Kate Wood-Foye

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She’s port Mcquarie’s queen of the social scene, our town’s sole social columnist, writing for focus since we began in 2005. Susie sits down for lunch with Kate, and it turns out She’s not just a pretty face…

A wardrobe of party frocks, chic hats, stylish stilettos. Champagne cocktails, formal balls and all that jazz. A diary crammed with social engagements. Beyond glamourous. It sounds like Hollywood, but it’s Port Macquarie: specifi cally, Kate Wood- Foye’s world, packed with laughter, dancing, canapés and chocolate fountains. An enormous invitation list of friends, contacts. Over the past year Wood’s organised and/or attended as many as 600 functions, from two to eight of them often falling in a single day and night. That’s not counting entertaining at her own hilltop home. It’s incredible, yet fact: over the past 15 years she’s been at the centre of near 6000 of the best, fun, times. Partly it’s due to a gregarious extrovert nature and innate talent as hostess and party planner, stemming from childhood. “The Woods were known for a good ‘do’: birthdays, Xmas, BBQs often on an epic scale!” she laughs. “Mum and Dad always had a focus on food, music, decorating the table and creating the right vibe to relax and enjoy.” And it’s partly due to her job. Clients of her early career on London’s social scene were Tate Gallery, Royal Ascot race committee, Chelsea Flower Show, and Prince Charles and the Queen, no less. Today, slim, attractive, fashionable – clever and inventive too – in her prime at 36, She’s married with a tiny tot, a new dream kitchen at home and newly promoted in her job, now Sales and Marketing Director of Rydges and of Sails Resort.

She moved up to the title and greater responsibilities after seven years as executive sales/marketing manager with the riverfront hotel when it recently assumed operation also of Sails. How does she do it all? Behind the scenes there’s not-soglam meetings, budgets, targets, humdrum details, hard work, hectic days. In fact, she and husband Steve Foye have just mothballed a business they founded 11 years ago and operated concurrently with their mainstream jobs, Silver Spoon Catering & Events. The company was noted for the élan of its gallery openings, christenings, business launches and premium, unrivalled service. Foye’s an outgoing personality and hospitality guru too; the couple met at the opening of the then Blue Gecko bar on Clarence, where he was restaurant manager. They married eight years ago when he’d become national sales manager for Cassegrain, a near 10-year stint that ended when their son Jack arrived three years back and traveling took Foye from home too often.

He’s now GM of locally-owned Peak Coffee yet, as Jack grew, the pair decided Silver Spoon meant one party too many, for now anyway. Born and educated in Taree, Wood has a younger sister, Sarah, in property management here, and youngest sibling Patrick, in IT and with a family in Taree. Work at a local Italian restaurant had seen her “exposed to the world of hospitality and events, good food and wine. I thought ‘I like this!’” She trained in hotel and events management at Sydney’s prestigious Williams Business College then took off on a working holiday to visit extended family in England, deploying her emerging fl air with elite cateringevents specialist Esprit. “I thought ‘Wow, this is amazing! I love it!’ It whetted my appetite for the industry.” Back home, with a corporate cadetship at Sails, she moved fast through all facets from room service to restaurant manager, food & beverage and conferences, events and weddings. “I realised my heart lay with this industry. I loved the business and learnt about everything from teaspoons to the accounting side.” By 21 she was assistant GM, at 23 named Young Achiever in the Businesswoman of the Year awards.

Shortly after, SilverSpoon was born, its reputation for excellence ultimately seeing her head-hunted for Rydges. “The hotel was a very successful corporate and functions hotel but its own events were only the Melbourne Cup and Christmas Day. I wanted to attach a personality, a profi le people would associate with Rydges, add more fun stuff to create a full calendar of social events the hotel itself drove, rather than being just the venue.” Now, aside from regular fare – restaurant fi xtures, functions, meetings, birthdays, receptions etc with the extended Rydges team – there’s an amped-up Melbourne Cup (Wood hired the racehorse, above, to greet guests at the foyer) and a cavalcade of themed events: annual fashion fundraiser Ladies in Red, for the Sallies; a New Year’s Eve cabaret themed around Casablanca; High Tea on the Hastings: 240 women on the hotel rooftop at the inaugural event, for Camp Quality; Six Degrees of Degustation, Tastings on Hastings’ fl agship event.

This month at Sails (she’s come full-circle) it’s a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, an Alice in Wonderland-inspired high tea-garden party designed and coordinated by Wood, putting her touch on the marina venue’s identity. Not only adults but kids attend dedicated red-carpet movie premieres, youngsters arriving at Rydges dressed up – many “in character” – for the “paparazzi” and some gala kiddie-style party food, then to the cinema for animated features like Toy Story or, soon, Planes, when a real aircraft will feature at the hotel. Wood’s annual Masquerade Ball has grown to a “must” attraction for more than 200, last year Great Gatsby, last month an Oscars fl avour. It aids local charity, HOPE: “I wanted to do something coming directly back to locals,” Wood explains. It’s raised close to $100,000. So there’s more to her than the froth and bubble, or even generating hotel revenue.

She’s co-founder and chair of a substantial three-day youth conference challenging and inspiring Port’s 15 to 25-year-olds to excel in their careers, the Luminosity Youth Summit, at the forefront of convening a Port Who’s Who of sponsors, using her formidable skills, inventiveness and deft organisation. Now heading into its third year it’s won her admiration in education, employment and business circles. The feeling’s mutual: “It’s one of the most exciting experiences of my professional life, shared with some truly wonderful people,” Wood declares. “I’m lucky to have family and a workplace that support fl exible hours, to weave the things I love into what I do for a living: I get to express my creative side and love seeing people’s faces when they arrive at what’s a memorable experience for them; and creating events that give back to the community through fundraising. I meet some amazing people in the charities we work with.” When the party’s over though, family are “first and foremost the huge part of who I am. Jack opens my eyes to a whole new world; he makes Steve and I laugh every day. “It’s really cool to watch our little person grow and learn …”

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