• Meet Kathleen Schaffer, The Visionary Caterer

    POSTED December 11, 2017

    Kathleen Schaffer is the fiery force behind some of LA’s most memorable events.

Kathleen Schaffer likes to think outside the box ... and the bowl, plate or even the banquet table. With her husband Charlie, she coowns Schaffer, one of the leading event catering and hospitality companies in Southern California. She’s also the eight-year-old company’s creative director, guiding a staff of roughly 100 in executing some 500 memorable events a year for the likes of Amazon, Disney, Nike, Sephora, Snapchat, Nordstrom, Lamborghini, Tesla and Facebook. “We want to create a restaurant-quality experience for our corporate clients that captures their culture and message,” she says. “Seeing that vision come to life is truly the greatest reward.”

For the kickoff party of the 2017 E3 gaming summit in downtown Los Angeles this past June, Schaffer developed a “post-apocalyptic” menu designed around the themes of Bethesda’s various games. The 1,800 guests enjoyed turkey legs wrapped in parchment paper, miniature lobster rolls in black buns, a popcorn bar with branded “Fallout” flavored salts in Sriracha lime, bacon and cheddar, and green apple; charred Mexican-style street corn to evoke the “Quake” game; and, for “Evil Within,” soft-serve black ice cream made with digestive charcoal. 

At the IMAX Global Summit 2017 the “around the world lunch station” included international cuisine to highlight the global importance of the summit. There was fattoush salad from the Middle East; mini muffuletta sandwiches as a shout-out to New Orleans; roasted tilefish Provencal to evoke the South of France; Indian-inspired Tandoori grilled chicken; a Moroccan-style vegetable tagine; coconut quinoa to salute Thailand; a traditional orecchiette Bolognese to commemorate Italy; and a sweets station that included Mexico’s chocolate churros and Russia’s beet coconut macaroons.

Each event is preceded by a staff gathering in the “situation room” to anticipate everything that might possibly go wrong. When the team concocted a specialty cocktail made with very high-proof tequila that would be served in skull glasses and lit on fire, the placement of every fire extinguisher was reviewed. “We want everything, including our drinks, to be about the guest experience,” says Schaffer, who started her culinary career working at local restaurants as a teen in her hometown of New Hope, Pennsylvania, before going on to earn an arts degree from New York University and then launch her first catering company, called Food Fetish. These days she’s crazy about “roaming buffets,” passed trays of composed small plates. “That way the party keeps moving,” she says, “and guests keep mingling, while we stay in the background, where we belong.” 

For Andrea Mokros, Minneapolis-based public relations executive and independent event consultant, the last decade has been a whirlwind. From serving as special assistant to President Obama and director of strategic planning for then-first lady Michelle Obama, to welcoming newcomers to the Bold North as the vice president of communications and events for the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee, Mokros shares the key takeaways that inspire her work today. 


Tony Michaels is no stranger to navigating choppy waters. The CEO and executive director of The Parade Company, which puts on traditions like America’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the Ford Fireworks, took the helm of the Detroit nonprofit during tough times, at the height of the financial crisis. “2008, 2009, are you kidding me?” says Michaels.


Originally from Ontario, Heather Odendaal got her start in event planning early, serving as her high school’s head of social events. She ended up on the West Coast, courtesy of her studies at the University of British Columbia, and launched her career in Whistler, working for the resort in marketing and events. Today, she’s CEO of Bluebird Strategy, a boutique event planning firm, and CEO and founder of WNORTH, a global community of women who have their sights set on the C-suite.