Daniel et Daniel would not exist without the many talented and creative personalities that make up our company. From our offices to the kitchen, these hardworking individuals devote themselves each day to creating and delivering the best events and food in the city. In an effort to introduce you to some of the many diverse members of the D&D team, I will be presenting a series of interviews with some of our staff here on the blog. To start things off, I sat down with our Vice President, Russell Day, to learn more about his background and thoughts on the industry…
Hi Russell. Thanks for being the first interviewee! So tell me, how did you become interested in and involved with the industry?
It started as a lark. I was working in a downtown office and my roommate at the time asked me if I’d like to work a catering gig at Casa Loma. They were short-staffed, so I said yes. I had no ideawhat I was doing but they just needed bodies at the time. It was great fun, but I had to run out on my lunch hour that day to buy a white tuxedo shirt, black bow tie and cummerbund. Thank God that outfit has gone the way of the dodo! That was my first job for Daniel et Daniel… I was the guy who was following everyone and looking terrified.
And how did you get started at D&D?
After about a year of freelance cater waitering, I took a buy-out package from my then-employer and decided to plan events on my own. I did a few and discovered I really liked it! A job came up with Daniel et Daniel and I applied in order to gain more experience and learn from the best.
How long have you been with the company? Tell me about your journey through the ranks at D&D prior to reaching your current position.
I have been with D&D for 16 years!! Never did I expect to be here for this long, but it has been quite a journey. I began as basically a jack-of-all-trades, answering the phones, taking small orders, helping out with accounting. I was still working on-site at events as well so it was a pretty insane time. At that point, we only had one building that housed D&D and we were growing rapidly.
All these years later, you’re now Vice President of the company! What does this position entail? What are you responsible for?
The position is one that oversees so much – sales, staff, customer service, positioning, marketing, advertising, doing bids for new venues and clients. I do a lot of “in-betweening” – cementing relationships, smoothing over difficulties, ensuring that the business, owners, employees, venues and clients are all taken care of. I still do event planning for my long-time amazing clients. When I first saw this question I blanked. It’s hard to relate what I do in a day but somehow it all goes by in a flash…
What kinds of events do you plan? Which do you enjoy most?
Most of my events are corporate now as I don’t really take on new clients. I work with some amazing people – event planners, high end jewellery companies, law firms, TIFF clients. I love being able to create something new and to take them some place they haven’t been before through venue, food, and entertainment. I love it when my clients are surprised by what I show them, and I also learn a lot from them.
Can you tell me about one of your more exciting, memorable or fun events?
I have to say that the most exciting event I have ever put on was our own 25th Anniversary which took place at the Design Exchange in 2005. It was ambitious, intricate and honestly, one of the best parties I have been involved with. We titled it “25 Years—Our Colourful Future” and the four-hour event was broken up into four colour segments. Each hour the food changed, the entertainment changed, the waiters changed outfits, and the room was washed in a different hue. It was the first time I had ever PRODUCED an event, and I worked with my friend David Overholt to pull everything together; he was instrumental in planning the show. Performers included Shakura S’Aida as chanteuse (Gorgeous! I still get goosebumps thinking about her.), the Saucy Tarts, Sunny Tan, Richard Underhill and a host of performers from the Toronto Community Folk Arts Council. What made the event even more exciting was the fact that everyone in the company took part, and our suppliers wholeheartedly helped us out. Exclusive Affair Rentals, Signature Rentals, Micki’s, Around The Table, The Butler Did It. They were all on board and everyone became a part of the journey. It was exhausting and exhilarating! I still have people telling me it was the best party they have ever attended.
How about disasters? Any horror stories you’re willing to share?
No disasters, only opportunities! I have been really fortunate, I think, but there are always little things that go wrong. Once we had an event (a sit-down dinner) where the client didn’t give us the correct number of guests and 30 extra people showed up.
..and after things went wrong, how did Russell save the day?
Fortunately we had lounge seating, so the overflow was directed to the lounge. All of this was going on as guests were being seated, so we had to jump in and make it work. We ran to the restaurant next door and borrowed cutlery. Fortunately, we were serving salad, there was a choice of main, and we had sent extra desserts. We washed plates coming back from the first course and re-used! Although they weren’t seated with the others directly in the dining room, the extra guests eventually made a party of their own (we served a lot of drinks to those tables… I am sure they were happy!). My client to this day says I was the picture of calm… and I suppose I was, outwardly, but I was using a staffing company, CORE, that was brilliant in that crisis. As always, it’s a team effort. We all just pulled together to get through it.
Have you had any embarrassing moments at work that your co-workers won’t let you live down?
I suppose you should ask them! My performance as a white rapper at last year’s Christmas Party was mortifying to me, but it was scripted and I just went for it. I pray it’s not on YouTube, I would die.
I wish I had a Youtube link to post here. It was certainly one of the highlights of the evening! Outside of work, what interests do you pursue in your personal life? Are you an avid mountaineer? A poker champion? Book club president?
I am teaching myself to play the guitar (slowly, I don’t have much time). I love dining out, reading, and traveling is a passion. I write songs and have two first chapters of different book projects written. I start a lot of things, but finishing them on the other hand…! I especially enjoy time spent with friends. Life is busy for everyone, so when we can pull it together to get together, these times are guarded and cherished.
After all these years of event planning, what keeps you smiling and coming to work every day?
The bottle of Jack in my desk! No, seriously… my staff. Collectively they are the greatest group of event professionals on earth. They work so hard, especially through the last year of cutbacks and recession. Our offices are full of laughter, information exchange and passion for what we do. There is so much talent and positivity here. We all have our moments, sure, but I respect every single one of my staff. They keep me on my toes and constantly inspire me. When I see what they do and what they create, it makes me so proud.
Name one trend that you wish had never gone out of style (in event planning or otherwise).
Low-rise jeans, pointy boots and blue eyeshadow, oh… that’s not what you meant? I miss table skirts (laughter). I see them every so often and for the life of me I don’t understand WHY they were ever invented!
On trends: Much like French cuisine, the beauty of our events is that they are timeless. The memories you have from an event 10 years ago will never go out of fashion. Looking back (no matter how far), you will remember that the food was delicious regardless of when you experienced it. If you ever have a wizard food moment, that experience will be with you forever regardless of its trendiness. Most memories are of the people who shared in that experience – I am happy when I talk to clients or friends and they tell me their stories. The experiences they have with family and friends along with the food moments are what makes the style. But with that said, don’t let Martinis go out of style, please. I don’t know what I would do!
Who is your favourite Daniel? (gotta stir things up a bit here!)
They can both fire me, how can you ask that question?!? Both of the Daniels hold a special place in my heart and mind. Since I work much more closely with Daniel Megly, I have to say that he has been an incredible mentor, especially in the beginning. He taught me so much and has been kind and generous with his time and knowledge. Daniel Clairet is equally as amazing. He is supportive and energetic, and has the best outlook on life. He lives it fully and doesn’t take things too seriously. He savours every day and is conscious of the world around him. They are both very humble men, and have accomplished so much in such a short time. I don’t know if they fully appreciate the impact they have had on Toronto’s culinary landscape. If they do, they would never admit it. That’s just the way they are. I am privileged to know both of them, and will take their lessons with me always.
Great answer! Finally, a scenario to consider… A frantic bride calls you in a panic only a week before her wedding. Her previous caterer has gone out of business and she desperately needs YOU to save the party and feed her 200 guests. She’s on her way to D&D HQ and wants to meet with you, leaving us with one obvious question: Which shoes do you wear?
Of course my mind goes to the shoes… pulling off a wedding in a week will be no problem! But back to the question: Black Miu Miu pointed-toe ankle boots? Gucci square front boots? Hugo Boss snakeskin pull-ons? The possibilities are endless, but you know I will look down and find I have worn flip flops that day! Oh, and I’ll crack out a bottle or two of Pinot Grigio… this meeting will need it!