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Meet ILEA Chicago Member – Melissa Autullo with Beyond Catering


Who/What inspired you to go into event planning?

I’ve always been interested in weddings and special events, as a child I would go to my mom’s work and help setup banquets on days I was off school. I was always amazed at how the space would transform for weddings and corporate events.  In college, I was unsure of my major and took an elective class that was “Intro to Meeting Planning”.  I was instantly interested and knew that was the career path for me.  After two internships in the United Club at Soldier Field, I knew I had made the right choice and landed in catering.  

Tell us a few things we might not learn about you right away?

  • I have always worked with high-volume guest counts, so they don’t scare me! One of my first jobs was at a concert venue, then in college I worked Bears games at Soldier Field, and in my catering career I’ve had the pleasure of executing events for over 5500 guests!
  • I love trying new restaurants and trying new foods, especially while traveling. I’d rather eat like a local, than visit a chain restaurant.


What do you love the most about what you do?

I love that every day and every event are different.  I'm able to connect with all teams within Beyond Catering to work through all of the event details to ensure it will be a success.  In a sense, each event is a similar process from load in & setup, to hors d'oeuvres and dinner service, but the details are always different. I love to collaborate with the client, our culinary team, as well as décor and rentals on how to really make the client’s vision come to life- within their budget!  I enjoy working with so many of Chicago’s talented vendors, the end result is always impressive!  

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago. My dad worked downtown so we would often make trips downtown to take advantage of all the city had to offer, going to the Taste of Chicago, Christkindlmarket, the Air and Water Show, and Chinatown were some of my favorite things to do!  I loved experiencing all the city had to offer.

What's your event gone wrong horror story?

When I was an event producer, I ordered linens for a high-profile event for the wrong event date.  I didn’t notice the incorrect date until 4 hours prior to the event, when the event supervisor was checking the truck before leaving for the event, and the linens were nowhere to be found.  I called our linen provider, and they were able to accommodate the order, but they couldn’t get them to the venue on time. I rushed to their location (which was about an hour drive away) and then rushed back to the venue. I was getting stuck in traffic, and my check engine light came on in my car. I didn’t think I was going to make it!  The catering staff was at the venue with the tables and chairs set in place, the equipment for the place settings stacked next to the tables just waiting for the linens. Luckily, I made it to the venue about 30 minutes before guest arrival, and the team worked quickly and efficiently to get the event set in time!   

What made you interested in participating in ILEA?

I was involved in other industry groups in years past, and didn’t feel like they were the right fit.  After attending the NICE awards in 2018, I was SOLD on ILEA and I knew these were my people.  The talent and the expertise of the members is truly inspiring!   

To learn more about Beyond Catering, check out their website or their instagram

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