Australia-born Penelope Bonaldi has been the special events director at Travel & Leisure since 2007, overseeing 40 events per year, including the magazine's annual World’s Best awards. Prior to joining T&L, she worked for Hamptons Cottages and Gardens magazine as project director.
Venue: “It is the most amazing experience preparing for an event at Frank Gehry’s IAC Building. For the design awards in February, the process was seamless and everyone was so sophisticated and smart. The word 'yes' just came out of every sentence. Even though we have to pick new venues all the time, I would just move in there if I could. I’m also trying to be more strategic with venues that won’t necessitate big build-outs; it starts to look obscene at this time of year to spend a lot. IAC has the biggest video wall in the world, so instead of doing creative displays or installations, I get to work in the video world and every guest was blown away.... Lighting is also fantastic; you don’t need an enormous amount of lighting installations. There is a full working kitchen, beautiful 180-degree windows, and a ground-level loading dock; it’s streamlined right through to the reception area.”
Catering: “We’ve worked with Creative Edge for the last six months. I feel like Carla Ruben has gotten to know me and what I like, don’t like; I used to be a chef so I am very particular.... For the design awards, she came up with fantastic solutions for things, worked well and quickly. I loved the combinations she used. She doesn’t try to overuse the ingredients, doesn’t try to mix in five flavors. At the design awards, she redesigned some platters and shapes of the food to harmonize with the theme of the event—we had a circle effect on the windows, lots of perforations on window treatments, and Carla made these little dot desserts, which was a surprise to me and I loved that.”
Music: “Justin Carter is a music director and a DJ, and he has been making CDs for me. I’m very much into chill-out house music, and he arranges these phenomenal soundtracks that guests always ask for after an event. We use Justin instead of a live person if we don’t have a big enough place for a DJ. He creates songs to break up the third or fourth hour of an event, and often the songs will be representative of one of the awards or speeches given. He’ll strategically fine-tune the music to fit with the program. And it’s a lot more economical—I try to work harder and faster and smarter, making decisions that might take more time now but, in the long run, might save a lot more money.”
Design: “If I have the big budgets on some signature events, I definitely utilize David Stark's skill. He’s completely dreamy to work with. He’s very focused and very relaxed; he’s not uptight about anything, not cranky. It’s a security you feel with him because you know you’re in good hands, that he’s already thought of things way ahead of you. With David, you get what you pay for.”
Photographer: “Patrick McMullan is always completely stylish, very on time, and buttoned up. They produce great shots and provide a wide range of photographers. Whether you need Page Six-type material, venue shots, or arty angles, they’re just plain professional.”