Jodi Fyfe, Chief Executive Officer, Paramount Events

You need to be extremely transparent. I am candid to a fault at times, but at least people know where they stand with me. It’s truly about surrounding yourself with the best people. If you have the best people working for you, it brings out the best in yourself.

July 2016

How have you seen the catering industry change and grow?

People are more savvy and they know more about food. When I started in the business, food was fuel and you had to feed people for them to be able to function at events. Now, food is considered entertainment and a hobby.

The Internet has also transitioned the universe of food. Before, people didn’t know some of the most basic terms, but now everyone can be food experts because they can Google everything. TV shows have also glamorized being a chef, making it sexy and cool.

When you first started Paramount, what was your biggest hurdle?

I think the biggest hurdle when I started Paramount was myself. I was so unsure of how it was going to turn out and whether it was going to be successful. I wasn’t as aggressive a salesperson as I could have been, but over time I have gotten more comfortable working in all of the different departments.

It was also a challenge starting Paramount because I was out of the industry for a little while to stay at home with my kids. When you jump into something, you have to jump in 100 percent, and I don’t think I was completely ready in the beginning.

What is your favorite type of event to cater?

Anything that’s logistically challenging with large numbers. I like big. We do a lot of weddings and corporate parties that have a few hundred attending and that’s easy. But give me 50,000 people in a tent outside with no running water and no electricity… I like the crazy stuff.

As the CEO of one of the largest catering companies in Chicago, what’s your biggest challenge as a leader who is so prominent?

You need to be extremely transparent. I am candid to a fault at times, but at least people know where they stand with me. It’s truly about surrounding yourself with the best people. If you have the best people working for you, it brings out the best in yourself. I also make it a point to hire people who have completely different skill sets and personalities than me. The biggest thing that sets Paramount apart is that all of our people work for us [long-term]. Most other catering and event companies outsource the staff.

Do you have any plans to expand Paramount?

Yes, we recently opened a restaurant called Eden and a private dining venue called The Lakewood.

Eden offers modern contemporary American and Mediterranean with flairs of Italian, Spanish, South African and Lebanese. The menu constantly changes, whether it’s a weekly menu or switched daily depending on whatever fish, vegetables, or herbs are freshest. There’s always something new and different.

After you graduated from school, was your goal to open a restaurant?

No, I went to hospitality school so I could learn the different parts of the business and how to manage people. Because of my past experience, I can act as an HR manager or Chief Financial Officer, or in sales, business development, public relations, etc.

Is there a piece of advice you’d give your younger self or others beginning their careers?

If you want to do anything well, you’ve got to work hard and it takes a lot of time and energy. I would never want anyone to settle and only be in a job because of the money. You have to do something you love. It’s also important to realize it’s no longer a work/life balance, it’s a career balance—your job is part of your life. There’s not one or the other, because technology [melds the two]. You have to stay connected 24/7.

You started the charity Tickled Pink. How has that inspired you?

I started Tickled Pink after my cousin died in 2004; the first time we held the Tickled Pink event was in February 2005. She was my sister, she was my life, she was my everything. I started [the charity] because I knew that I would never forget, but I didn’t want other people to forget her either. In the last couple years we turned it into a chef event and restaurants come from all over the city to do chef stations. We also have a band, a DJ, and photo booths. It’s really quite over the top. At Paramount we have a mission to give back to the community and to non-profits. It’s something that’s important to me and all the people that work here. During the week of Tickled Pink, everyone in the building gets involved, and everything almost shuts down leading up to the event because that’s all we do.

What would you say is the most important quality of a leader?

Being accessible. My employees are the most important asset at Paramount and I recognize that. It’s important for the people who work for you to know that you care about them. I typically spend the first couple hours of my day walking around saying hello to everybody and talking to them about what they’re working on or what’s going on in their lives. As a leader you need to show people their job is important, no matter what it is.


Interview By Brooke Dahnert & Sydney Bickel

Fast Facts

Chicago, IL
Number of employees
First job
Bussing tables at my family's restaurant, Vernon Park Tap/Tufano’s, in Chicago

Browse Conversations

John Canning
John Canning, Founder & Chairman of Madison Dearborn Partners
John Heffner
John Heffner, CEO of Drybar
John R. Ettelson
John R. Ettelson, President & CEO of William Blair & Company
Jon Harris
Jon Harris, Chief Communications Officer of ConAgra Foods
Jonathan Weiss
Jonathan Weiss, CEO of HealthEngine
Julie Howard
Julie Howard, Chairman & CEO of Navigant
Karen Durham-Aguilera
Karen Durham-Aguilera, Executive Director of Arlington National Cemetery
Karen Tripp
Karen Tripp, VP of Communications and Public Affairs of ENVIVA
Kate Bensen
Kate Bensen, CEO of The Chicago Network
Kathy Beiser
Kathy Beiser, Chief Communications Officer of Kaiser Permanente
Keith Alper
Keith Alper, CEO of CPG Agency
Kelly McGrail
Kelly McGrail, VP, Strategic Business Communications of Mars, Incorporated
Kent Nielsen
Kent Nielsen, Co-Founder of Fort Knox Studios
Kim Feil
Kim Feil, CMO & CSO of Aspire Healthy Energy Drinks
Kym White
Kym White, Global Practice Chair, Health of Edelman Consulting
Lauren Dunne
Lauren Dunne, Co-founder and CEO of Varnish Lane
Lisa Osborne Ross
Lisa Osborne Ross, President of Edelman - Washington, D.C.
Luke Saunders
Luke Saunders, Founder & CEO of Farmer's Fridge
Marc Schulman
Marc Schulman, President of Eli's Cheesecake Company
Mary Jo Herseth
Mary Jo Herseth, SVP, Head of Banking, U.S of BMO Private Bank
Matt Shattock
Matt Shattock, Chairman and CEO of Beam Suntory
Maureen Cragin
Maureen Cragin, VP, Communications of Boeing Defense, Space & Security
Merrillyn J. Kosier
Merrillyn J. Kosier, EVP & Chief Marketing Officer of Ariel Investments
Necole Merritt
Necole Merritt, Chief Communications & Marketing Strategist of Entergy Services, Inc.
Nido Qubein
Nido Qubein, President of High Point University
Pam Rose
Pam Rose, Co-Owner of Swirlz Cupcakes
Paula Davis
Paula Davis, VP of Corporate Affairs and Communications of HARMAN
Pedro A. Guerrero
Pedro A. Guerrero, Chief Executive Officer of Guerrero Howe Custom Media
Peter Marino
Peter Marino, Chief Public Affairs & Communications Officer of MillerCoors
Raaja Nemani
Raaja Nemani, CEO & Co-Founder of Bucketfeet
Rick Wetzel
Rick Wetzel, Co-Founder and Chairman of Blaze Pizza
Rob Clark
Rob Clark, VP of Global Communications of Medtronic
Shari Runner
Shari Runner, President & CEO of The Chicago Urban League
Sid Bala
Sid Bala, CEO of alligatortek
Sonny Garg
Sonny Garg, Former Chief Innovation Officer of Exelon
Terry Brady
Terry Brady, President of Underwriters Laboratories (UL)
Tiffany LaBanca
Tiffany LaBanca, SVP of Global Internal Communications of 21st Century Fox
Tom Yorton
Tom Yorton, former Chief Executive Officer of Second City Works
Tonise Paul
Tonise Paul, President & CEO of Energy BBDO
Tony Weisman
Tony Weisman, CMO of Dunkin'
Victoria Podesta
Victoria Podesta, Former Chief Communication Officer of Archer Daniels Midland Company
Alexander Pissios
Alexander Pissios, President of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios
Andrea Zopp
Andrea Zopp, CEO of World Business Chicago
Anne C. Toulouse
Anne C. Toulouse, VP of Advertising & Global Brand Management of The Boeing Company
Anne Pramaggiore
Anne Pramaggiore, Senior Executive Vice President & CEO (Former CEO & President of ComEd) of Exelon Utilities
Aylwin Lewis
Aylwin Lewis, Chairman, CEO & President of Potbelly Sandwich Works, LLC
Bill Bartlett
Bill Bartlett, Vice President of Organizational Development of Novant Health
Bill Kurtis
Bill Kurtis, Founder & Owner of Bill Kurtis Productions & Tallgrass Beef Company
Bridget Coffing
Bridget Coffing, Former Chief Communications Officer of McDonald’s Corporation
Carrie J. Hightman
Carrie J. Hightman, EVP & Chief Legal Officer of NiSource, Inc.
Chris Dornfeld
Chris Dornfeld, President & Co-Founder of Bonfyre
Courteney Monroe
Courteney Monroe, Chief Executive Officer of National Geographic Global Networks
Cristina Gonzalez
Cristina Gonzalez, Director for Client Experience & Change of IBM
David Prosperi
David Prosperi, First Vice President of The Options Clearing Corporation
David Snyder
David Snyder, Publisher of Crain’s Chicago Business
Deborah Rutter
Deborah Rutter, President of John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Drew Lydecker
Drew Lydecker, Co-Founder and President of AVANT Communications
Ed Wehmer
Ed Wehmer, President & CEO of Wintrust Financial Corporation
Edwin Eisendrath
Edwin Eisendrath, Former CEO of Chicago Sun-Times
Gabriela Franco Parcella
Gabriela Franco Parcella, Executive Managing Director of Merlone Geier Partners
Gary Kelly
Gary Kelly, Chief Executive Officer of Southwest Airlines
Gary Sheffer
Gary Sheffer, Former VP of Communications & Public Affairs of General Electric
Greg Cameron
Greg Cameron, President & CEO of Joffrey Ballet
Harry Kraemer
Harry Kraemer, Executive Partner of Madison Dearborn
Howard Tullman
Howard Tullman, Former CEO of 1871 of & General Managing Partner of G2T3V, LLC
Iris Ware
Iris Ware, Chief Learning Officer of City of Detroit
Jack Reed
Jack Reed, U.S. Senator of Rhode Island
James L. Madara
James L. Madara, CEO of American Medical Association
Jeff Winton
Jeff Winton, SVP, Chief Communications Officer of Astellas Pharma US
Jennifer M. Smoter
Jennifer M. Smoter, Former VP of Public Affairs & Brand of AbbVie
Jennifer Mauer
Jennifer Mauer, VP, Enterprise Transformation & Change Strategic Communications of Bristol-Myers Squibb
Jeremy Martin
Jeremy Martin, Director of Public Affairs and Outreach - National Capital Region of Bell Helicopter
Jim Murray and Peter Rahal
Jim Murray and Peter Rahal, President & Founder of RXBAR