Colorado Meetings + Events is delighted to unveil our 2016 Hall of Fame, made up of seven top-notch individuals who are positively impacting the meetings and events industry. Our editorial advisory board, composed of industry professionals from around the state, nominated and selected this year’s inductees for their unique contributions and committed dedication.
Four Five One Events/Catering by Design
Cade Nagy’s catering career started in 1996 when he received a call from his future business partner and wife-to-be, Ingrid Nagy. “A small startup catering company was getting on the way, and I was a restau - rant-trained chef from Atlanta. They needed a chef. I needed a job. Catering sounded interesting. How hard could it be right?” asks Cade. “The rest is history. I took the job, and got the girl along the way.”
Cade landed his first head chef job in 1990 at Polo Golf & Country Club in Cumming, Georgia. The Nagys purchased an existing catering company in Denver in 2002, have built it into one of the top catering décor companies and currently employ approximately 70 full-time and 325 part-time employees. Cade is a talented chef and business owner by trade and an accomplished photographer by heart.
COM+E: Why do you like working in the meetings and events industry?
CN: It may be as simple as making a guest smile with their eyes closed while tasting something I created for them. Or watching young chefs spread their wings and walk away feeling like they’ve gained all of the confidence and skill they’ll need to conquer the world. Or meeting with an event planner or vendor partner, talking about the vision, sketching down bad draw - ings on a napkin, designing the finished look, working on the vision, and then seeing it come to fruition.
COM+E: What are your hopes and dreams for the future of the industry?
CN: In 2002, I made it a personal mission and person - al challenge to help lead the drive to change the face of catering in Denver and Colorado. I want everybody to create, be different and to always look forward. I want Colorado to be the No. 1 destination for events in the country, and I want the best caterers and event professionals to be located right here.
COM+E: How has the industry evolved?
CN: More and more caterers are finding that the food is an experience for the guests. I’ve witnessed it change with my own eyes in Denver especially. As Denver grows its culinary wings from a restaurant standpoint, the events industry tends to latch on and go for the ride. The idea of farming and raising your own products is happening more and more and will continue to rise.
Best Meeting Professional
TERRI UTECHT, CMP
Utecht Diversified Event Resources, Inc.
Born and raised in Denver, Terri Utecht gained much of her industry know-how as the executive planner for a major generic pharmaceutical company that was based in Broomfield. While working in the sales and marketing division, she was exposed to trade show programs and other corporate events.
“At one point, it dawned on me the organization could be elevating their visibility while increasing their ROI if they’d consider doing some things a little differently. After pitching some ideas and creating renewed interest, it was up to me to start making it happen,” Utecht explains. “From there one event led to another, and therefore my love for the meetings and events industry flourished.“
When the company moved its corporate offices out of state, she established Utecht Diversified Event Resource, Inc. in September 2001, allowing her to continue working for her former employer and start building a client base. “It was an exciting time for me; however, looking back, it was also one of the most frightening times because America experienced 9/11. During this time, I kept telling myself to keep positive, believe all will be fine and keep forging forward,” she recalls.
Utecht joined Meeting Professionals International in 1995, received her Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) certification in 1998, and served on the board of directors for MPI Rocky Mountain Chapter (MPIRMC) from 2005 – 2010 and again from 2014 until now, currently as president.
“I am one of five children in my family, and I have always been known as the diplomat and the one who will raise my hand first to help and support others. The meetings and events industry goes hand-in-hand with my passion of serving others,” Utecht says. “It allows me to better understand the good that comes from getting people together for whatever cause.”
The biggest industry changes she has noticed in recent years are progress in technology, challenges with travel infrastructure, the new profile of the working population, and a greater focus on work-life balance that has become more difficult to maintain with nonstop connectivity.
Up-and-Coming Meeting Professional
Manager, Global Accounts
Like many great things in life, Stephanie Sadri’s start in the events industry was rather serendipitous. She had worked in the restaurant industry for eight years when asked by a friend to help with an off-site catering event. “I lucked out and had an experienced manager recognize my skill set and offered me the catering sales position for Centerplate at Invesco Field. Day one of my new position, I knew this was exactly the industry I was meant to be in,” she says.
She moved on to become events manager for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver and catering sales manager for The Oxford Hotel and The Curtis – a DoubleTree by Hilton, all located in downtown Denver, before joining HelmsBriscoe as a global accounts manager. A member of MPIRMC since 2013, Sadri helped with the chapter’s 40th anniversary celebration, chaired the 2014 MPI/PCMA Golf Tournament, was sponsorship chair for the 2014 Annual Gala and serves on the board of directors as director of fundraising.
“Our industry reaches into every other industry in the world and you never know what you may be a part of. It is rewarding, fun and challenging since no one event is ever exactly the same,” Sadri says. “I love being a part of something so much bigger than me, that an event I was a part of maybe launched a new product that is going to change the world or a fundraiser I helped plan raised the money to continue a good cause.”
She believes the meetings and events industry has become savvier and more strategic. For example, companies are realizing meetings and events are important and require ROI, so have become better informed and more strategic. “Also, suppliers are looking at the bigger picture and overall health and growth of their property. It isn’t just about heads in the beds, it’s about room service, parking, etc. So they are more strategic as well. It means we all need to be,” she says. “I think the great thing, though, is there seems to be more partnerships and working together across the board since everyone has the same goal of having business success.”
Best Special Events Professional
HEATHER McCARTHY SAVOCA
Senior Development Officer, Corporate Relations and Events
Tennyson Center for Children
After 22 years working for destination management company offices in Denver and Dallas, Heather McCarthy Savoca switched from the corporate side of meetings and events to the nonprofit arena. “I wanted to make a difference, and I now do that every day at Tennyson Center for Children, a nonprofit that provides residential and therapeutic services, as well as a K-12 school, to children ages 5 to 18,” she explains. “I help raise much-needed corporate funds and help plan the special events.”
Savoca started her career at Plaza of the Americas in Dallas, hired as a catering assistant and learning the hotel industry inside and out. “I had a fabulous director who taught me table sizes, room setups, audio-visual, creation of menus, wine selection and most importantly client relations. My love of the hospitality industry came from this first job.”
When the same boss moved to a destination management company (DMC) in Dallas, she followed and first worked as operations manager and then as national sales manager for a total of nine years. Savoca and her husband, Dean, then relocated to Colorado in 2002 to open the Front Range office for another DMC, Rocky Mountain Connections (now RMC), and she joined Arrangers (now AXS Group) two years later, where she worked 11 years as director of sales and marketing and creative director before joining Tennyson Center.
Her inspiration comes from building meetings and events that educate, create memories, raise funds and awareness, and develop lasting partnerships. “People in the hospitality industry are one-of-a-kind—inspiring, creative, driven, open minded and professional,” she says
Industry involvement also has played a key role in Savoca’s career, serving on the board of MPIRMC from 2005 – 2012, including a term as president, and on the board of Meetings Industry Council of Colorado (MIC) from 2010 – 2012. She has noticed big changes in collaboration, use of technology, desire for strategic purpose and social responsibility. Savoca adds, “It’s no longer just a one-time event; you continue to engage with your guests all year long and continue to share your message.
Up-and-Coming Special Events Professional
Event Sales Manager
Denver Union Station
Taylor Niceforo’s very first job was working as a prep cook and quickly growing into other positions at a small catering company, Daily’s Catering, in her hometown of Buffalo, New York. She says, “Daily’s was the catalyst of my love of the hospitality industry, before I even knew it!”
Niceforo moved to Denver in 2008 and graduated four years later from Johnson & Wales University. She attended her first National Association of Catering & Events (NACE) Denver meeting in January 2009 and became the first student chapter president. “NACE provided me with incredible opportunities such as scholarships to study abroad and the chance to attend two annual national conferences,” she says.
An internship at the Omni Interlocken Hotel in Broomfield helped lead to diverse roles at The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa in downtown Denver for three years, starting out as a PBX operator, moving to the front desk and eventually becoming catering coordinator before moving to another downtown property.
“In the early summer of 2014, I was presented with an opportunity by a former boss, Kristin Hutton, to be part of a team that would establish the catering and events structure at the incredible Denver landmark, Union Station,” she says. “I have a strong passion for this city and exploring all the opportunity and experience it holds. I have been fortunate enough to work in a couple of Denver’s most historic and iconic buildings, which has helped me appreciate authenticity at its best.”
She is constantly impressed by food presentations, interactive experiences and integration of local items at events. “Rarely do you only see carving stations or simple buffet setups. Photo booths have evolved into selfie stations, simple food displays have turned into Velcro or donut walls, and satellite bars can now include tasting aspects,” Niceforo observes. “Guests are also becoming more involved and interested in craft and local products. There is value added to an event that features a local brewery’s new seasonal beer or a whiskey tasting from a local distillery.”
KRISTIN HUTTON, CMP
Director of Events
Denver Union Station
Jobless but far from hopeless, Kristin Hutton moved to Colorado after her first job to ski. She was comfortable knowing that the hospitality industry always provides opportunities.
Hutton waited tables while attending Auburn University in Alabama and upon graduation was offered a job in management at the restaurant where she was working at Auburn University Hotel & Conference Center. “I went to school to be a broadcast journalist (Connie Chung was my hero!), but the restaurant job paid more, shockingly, than my radio news broadcasting job. Plus, my radio job started at 5 a.m. and my in time for the restaurant wasn’t until 2 p.m. Seemed like an easy choice at the time,” she says.
Hutton moved to the hotel’s catering department and has been in meeting and event operations and/or sales ever since. She notes, “I can’t imagine anything worse than being bored in a job you have to go to five or six days a week! I appreciate the vast array of interaction, experiences and people that make up our industry.”
With 20 years in the event and hospitality industry in Denver, her biggest career challenge to date was being part of the Denver Union Station opening team. Hutton’s charge was to create and direct the event sales and operations from the ground up starting in 2014. Previously, she worked for The Brown Palace Hotel & Spa, Kevin Taylor Restaurant Group, Richfield Hospitality, Marriott Hotels, Dave & Buster’s and Disney Regional Entertainment and is an active member and past president of MPIRMC, past chair of MIC and current executive director of the Downtown Denver Restaurant Group.
“Five years ago we were working to recover from a recession that hit our industry particularly hard. Venues were closing, companies downsizing, meeting programs being eliminated, etc. I know a lot of people who lost their jobs, including myself,” she reflects. “I feel that we have worked hard to grow and communicate the importance of what we do and the contributions that our businesses make to the economy and to people’s experiences.”
Hotel Monaco Denver
“What I like best about working in the meetings and events industry are the connections I have built throughout the years,” says Jason Landers. “Even though the connections vary from clients, co-workers, hoteliers and others within the industry, I’m fortunate to call them all friends,”
A native of Colorado, Landers received his first taste of the hospitality industry while working at Denver International Airport for a small, family-owned rental car company at age 16, landing a job with Hertz after turning 18. “During that time I started taking classes at Metropolitan State University, stumbled upon their hospitality, tourism and events program and realized how cool it would be to work at a hotel,” he says. “Renting cars didn’t create that personal or magical experience that I felt destined to do. However, to get my foot in the door, I started out at the bottom of the food chain as a bellman at the Adam’s Mark hotel in 2007 and from there the rest is history.”
Previously working as a sales manager for Magnolia Hotel Denver and front desk agent for Adam’s Mark, Landers plans to see where his current career path with Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants leads while continuing to develop a skill set to become a mentor and leader. He also enjoys supporting industry associations by being active on various committees and taking on other roles. During his time as a student at MSU, Landers volunteered with both the Colorado Restaurant Association and Colorado Hotel & Lodging Association and has been an active member of MPIRMC for the last five years, serving on the chapter’s gala, golf tournament and auction committees and helping with MIC’s Serving Up Hope luncheon.
With a mix of four generations within the workplace, Landers believes the meetings and events industry has wisely evolved by being flexible and thinking outside the box. “Nowadays, it seems like everyone prefers an experience with a personalized touch,” he says. “We are able to do this by treating every meeting uniquely, by providing a place where creativity, collaboration and business can mingle.”