Pauline Parry, Founder and CEO, Good Gracious! Events

Pauline Parry is a seasoned and highly sought-after Founder and CEO of Good Gracious! Events, an award-winning food and beverage company. Pauline, an emblem of excellence, has carved an illustrious path in the dynamic world of hospitality. She is also an author of two highly acclaimed books, ‘Food Fun Love – Party Styles’ and ‘My Culinary Love Story’.

With a string of accolades and awards under her belt, including Caterer of the Year, Best Event for a Corporation, Best Off-Premise Caterer, The I-3 Award (Innovation, Inspiration, and Instruction), ACE (Achievement in Catering Excellence) and the UK’s John Mossman Award for ICA, Pauline has established herself as a force to be reckoned. Today, she is considered a role model for aspiring hospitality professionals who wish to make a difference in the industry.

Let’s delve deeper into Pauline’s success story which is a testament to her passion for cooking, commitment to excellence, and desire to impact the world positively.

Embarking on an Unexpected Journey in Hospitality  

Pauline’s journey in hospitality started out by chance. As a newly single mother, she had no idea, all those years ago what she was getting into but needless to say by chance after dining at a local French-style bistro in Somerset, when she was asked by the couple who owned the restaurant if she would like to come and work with them. “My response was ‘What would I do”, shares Pauline. Little did she know what she was taking on, but she did take on the challenge and absolutely fell in love with all things related to culinary and hospitality.

After working in the bistro for a few years, Pauline’s journey took her to a Michelin Star restaurant at Thornbury Castle where she lived and worked with her two children. She took on the role of Assistant Manager and was also given the task of being part of opening the Castle as a seven-room boutique hotel. “The experience and knowledge gained by all this was amazing and I felt overwhelmed that I was given this opportunity by the owner, Kenneth Bell, who was an extraordinary entrepreneur,” mentions Pauline. Without a doubt, Mr. Bell pushed her to the limits to be successful in her role, and for that, she remains grateful to him.

The next stage of Pauline’s journey took her to America. She fell in love with a British man who had the opportunity to take on a project in California for a six-month period, which turned into a lifetime. She thought she might potentially work in a restaurant, hotel or country club. However, she was encouraged by some wonderful people whom she met through her children to start her own hospitality company. They thought Pauline was quite fabulous at cooking and entertaining. Again, she found herself saying, ‘How do I start such a venture?’. “I suppose I must thank the American entrepreneurial spirit for giving me the encouragement that all things are possible if you have the drive and passion to make it work,” adds Pauline.

A little anecdote on how Pauline named her company Good Gracious! an expression which is commonly used in England. One day Pauline called her mum in England and said, “Hello Mum’ and she responded by saying, “Good Gracious is that you Pauline”.  That is how Good Gracious! Events was born.

About Good Gracious! Events

Established in Los Angeles just over four decades ago, GOOD GRACIOUS! Events is a leading catering company specializing in event design, wedding consulting, event planning, corporate meetings, and gourmet catering. The company is renowned for its innovative, trendsetting style, unparalleled quality, attention to detail, unique presentations, and fabulous culinary creations.

But the secret sauce behind Good Gracious!’s success and award-winning status is its commitment to excellence. Since the beginning, Good Gracious!’s philosophy has been to be the best in every facet of the business. Founder and CEO, Pauline shares that she has been fortunate to have had repeated clients and referrals over the years. She asserts, “We pride ourselves that our reputation is based on innovation, presentation, and producing artistic delicious food with excellent hospitality for each and every event we do.” After forty years in business, Good Gracious! has built a reputation as an expert in the industry and can be relied upon to accomplish all the necessary elements for a successful event.

How Good Gracious! Events Went to the Next Level

Pauline shares one of the pivotal moments in business that took Good Gracious! Events to the next level of being recognized as a company qualified to execute logistically challenging events with flair. A few years back, a leading gaming company was planning to launch their new product to an audience of 5000 at a venue in Los Angeles. And guess what? Good Gracious! Events was referred to be on the list of 10 potential companies to cater the event. The entire process was quite simple; the event producer lined the catering companies up in forty-five minutes intervals to meet at the venue giving them verbally all the details along with an RFP packet to submit a proposal in fourteen days. “Our time frame for this initial meeting was 12.30 pm so we decided to take a dozen lunch boxes for them as they might not have time for lunch hoping this might give them a taste of our food,” remarks Pauline.

Technically, Pauline and her team had never done an event of this size, so the experience of executing an event of this calibre was not on their side and in all honesty, they were not sure a lunch box was going to cut it either. Pauline and her team of two returned to the office feeling quite overwhelmed as to how they would even begin putting this together. After taking a few deep breaths, they decided to sleep on it overnight and return to the office next day, a Saturday and start the process fresh. At home, Pauline had a restless night with the event going over and over in her mind and upon awakening, she said to her husband, “I think we need to go to Atlanta (home of the event producers) and present our proposal, it would be quite silly to send a multi-million job by fed ex, right?”  And so, it was decided that Pauline and her team would go and present. Without wasting any time, they connected with the event producers to ask if they could come by on Thursday as they were in town and meet to discuss their initial proposal. They took the red eye to Atlanta and met with the producers the next day at their offices to discuss the event. “I was quite clear this was the first proposal they had seen and were calculating what their budget might be at the end of the day as this was the first event of this magnitude the client had done too,” adds Pauline.

Long story short, Good Gracious! Events won the proposal. Pauline and her team successfully executed the event that entailed forty-five double sided food stations, eighty-eight bars, a tray pass VIP reception, and a food station décor. Not just for one, two or even ten, Good Gracious! did the event for the same gaming company for fifteen years. How amazing is that, right!

Putting on the Writer’s Hat

For someone who is never shy of taking on a new challenge, Pauline was approached by a publisher to write a book. She thought it could be a great opportunity to introduce her business to a wider audience. She reflects, “It was hard work but truly a fun experience, although we did wonder sometimes when we are doing our “real” business why are we doing this as it took up so of our energy, but it was worth all the effort.”  She further states that when you take on a challenge you have never done before you come out stronger than when you went in, and you are subject to finding another set of skills you thought you never had, and our minds have opened us to many possibilities. Just like she did.

In 2012, Pauline launched her first book, ‘FOOD, FUN, LOVE: Party Styles’ which is an entertainment lifestyle book that highlights twelve different events. It gives an introduction about the event, a menu with recipes together with photos of the event. At the end of each chapter, Pauline has given some entertainment tips with regards to what that chapter was about.

Pauline launched her second book in 2022, ‘My Culinary Love Story’ which is about how she got into the industry with recipes and why she came to America. Ask her about what’s next in store for her. Without missing a beat, she confirms that she is writing a third book, tentatively titled, ‘So that’s how you see it?’ which will be based on doing business as Good Gracious! Events and maintaining a lifestyle.

Event Conceptualization and Designing

When a client approaches Good Gracious! for an event, whether it is a social client or a corporate client, Pauline and her team keenly listen to them, note minute details, visit the venue, observe the surroundings, and a lot more. They also reach out to their partner resources to bring in the required elements that are unavailable in-house, whether it is floral, entertainment, lighting etc.

To make all this happen, Pauline and her team keep their minds drenched in food, wine, design, and stay abreast with the latest industry trends through dining, travel, magazines, podcasts, articles, museums, and generally keeping up with pop culture. By doing this and much more, they create a vision that best meets the client’s requirement, a magical extravaganza that Good Gracious! Events is known for.

Striking a Fine Balance Between Traditions and Innovation

In the rapidly evolving landscape of hospitality management, the delicate balancing act between tradition and innovation has become more crucial than ever. Pauline feels that one needs to know the structure of the tried and tested methods that is traditional to make culinary and event design solid and practical. Once that structure is in place, then one is open to innovation. She also highlights that the heart of culinary culture is traditional, and one must go to the roots of this culture to realize what those tastes and flavours are and then can bring a twist whether it is a new flavour profile or present with a more architectural style to define the foods louder in this day and age.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

One of the ways in which Pauline ensures that her team of Good Gracious! Events stays ahead of the curve and maintain their cutting-edge mindset is by encouraging them to regularly attend conferences, participate in staff exchanges, take on leadership roles with associations, and deliver talks as speakers on diverse topics related to food, business, creativity, and hospitality in the industry.  Moreover, under Pauline’s leadership, the Good Gracious! team has built and nurtured positive relationships with their clients who come back to them year after year.

Event Planning Trends to Watch Out for in 2024

In Pauline’s opinion, social media will continue to play a major role in telling the world what is in stores. She herself as a business owner believes in setting the trends rather than following them. Likewise, technology adoption in business operations will be crucial in delivering phenomenal customer experience through food, hospitality, entertainment, and activities at events.

Pearls of Wisdom

Pauline shares that if aspiring professionals have the drive and passion and truly believe the culinary and hospitality industry might be a career passage for them, then they must embrace it whole heartly as the results are priceless. She also points out that the event industry is not rocket science, rather it is a science of how you approach hospitality. It is full of emotions, massive details, one must have a deep understanding of people and their brands and have the creativity and vision to translate all into an event. “This job is not for the faint of heart either as you have to work weekends, holidays, evenings when most are relaxing, and you are working,” concludes Pauline.

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