2
Jul

#WCNYC15: Welcome Conference

WC-NYCSpeaking at the Welcome Conference presenter was an incredible honor. This conference, started by Will Guidara of Eleven Madison Park and Anthony Rudolf, formerly of Per Se, and founder of Journee, is a forum for inspiring and educating hospitality professionals.

WC-NYC-01The conference was held the day after the Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, and I had the pleasure of meeting and welcoming fellow speaker Banjo Harris Plane of Attica, in Melbourne, Australia, and his girlfriend, Meira Harel, head sommelier at Lake House, and introducing them to American-style barbecue.

WC-NYC-02-3After helping break down and pack up our Block Party space, I raced to clean up for dinner and fellowship with the other speakers. Unfortunately, I missed most of that evening, but when I walked in the door, I was greeted with cheers and hugs. Each speaker was presented with a gift chosen to commemorate the occasion. Knowing my crazy travel schedule and love of leather, Will and Anthony presented me with an exquisite Ghurka duffle bag, perfectly matched to a pair of my Lucchese boots, complete with a brass tag inscribed with one of my daddy’s favorite quotations.

WC-NYC-04The warmest welcome. When I finally arrived at the NoMad Hotel, a handwritten note, accompanied by champagne, fruit, and cookies was waiting for me. …

WC-NYC-05… in the most serene, well-appointed room.

WC-NYC-06The calm before the storm. Fuel for the day and a chance to once again review my notes.

WC-NYC-07Before heading to the venue, I instagrammed my Monday mantra, a photo of the sign we displayed at 17th Street that day, in honor of the Welcome Conference theme.

WC-NYC-08Outside the green room. A meeting of the minds prior to go-time. Special thanks to Kevin Lind and the lovely people who ran the green room. I will remember the conversation and kindness forever.

WC-NYC-09The conference was held at the Times Center, and the room was buzzing with energy and filled with hospitality professionals from all over the country. The pineapple, a time-honored symbol of hospitality, decorated many of the spaces, including the stage.

WC-NYC-10Will Guidara and Anthony Rudolf kicked off the morning, telling the story of how they grew from rivals to friends, and how they came up with the idea for the conference.

WC-NYC-21The theme of the 2nd annual event was “Being Right,” and the 12 speakers each spoke eloquently and emphatically about what that means and what that looks like in our worlds. None of us knew how the others would interpret that theme, and yet our messages overlapped and seamlessly wove together.

WC-NYC-11My dad introduced me and brought both me and the audience to tears.

WC-NYC-12My talk was titled “Recognizing Right,” and I opened with the major influences in my life who made being right a mantra in our family: My grandmother, Mama Faye, who was the matriarch and a guiding force in our family, followed by my aunt, Jeanette Hudgins, the strongest female figure in my life …

WC-NYC-14… and of course, my daddy. NO PRESSURE.

Here’s the actual video:

WC-NYC-15This was a powerhouse group and I can’t say enough about those with whom I was fortunate to spend time and get to know. Budding new friendships are the biggest bonus when participating in a program like this. I also met attendees from the midwest and south, people who felt a kinship with me because of a similar  background and/or upbringing. The stories shared, and the questions, compliments, and conversation, were an unexpected and treasured gift.

This day was a modern version of an old-fashioned tent revival for believers in hospitality. From access and the power of saying “yes” to memorable moments and the time wasted being right, these powerful messages resonated and left a lasting impression on everyone in the room. All of the videos of the presentations are available on this link, and if you’re in the business, or if you ever need a dose of inspiration, I highly recommend watching these one or two at a time. Each video is about 20 minutes in length.

WC-NYC-16An event of this magnitude takes a village to orchestrate. This ace team, headed by Aaron Ginsberg, worked the magic behind the scenes.

And I have to give a special shout out to Chase Bank, one of the gracious event sponsors. They totally get it.

WC-NYC-17That evening, the speakers and other guests attended a reception previewing Anthony Rudolf’s new Journee headquarters.

WC-NYC-18And then Julie and Bill Golderer, of Broad Street Ministries, Sarah Robbins, of 21C Museum Hotels, Banjo, Meira, and I went in search of food, ending up at Craftbar, where they graciously served us a round and rustled up charcuterie and cheese boards, even though their kitchen had just closed. (Thanks, Rosser and staff!)

WC-NYC-19Finally, we retired to The Library at the Nomad, where we were joined by a contingent from Chicago: Gary Obligacion, Alinea group, Kevin Boehm, Boka Restaurant Group, and a few of their colleagues.

WC-NYC-20We cocktailed and chatted and toasted the day and new friendships with Amaro. (Thanks, Nomad!) A magical ending to a most magical day.

 

I concentrated on the speakers and the messages, so I didn’t take many photos. Thanks to Andrew Dornenberg, Woody Tunnicliffe, and Colin Wilkinson, who so graciously sent these to me!

 

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