If BJ DUFT were a preacher, he would preach the passion of food. From the ingredients he sources for the organic menus offered by his award-winning Herban Feast Catering and Fresh Bistro restaurant to the vintage charm of his Seattle event venues, Duft strives to offer an experience that celebrates freshness, sustainability and authenticity.

“Whether it is food preparation or presentation, interactions with our guests or creating the atmosphere an event planner has imagined, authenticity leads the way for each decision we make,” says Duft.

In addition to Herban Feast and Fresh Bistro, Duft also owns Sodo Park—a historic, 7,500-square-foot venue in Seattle’s SoDo district—and the Herban Feast Design Studio, an event décor/floral styling and rental company. And in 2013, he added a new venue to his portfolio: The Foundry.

“I was not looking for another event venue,” Duft says. “But The Foundry was a very unique space, and I immediately saw that it provided the perfect contemporary, multiroom event space to contrast with Sodo Park’s large, industrially chic grand room.”

The Foundry, itself, is a feast for the eyes. Honoring its roots—planted in 1945 as a factory producing metal castings—the building is a blend of old with new, pairing rustic natural hardwood with modern man-made copper and steel. The venue molds the individual client’s tastes with the solidity of a structure that has grown far more beautiful and timeless with each passing year. The Foundry can accommodate up to 500 for a standing reception (255 seated) and offers a number of spaces— from the intimate Barrel Room with seating for up to 40 to the inviting Forging Room with room for up to 250.

Duft believes that a varied hospitality-management background is the fertile soil to grow an event-planning career. His own résumé runs the industry gamut, having worked in management for hotels, a cruise ship and the region’s celebrated Herbfarm restaurant. His advice to others looking to duplicate his successful and sustainable business model is simple: “Hands-on experience trumps everything.”

Jamie McKinney wants visitors to experience Portland at its quirkiest.

 

League City CVB manager Stephanie Polk shares her career journey.

Originally from Kentwood, Louisiana, Stephanie Polk, TDM, CTE, first made her mark on the travel and tourism industry as director of marketing for the Beaumont Convention & Visitors Bureau. There, she helped to elevate the city as a destination for recreation travelers and business groups. Wowed by her accomplishments, in 2020, League City brought her on board to lead its marketing efforts. She shares with us highlights and advice from her experience in the industry. 

 

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.