Archives for June 2015

SSE-LA produces National Corporate Housing’s 2015 Management Conference at The Grand Floridian


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Superstar Events-LA produced the 2015 National Corporate Housing Management Conference at the beautiful Disney signature hotel, The Grand Floridian at Disneyworld n Orlando, Florida. I was lucky to begin working with Laura Ciabotti, Vice President of Learning & Development in September 2013. We made an excellent team!  I had a wonderful time getting to know Laura and learning about National’s corporate culture.  The conference theme was Empowered for Excellence and was held Monday, March 9th through Friday, March 13th.

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Peggy Sweeney-McDonald and Laura Ciabotti, NCH VP Training & Development discovering The Incredible decor at The Grand Floridian Resort

I recommended they hire, Johnnie Maya of JRM Productions for the meeting audio visual needs. Johnnie and I have a long history of working together on corporate events. We are both highly creative and it is always a pleasure to work with him and his production manager, Richard Quezada. Once we brainstorm on the theme, we are always off to the races with a fun kicked-up opening video idea. Laura thought Johnnie was a great fit and NCH was excited to be working with him!

Johnnie Maya, Peggy Sweeney-McDonald & Richard Quezada

Since the meeting was at Disney, I suggested to Laura, we pick a “Disney” theme for an opening video. She presented a list to the executives and they chose The Incredibles. We cast the executives CEO, Tom Acheson, President/COO, Jon Hile, Chief Talent Officer, Misty Gregarek and Chief Financial Officer, Kregg Anderson as our Super Heros complete with leotards and black masks. In the video, our “Super Heros” give a mission for the NCH Regional Managers to grab their team members with their empowering for excellence game plans and come to the Grand Floridian to join forces to terminate the competition and bring world class corporate housing to the Universe. We see them exiting the NCH Denver office building and jumping into a car and screeching off into the night with “Bam” “Pow” & “Shazam” as graphics on the screen. We cut to pictures of the teams across the country dressed for  “Disney or Bust” and with a couple of  “princesses” and in Mickey ears. The video ended with the Executive Team arriving to the Grand Floridian and marching into the Conference Center arms locked as a united team. (We had to film early Monday morning before the meeting began and Wizard Johnnie edited the closing into the video on the spot.)


The NCH Incredible Super Hero Executive Team – Kregg Anderson, John Hile, Tom Achison and Misty Gregarek

After showing the video at the opening of the General Session, the four executives ran up the  ballroom aisle to a standing ovation and posed on stage in their Super Hero poses complete with red Incredible hoodies. It was an opening to remember and got the attendees pumped up for an inspiring and motivational four day conference of education, planning, networking and team building.

The first night kicked off with a beautiful cocktail party on the Grand Floridian Marina Patio. For an ice breaker, Laura instructed the Regional Managers to grab their team and in fifteen minutes take pictures with an Iphone of every Mickey Mouse character they could find on the resort property. The winning team took 120 pictures. At 9:00 PM, the Disney fireworks over the Magic Castle could be seen across the lake and was a spectacular ending to a beaufitul evening.


Welcome Cocktail Party on the Marina Patio

The Disney Institute provided a full day of traning on Tuesday, complete with a behind the scenes tour to see how Disney manages their team and property. Disney’s concept of  finding the emotional connection with their clients inspired everyone and the attendees walked away with new skills and motivation along with Mickey Ears with a graduation cap!


Disney Institute Training Graduates

On Wednesday night, a festive off-site party was held at the Ice Bar in Orlando. Everyone wore white, blue or silver and were given  NCH blue logo’d scarfs, silver beads, tinsel crowns and light necklaces. A delicious Mexican buffet was served with specialty Vodka cocktails followed by dancing, photo op, a dance contest and raffle for fun prizes including the red Incredible hoodies raffled right off the back of the executives. An amazing ice scupture was created within minutes on the patio of Mr. Incredible from the Disney movie, however, his logo was the “N” for National! Guests enjoyed putting on coats and going into the freezing cold Ice Bar within the club to drink Vodka out of ice glasses sitting on ice bar stools.


The IceBar Orlando

The beautiful Award Gala began on Thursday night with a red carpet cocktail party, followed by a delicious sit-down dinner. Entertainment was provided by the The Three Waiters, a trio of “waiters” who always bring a huge surprise element to the event when they began singing and competing in a sing-off ending stage in a rousing edition of the famous opera song, Nessun Dorma. An after-party followed with more celebrating and dancing until midnight.

Photographer Jennifer Creel, was there to capture the events and took new headshots of all the attendees.

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The Three Waiters

A good-bye breakfast buffet was held  Friday morning complete with Mickey Waffles and a final networking closing excercise led by Laura Ciabotti before everyone headed to the airport.  I was blessed to have a few hours by the pool before heading back to Los Angeles.

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National Corporate Housing Award Gala

The service and staff at the Grand Floridian was first class and the food was exceptional. The Sales Manager discovered I was a foodie so the Chef made a point to come see me during each meal to see if I approved. He even brought me an extra entree at the Award Gala because he wanted me to try the mouthwatering short rib and I had ordered the excellent grouper! The specialty dessert was a Mickey Mouse chocolate mousse  which was a nice touch and everyone was talking about it the next day!

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The Mickey Mouse Chocolate Mousse for Dessert!

Team Disney surprised me with a tasty souvenier left on my bed, a Cooking with Mickey cookbook signed by the famous mouse himself.  Best amenity ever from the happiest place on earth!  Thanks to Mickey and the Grand Floridian team!  Thank you Laura, Tom, Jon, Misty and Kregg & the National team! It was truly magical!


Cooking With Mickey



Laura Ciabotti, VP of Learning & Development

I had the opportunity to work with Peggy on our Annual Conference. She was able to step into a process that had already started and take control of all the moving pieces. She orchestrated an amazing event for us! She took us to a whole new level of WOW! I enjoyed working with Peggy on all levels. 

Peggy is the consummate professional who is fun loving, responsible and I feel fortunate to have had her on our team!”  – Laura Ciabotti, VP Learning & Development, National Corporate Housing



SSE-LA’s Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde… foodie event is highlighted on Food Network Star by contestant, Jay Ducote

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The latest season of Food Network Star is getting a spicy serving of Louisiana lagniappe in the form of “Big Jay” as Host Giada De Laurentiis called Jay Ducote on the first episode which premiered Sunday, June 7, 2015. Jay Ducote is taking the latest season of Food Network Star by storm with his killer cooking and big love of Louisiana culture! He is filling the screen with his passion for food and larger than life personality.

Jay is one of Louisiana’s finest foodie personalities and is the radio host of the award winning The Bite & Booze Show. He is a former favorite host and storytelller of Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde…, the live food monologue show produced by Superstar Events-LA, and is a contributor to the Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde….LIfe Stories About Food Coffee Table/Cookbook by Pelican Publishing. He recently came out with his own tasty Jay D’s Louisiana Barbeque Sauce and a small batch of Blanc du Bois wine from the Louisiana Landry Vineyard. Both fly off the shelves in Lousiana grocery and specialty stores.
If you aren’t familiar with the Food Network Star on The Food Network, the show is hosted by Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis. It begins with 12 contestants who are challenged each week with cooking competitions. One chef is eliminated by the end of each week. The show is unique as the competitors are judged on cooking skills along with their personality and stories.
On the second show of the season titled “Savor Your Baking”, Jay knocked it out of the park in the “What’s for Dinner?” segment. The contestants made a mad dash to choose limited left-over type ingredients from the refrigerator and create a family dinner. Jay chose grilled salmon and created a Barbeque Salmon Hash with potatoes, onions, peppers, jalapenos and Kraft Barbeque sauce. Too bad Jay wasn’t able to bring his own Jay D’s Louisiana Barbeque Sauce, a top seller in stores throughout Louisiana and used by many chefs. Kraft is a Food Network sponsor so I guess that wasn’t going to happen! Each contestant had to present their dish on camera and Jay received amazing comments such as “flawless” by Judge Melissa D’Arabian, former winner of Food Network Star Season 5. He was challenged by the judges to “show us something we really need to know about you in each challenge going forward.”
On the second segment of the show, the contestants were challenged to create something savory but inspired by something traditionally sweet. On Sunday morning, Jay had texted me to “watch the show for several reasons.” My radar went up and I figured he was going to make his mouthwatering Blackberry Bourbon Boston Butt, the best pork dish I have ever eaten which is featured in the Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde … cookbook, or possibly make a special beignet inspired by Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was intrigued and set my DVR. I was surprised and thrilled when Jay shared how he had been a speaker in a food monologue show back in Louisiana called “Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde…”  and was inspired to make a savory beignet because beignets are “little pillows of decadence,” my favorite term for them! Although Jay was told by the judges that he sometimes seems too rehearsed and needed to show other sides of his personality, the judges were very positive about his beignets. Host Bobby Flay said they had a good flavor and guest judge Chef Alex Guarnaschelli liked his passion for Louisiana culture.
There is no question in my mind that Jay will step up to the plate with the excellent feedback shared by the judges. I feel like they are pulling for him to win and are giving him the tools to get him there. There are many sides of Jay Ducote yet to be revealed and Food Nework needs to buckle their seatbelts as Hurricane Jay has just begun! My fingers are crossed because he deserves to win this competition and shine on his own Food Network show!
As we say in Louisiana, “Yeah You Right…Geaux Jay!”
Jay Ducote in Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde...
Tune in to Food Network Star, an entertaining and mouthwatering show, on The Food Network on Sunday nights or look for it On Demand.
Meanwhile, if you want a little more of Big Jay, check out his website and order his delicious Jay D’s Louisiana Barbeque sauce.
Jay D's Louisiana Barbeque Sauce & Blanc Du Bois wine
Jay’s book hasn’t been published yet, but is in the works with LSU Press. While you wait, check out the Meaanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde… Life Stories About Food coffee table/cookbook to read Jay’s food story, Bite, Booze & Beyond, and try his delicious recipe for Blackberry Bourbon Boston Butt.
Jay Ducote's Blackberry Bourbon Boston Butt
You can watch my interview with Jay on Savoring The Sweetness, Let’s Talk About Food talk show, a Pepper Jay Production filmed last year in HollywoodCalifornia.  Visit SavoringTheSweetness to see Jay’s show and my interviews with other foodies.
Jay Ducote & Peggy Sweeney-McDonald on Savoring The Sweetenss