You were just elected to a two-year term as president of the International Caterers Association (ICA). What are you hoping to accomplish during your term?
It actually is just such an honor to be able to be president of an organization, especially with my time at the JDK Group and overall my youth, you could say, considering past presidents have had a lot of time in their positions; many are owners or 30-year veterans of a company. Overall, my goal is to provide a fresh, new perspective to the organization, really working with our board and our membership to enhance education opportunities, increase our workshops (and) our webinars, really focus on our online resources. We can enhance and share that knowledge so we can help support, educate and advance caterers from around the world.
One big focus of mine is really relative to the past few years. I really would love to use the organization as a platform to educate about the impact the hospitality industry makes on our communities. If there’s one thing we’ve realized during the pandemic, it’s that so many people have left the hospitality industry due to the long hours, the labor intensity of the job, the low pay, even the high demands of client turnaround. As an organization, we should push the value, the difference that catering events make in the lives of others. We forget how important relationships, community and events are to people and how it makes a difference, and educating that that value is worth a price. By sharing that passion we can empower more of the youth to come back to the hospitality industry and also empower young students who want to take the hospitality track in their careers, and just give grace to an industry that has a major economic and social impact on our society.
Why is it important for companies like the JDK Group to be involved in related inter/national organizations?
Organizations like the ICA empower us to see the possibilities of what we can be and what can be produced. Although we’re based here in Camp Hill, Pa., it doesn’t mean we can’t provide our community with new and creative things in food and design, that maybe they would traditionally experience in major cities. It provides that inspiration, and also the educational resources to our team, to be able to expand our local event community and share those resources with our clients as well. Being able to teach and learn is huge, and to also give back; not only are we learning from our peers, we’re taking (what) we’re doing here and also sharing that. I think there’s pride; to be able to represent central Pennsylvania in an international organization, it means a lot to me and our company.
Catering and event management involves more than just food prep, so what are the keys to bringing all the moving parts together successfully?
It truly takes a village. At the end of the day, we see our clients’ vision and we build relationships with our clients, because we really want to help envision what they’re looking for. But when you look at all the moving parts from that first phone call all the way to that final goodbye, that follow-up email, it’s all about the people. The talent and creativity we have is what really brings our events together. Each member of our team is involved in so many aspects, from the food menu development through the preparation, to the logistics, planning, layouts, the linens, the lighting, all the way to how we’re loading a truck and going to the middle of a field, unloading and setting it up. It truly has to do with the team that’s involved, and we are blessed to have wonderful people here at the JDK Group.
What would be your dream event to coordinate?
I hope I’m not thinking too big, but if I put this out here, maybe it’ll happen. Our team might think I’m crazy, but I would love to produce a multi-day corporate or private event with our team in another city, state or country — even traveling would be incredibly awesome. Being able to showcase the talent of our team here from central Pennsylvania, it’s pretty cool to see what we do in our own backyard, but to take that to another location and show other individuals our capabilities would be cool. It’s something we’ve dreamed about for years. Last year we executed a multi-day wedding in Allentown and had so much fun with the logistics and planning.
About Steve Sanchez
Steve Sanchez, 37, is president of the JDK Group, a Camp Hill-based catering and events management company. He was also elected president of the International Caterers Association for the 2022-24 term. He started with the JDK Group in 2008 as a junior event specialist and later served as sales and marketing director and chief sales and marketing officer.
Sanchez earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications from Elizabethtown College. He lives in Mechanicsburg.