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CPCE Spotlight: Gabriela Tamayo, CPCE

Our CPCE Spotlight is where professionals share their motivation behind earning the Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE). This month we are featuring Gabriela Tamayo, CPCE, Event Coordinator.

If you are interested in being featured, please contact cpce@nace.net.

Q. Please provide some background on your current position and organization, as well as your path to getting there.

A. I am an Event Planner planning to my heart’s content imaginary occasions until I find myself outside of the Furlough Forest. My role over the years has consistently been one of myself coordinating, creating, and executing various special events from idea to post-event analysis. These occasions have ranged from the Real Estate trade to the Funeral Home sector such as awards galas, open house networking meetings, charity drives, Celebration of Life receptions, trade shows with breakout sessions, exhibitor floor, and general session with a panel, educational breakfasts, and anything in-between. Any special event and I’m your gal! It took my schooling at the university, important internships, taking short-term jobs for the experience, and being willing to be a guinea pig and swim in the deep end. Every event must be treated as a learning experience, even if everything goes right, and the caterers and heavy-lifting staff are your best friends. With this mentality, I was able to earn the opportunity to try new technology, new tactics, and create things I would not have been able to do many, many years ago.



Q: How has CPCE certification helped your career to date?

A: The certification does elevate interviews and conversations, especially among those within NACE. It’s a prestigious badge of honor and achievement and I’m proud to wear it. When others know what it means or find out, they see me as someone committed to their career, who has a high standard, which can also add value to a company willing to interview and hire only the best.


Q: What are your professional goals for the next 5, 10, 20+ years?

A. I see myself as an Event Planner solidified and sure of myself in their event planning company’s ranks in the next 5 years. In 10, I can see myself in a leadership role within that event planning company with the ability to do more creative and intricate schedules, set-ups, entertainments, anything that hasn’t been done before. In that same timeframe, I find myself in a position on the NACE National Board one day after years in a chapter moving through various roles. In 20, it may be too far to tell, but I hope to be a mentor and leader for other young professionals who hope to pursue this career or some aspect of it.

Q. Did you have a mentor or a group of colleagues who encouraged you to pursue CPCE? How did their encouragement help you through the process?

A. I had the pleasure and privilege to attend UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, one of the World’s top 5 hospitality schools, and there was one professor who was an advocate of designations including CPCE. Professor A’Rion Raymond had said that everything we had learned in our 4-year degree was on the CPCE test; therefore, as soon as you gain the credits, the experience, and complete the application requirements, take the test. I have not regretted her words, and now I myself tell those in hospitality programs to plan ahead and do the same.

Q. Any tips for future applicants of CPCE?

A. Study! Find a textbook, study group, or colleagues who have taken the test and ask questions. Everyone studies differently, but I read through the textbook, created my own hand-written study cards, and took the CPCE Fast Track course. Not everyone is required to go that far, but understanding what’s on the exam and studying that material consistently every day or every other day, does make a difference. And remember: when you take the exam, trust your gut feeling.


Q: When someone asks about the CPCE letters behind your name, how do you explain? Do you have a CPCE “elevator pitch?”

A: I explain that it’s a badge of achievement within the catering and events industry that places its individuals within an exclusive group of highly knowledgeable people you can be proud to be among. It’s years of knowledge and expertise wrapped up into a 2.5-hour exam that proves you have a high standard and competency. For any professional in catering and/or events, it is the highest distinction.


Q: Do you have a favorite CPCE memory?

A: When I went through the grueling exam, answering question after question to the best of my knowledge and clicking submit to find the “Congratulations” screen at the end. It was the happy start of a new chapter!


Q: What is your favorite or most memorable part of working in the catering and events industry?

A: My most favorite is: after all the hours, commitment, negotiations, and scheduling, the day-of arrives, the attendees walk into the event space and say “wow.” That little “wow” and genuine look of surprise lifts me up and gives me confirmation that all the hard work and details that went into this occasion can be physically seen and appreciated. In a way, it also pulls people away from the complexities and decisions of everyday life to have a little reprieve by doing something fun, even if just for a moment.


Q. Do you have a favorite food or beverage recipe you’d like to share with readers?

A. As a pescatarian that also consumes dairy and eggs, I love the website Cookie and Kate with its vegetarian dishes. This is a Veggie Black Bean Enchilada with a few twists I have made my own. (see below)


Q: Are there any other thoughts you’d like to share in the CPCE Spotlight?

A: Remember to “always take time to do what makes your soul happy.”

Veggie Black Bean Enchilada


  • 2 cups homemade enchilada sauce
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped red onion (about 1 small red onion)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  •  1-2 Zucchinis, diced
  • 1 teaspoon Frontier Co-op Ground Cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon Frontier Co-op Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 ½ cups cooked black beans
  • 1 cup of a Cotija cheese
  • ½ teaspoon salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas, use your favorite
  • A handful of chopped cilantro, for garnishing
  • *Could add roasted corn to enchiladas inside for another fun texture*


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with one rack in the middle of the oven and one in the upper third. Lightly grease a 13 by 9-inch pan with olive oil or cooking spray.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil until simmering. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the zucchinis and bell pepper, stir, and reduce heat to medium-low. Cover the skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 9 minutes.
  3. Add the cumin and cinnamon to the skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. *Add roasted corn if you’re interested.*
  4. Transfer the contents of the pan to a medium mixing bowl. Add the drained beans, ¼ cup cheese, and a drizzle of enchilada sauce (about 2 tablespoons). Season with ½ teaspoon salt and some freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
  5. Assemble the enchiladas: Pour ¼ cup enchilada sauce into your prepared pan and tilt it from side to side until the bottom of the pan is evenly coated. To assemble your first enchilada, spread ½ cup filling mixture down the middle of a tortilla, then snugly wrap the left side over and then the right, to make a wrap. Place it seam-side down against the edge of your pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.
  6. Drizzle the remaining enchilada sauce evenly over the enchiladas, leaving the tips of the enchiladas bare. Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese evenly over the enchiladas.
  7. Bake, uncovered, on the middle rack for 20 minutes. If the cheese on top isn’t golden enough for your liking, carefully transfer the enchiladas to the upper rack of the oven and bake for an additional 3 to 6 minutes, until sufficiently golden and bubbly.
  8. Remove from the oven and let the enchiladas rest for 10 minutes (they’re super hot!). Before serving, sprinkle chopped cilantro down the center of the enchiladas. Serve immediately.

Get to know Gabriela a bit more:

As a young professional and NACE member since 2015, I think of NACE and the colleagues I’ve gotten the chance to know as valuable confidants and close friends. My NACE professional development has advanced over the years, as I am now the current Membership Chair for the San Diego Chapter and a part of the NACE National Certification Committee. Education and keeping up with the latest innovative ideas and trends are big with me, as one can never be too knowledgeable in their field. Therefore, along with my 5+ years of experience in the catering and events industry, I earned my CPR certificate, ServSafe Food Protection certificate, Post-Crisis Hospitality Management certification, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion certificate, and my CPCE (encompassing all that I had learned up to that point). My foundation was set on firm ground, as I had the amazing opportunity to attend one of the World’s top 5 hospitality schools, located in sunny Orlando, Florida: the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, where I earned my Bachelors of Science degree in Event Management. But I don’t hit the books all the time! I especially love exploring the outdoors, traveling, spending time with my pet bunny, and trying all the good foodie spots sunny southern California has to offer.


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Crystal Irwin


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