, staffing shortages, and changing consumer behaviors are just a few factors that forced the catering and events industry to adapt.  

"I believe we are all superheroes," said Laura Schwarts (Catersource + The Special Event Opening General Session keynote) during this year's event. "We have a closet full of capes, but some days our capes may feel more tattered thn others." 

Laura Schwartz delivered the Opening General Session keynote during Catersource + The Special Event.

This is where places like Catersource + The Special Event come to the rescue. For many of today’s catering and event professionals, there’s very few places quite like Catersource + The Special Event: everyone around you understands the struggles and the successes of working in events, they are eager to help you solve any problem, celebrate your creativity, and above all they want to share a few laughs, inspiration, and a whole lot of smiles. 

Opening General Session

Schwartz (a top U.S. speaker who started her career serving as the White House Director of Events for the Clinton Administration) highlighted the importance of our "third places," a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg to describe the places we gather together outside of home and work, places that unify communities, provide social capital, and help us release our regular roles.

For many in the event industry, that place might be something like a favorite restaurant or even Catersource + The Special Event. Additionally, events can also be informed by other third places. She encouraged event professionals to look beyond their own commissaries, tasting rooms, and catering kitchens. 

"You never know when the next conversation could be "The Conversation" to change your life or the life of somebody else," she told the crowd. 

Attendees were delighted when Opening General Session keynote Laura Schwartz created a "coffee shop" onstage and brought some fellow event pros up to talk growth and opportunities. Onstage: Rolando Espinoza (Champagne Creative), Gwendolyn McNutt (ILEA), Cindy Y. Lo (RED VELVET), and Charles Haracz (Blue Plate).

Then, to prove her point, Schwartz transformed the stage into her favorite third place—a coffee shop (complete with the smell of coffee being piped in thanks to Scentex). A stagehand brought out five coffee orders; one for Schwartz, and four for the event professionals she brought on stage to join her in her third place (Rolando Espinoza, Champagne Creative; Gwendolyn McNutt, ILEA; Cindy Y Lo, RED VELVET; and Charles Haracz, Blue Plate). It was in this comfortable setting that Schwartz led a dialogue between her guests about taking advantage of growth opportunities. 

Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™

If every event professional is a superhero, than Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List™ is their utility belt. 

The man himself: Michael Cerbelli (Cerbelli Creative). 

Michael Cerbelli (Cerbelli Creative) closed out the conference with the return after a three-year hiatus. In this lively session, Cerbelli shared cutting edge event and catering ideas,  showcasing top vendors such as Froggy's Fog and Scentex (both of which offer room scentscaping events), The Cup Bearer (providing flair bartending spectacle), a drone bartender, SugarLab Pro (edible sugar garnishes), Naked Fig Catering (offering vegan-only menus), and Edenopolis (offering elaborate Feasting Tables).

Edenopolis provides elaborate Feasting Tables.

Be on the lookout for registration info for next year's conference, to be held in Ft. Lauderdale, FL from February 24-27.

Apply Now to Speak at Catersource + The Special Event 2025!

Our 2025 Call for Speakers is officially open! Take a moment and submit your topic for Catersource + The Special Event 2025, which will be held Feb 24-27 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. It's going to be an ultra-creative conference loaded with fresh and impactful content and we want to hear from you now so we can build our best program yet.

Where & When: February 24-27 in Fort Lauderdale, FL at the Broward County Convention Center. We are partnering once again with The Special Event, with a combined tradeshow floor that will bring over 5,000 professionals and 300 suppliers together to provide an unmatched opportunity to source, network, and learn in one-sensory stimulating environment. You can immerse yourself in a spectacular event that encompasses everything catering- and event-related. The alliance of these powerful, established brands will bring unique industry all-stars from both worlds—under one roof for four momentous days.

Additionally, we'll once again be hosting Art of Catering Food. Held the two days prior to Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, Art of Catering Food (AOCF) is a stand-on-its-fabulous-own event, with all of the delicious samples, networking lunches, tours, parties, and togetherness you can pack into two days. Taking place at Broward County Convention Center, the event will be highly experiential, focusing on catered events of all kinds.

Our Audience: Our audience is in the business of helping people celebrate the most important milestones in their lives. They are on and off-premise, doing drop off delivery, executing private parties to multiple day festivals, driving food trucks, and setting up field kitchens and events in the most unlikely of places. Caterers and event planners are some of the hardest working people in business today.

The Education: Over 120+ sessions will span the length of the conference, within tracks such as:'

  • Culinary (culinary techniques, F&B trends, demos, industry concerns such as food waste)
  • Event Trends & Production (events, wedding trends, destination events, more)
  • Business & Professional Development (best business practices, business growth, C-Level operational strategies)
  • Trends & Design (related to colors, floral, lighting, venues)
  • Off-Premise Catering (drop off, corporate catering, events)
  • On-Premise Catering (colleges & universities, hotels, casinos, stadiums, wedding & event venue catering)
  • Sales & Marketing (client-facing ideas and strategies)
  • Sustainability & DEI

More interested in presenting during AOCF? Food and beverage (and recipes to accompany) are at the helm of this conference, but we are also looking for hands on activities, solutions for off-premise catering in dire or unusual conditions, outrageously creative ways to deliver the guest food experience, and more. Put your thinking cap on: what have you learned over the past year that you could share with your colleagues to make their work lives easier? What was the restaurant or food truck experience that you recreated and turned into a best-selling short plate on your wedding menus? What are your best catering hacks? What is the best way to pack a catering truck for an off-prep event

How to ApplyClick here to fill out your submission for Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, and to get all other details as well as some ideas to get you thinking about the kind of session you'd like to present. Click here to fill out your submission for Art of Catering Food.

Your Deadline: The deadline for speaker/session submissions is June 10, 2024 at 11:59 pm CST.

We can't wait to see you next year in Fort Lauderdale!

See more from this year's Catersource + Special Event in the summer issue of Catersource magazine!

All photos courtesy Ivan Piedra Photography/AGNYC Productions, Inc.


Catersource includes an annual conference, tradeshow and magazine, online presence, e-newsletters, the Art of Catering Food conference, and Leading Caterers of America Executive Summit. Click here for conference information. Click here to sign up for any of our free e-news products or the quarterly issue of Catersource magazine.