As a child in Miami, Ron Lazarus enjoyed helping prepare Romanian meals with his uncle. “I’ve always loved throwing parties and planning menus. My hands-on direction came at the AEPi frat house at the University of Florida, where I learned how to run a kitchen.”
In 1977, Lazarus co-founded Affairs to Remember, known for its professionalism, creativity and divine cuisine. Day-to-day operations are run by native New Yorker, Rich Wilner, who is general manager.
“I knew I was destined to be to in the hospitality business,” Wilner said. “I was more interested in planning my brother’s bar mitzvah than he was. I grew up in a kosher household with a mother who is an amazing cook, and shared her love through food. One of my first catering efforts was preparing a Passover seder for 40 AEPi fraternity brothers” at State University of New York at Oswego.
Who knew AEPi was such a great training ground for culinary talent?
Jaffe: Describe your relationship with the Fox.
Wilner: We entered a partnership in 2015 to manage the sales and marketing of private events, working with all clients who book any of their event spaces, whether we or someone else caters. We assist clients with all aspects (from florals, A/V and photography, to specialty cakes and event design), for a one-stop-shopping experience, or simply coordinating the event space. When we are the caterer, we call those “AFFAIRS at the FOX.”
We produce around 170 events annually at the Fox. When there is no performance on the main stage, we have the ability to rent out the new, very cool Marquee Club for private events.
Jaffe: What are some of the trends you see entering 2019?
Wilner: 2019 is full of optimism, which means color. Design continues to bridge the rustic, patina finishes with sleek, contemporary design. The Fox is décor-ready — yet others envision the spaces unlike anything done before — “washing the walls” with photos or videos for a spectacularly branded visual, for example.
Food trends include mindful eating (consideration of healthy foods), locally sourced products and exotic flavors inspired by Atlanta’s diversity.
Jaffe: What are some of the creative/outrageous events you have done there?
Wilner: For one wedding, we brought in a video of good wishes from Carol Channing! (Her mother was German-Jewish and Carol considers herself “part-Jewish”.) We’ve done weddings that were a “building buy-out”: Ceremony on the main stage, cocktail hour in the Grand Salon & Terrace and reception in the Egyptian Ballroom.
We’ve had weddings with “feathered” Vegas showgirls hosting the processional during the reception.
Many couples have their pets in their ceremony. (They don’t stay for the reception.) Another had a marching band from New Orleans lead the wedding party procession. We’ve had mini Cirque du Soleil performances and aerialists in the Egyptian Ballroom – you name it. Corporate events, awards, holiday parties, weddings — including rehearsal dinners, ceremonies and receptions — b’nai mitzvot, trade shows, movie premieres, product launches, association gatherings, birthday parties, fundraising galas and proms. We do it all!
Jaffe: Elaborate on catering to celebrities performing at the Fox.
Wilner: Due to non-discloser clauses, we cannot list specifics, …. but let’s say the old story about only eating green M&Ms is not far from the truth. For a 45-minute stay in the dressing room, one celebrity requested certain books and magazines and a full smoothie bar.
Another requested a specific coffee from a local coffee shop, where we had a service person on standby waiting for a call to order the coffee at a specific time and then bring it to the dressing room.
Jaffe: Food is love. Whet our appetites.
Wilner: We offer a whole line of Fox-exclusive food and drinks. They are influenced by the Fox architecture, its location as the epicenter of the New South, and the shows on the main stage, meaning we can create a menu for a private event inspired by whatever show is currently on stage (see sidebar).
Some Fox-exclusive items include: Hibiscus Mint Shrub & Vodka Martini + mint leaf; Falafel Fritter + radish raita and micro greens; Za’tar Crusted Tuna, cannellini bean salad with artichokes, soppressata, feta + sumac berry vinaigrette; Rustic Vidalia Onion Tart with Belle Chevre herb mousse and micro green salad; Cheesecake with Miles Berry Farm strawberry sauce + moonshine caramel, and Pistachio Macaroons with crushed pistachio garnish.