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CPCE Spotlight: MaryBeth Bunge, CPCE

Our CPCE Spotlight is where certified professionals share their motivation behind earning the Certified Professional in Catering and Events (CPCE). We are pleased to feature MaryBeth Bunge, CPCE, Catering Sales Manager of the Omni Richmond Hotel in Virginia.

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 came into the catering industry later in life, long after graduating from college and a successful 11-year career in social work helping at-risk teenagers. When we had kids, I was fortunate enough to be able to stay at home and care for them. When our oldest went to college and our youngest was just starting high school, we moved from Valencia, California to Richmond, Virginia for my husband’s job. I really wanted to get back into the workforce. I always had a passion for event planning, so I took a job at a small hotel as the Catering Assistant to learn the ropes. Fate had something else in mind. Just a month or so after starting, their Catering Sales Manager left and the director asked if I would be interested. And so, my career in hotel catering and event sales began! After 18 months, I left that hotel and accepted the position of Catering Sales Manager at the Omni Richmond Hotel. That was in 2015, and have loved my job ever since! My markets include weddings and social events as well as some corporate.

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

A.Like many professionals in our industry, I was furloughed due to the effect of Covid in March of 2020. I had been wanting to get my CPCE certification for years but was always so busy with work. When I suddenly had lots of free time on my hands, it just seemed like the perfect time to get certified! I was fortunate enough to be re-hired back into my old position in May of 2021. Coming back with my CPCE certification showed our leadership team that I was still very much focused on my career even during a furlough. I think it also shows my clients I am highly qualified to help them plan their events.

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

A. Right now, I just love my job and the team I am working with here at the Omni Richmond Hotel. I feel honored to be a part of the re-building process and to reap the rewards of my hard work over the years. I am grateful to know so many talented professionals here in Richmond, Virginia, thanks in part to being an active member of NACE. Maybe if an opportunity came up within Omni to help open a beautiful beachfront hotel in Florida that had amazing banquet space to sell, I might be tempted to leave and try something new.

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. Our Richmond, Virginia NACE Chapter definitely encourages its members to get CPCE certified! There are a few people that come to mind that I would like to “shout out” for their help and support: Anne Roy, CPCE, Bonnie Ball, CPCE, Alli Prato, CPCE, and our past president, Jamie Adams, CPCE who were all so helpful with the process, from letting me borrow their books to tracking hours for the application process or just encouraging me to get it done. I also wanted to send a big “Thank You” to Crystal Irwin who was there for me from beginning to end! She was beyond helpful with the process and NACE is lucky to have her!

Q. Any tips for future applicants of CPCE?

A. I am a visual learner, so the videos in the CPCE Fast Track really helped me. I also strongly suggest studying the books (Professional Reference Guide for the Catering and Events Industry and Food Safety Management Principles). I made flashcards for everything. Taking the quizzes in the CPCE Fast Track Online course also helped after each chapter and again before I took the exam. What really caught me off guard during the exam were several questions that were not in any of the books or ever discussed? Thankfully, I have many years of experience to rely on and knew most of them (if I didn’t know something, I just moved on and came back to it later). I knew I could miss a few and still pass. Finally…don’t rush! Take every second of the time they give you to make sure you answered all the questions.

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 having CPCE at the end of my name means that I am a certified professional in catering and events. I don’t want to bore my clients with details or sound like I am showing off, so I typically leave it at that. But if they ask, I will explain in detail what it takes to earn the certification. They feel secure knowing I have the experience to help them plan a successful event.

Q. Do you have a favorite CPCE memory?

A. Yes, the moment I found out I passed the exam! My second favorite memory was being able to walk the stage and receive recognition in front of my peers for earning my CPCE at the Bellagio in Las Vegas during the annual 2021 NACE Experience Conference!

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

A. My favorite part of my job is being able to see the events I plan come to life after so many months of detailed planning. I also love being able to attend really cool events and monthly networking events throughout the Richmond area.

I have had the pleasure of attending 3 NACE Experience conferences over the years and they always “surprise and delight!!” Can’t wait to go to another one!
One particular memory that comes to mind was hosting the annual “Richmond NACE Chapter-2016 NACEY’s” at my hotel (the Omni Richmond.) We did a “Retro Circus” theme and transformed our ballroom into the inside of a circus tent. We had amazing lighting, jugglers, misc. vendors and people dressed in costume…it was really cool! The committee members were all so creative and talented! We were all so proud to learn we had won a NACE National award for that event at the annual Experience conference in Palm Springs.
I most recently helped plan an inauguration welcome event for our new governor of Virginia here at the hotel. Again, worked with an amazing planning team. The event was a huge success!


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

A. I have an old standby that is a super easy crowd favorite. My family calls it “Mud Dip”

Version #1:
1 can of Hormel “NO BEAN” Turkey Chili
1 pkg of either “regular” or “Neufchatel” cream cheese

– Put both inside a microwave safe bowl
– Cover w/ saran wrap & poke a few tiny “knife tip” holes to let steam escape
– Microwave for about 3 mins
– Take out, stir well, and then put back (Hint: make sure saran wrap is on tight or it will blow chunks all over your microwave! )
– It’s done when everything is melted and bubbly
– Serve hot w/ tortilla chips

Version #2:

– Spread a thin layer of cream cheese all over bottom of glass microwave safe pie dish
– spread (1) can Hormel “NO BEAN” Turkey Chili all over the cream cheese
– Sprinkle shredded sharp (white cheddar or yellow cheddar) cheese over the chili
– Cover w/ saran wrap and poke several tiny knife end holes to allow steam to escape
– cook in microwave for about 3- 3.5 minutes.
– Take saran off right away (careful, it’s hot!) and let it sit for about 3 mins
– Once melted cheese has set for a bit, serve w/ spoon for guests to scoop onto a plate and dip their chips

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

A:  Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this spotlight! I am proud to be a 7 yr member of NACE and now CPCE certified!

Get to know MaryBeth a bit more:

I am currently the Catering Sales Manager at The Omni Richmond Hotel. I have been with the company since April 2015. My markets include SMERF, weddings, and some corporate. I have been married for 31 years and have two amazing children, Kristen and Jordan (29 & 26 yrs of age). Our sweet Golden Retriever, Chloe will be 12 yrs old this year. I grew up in Batavia, Illinois, and went to college at Northern Illinois University. We moved to Southern Illinois right after college and lived there for 10 years until my husband got a promotion and we transferred to Los Angeles, California. 11 yrs later, another job-related transfer brought us to Richmond, Virginia where we currently enjoy traveling, our pontoon boat, and lake life in our free time.

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Crystal Irwin


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