Fabio’s journey toward living his dream as an event designer began a long way away from the glitz and glamor of New York, in the modest outskirts of Recife, Brazil. Born into a working-class family where his father managed a local steakhouse and his mother owned and operated a cozy, fifteen-table restaurant that offered a rotating menu of rustic “$10 Plates,” Fabio was working hard waiting tables, curing meats, and chopping vegetables by the age of ten.
Although Fabio grew up as the youngest of four siblings with three older sisters, he was never lucky enough to be given the spoiling usually reserved for the baby of the family. As the only boy, he was put to work in his mother’s restaurant as soon as he was big enough to wield a frying pan.
One of Fabio’s fondest memories from childhood was being taken on daily shopping trips to the open-air market with his mother. Little Fabio’s head would spin amidst all the beautiful smells and colors of Recife’s rich produce, grains, meats, and flowers. The social buzz and cultural authenticity that he experienced at the market seeped into Fabio’s creative DNA and has continued to influence his work ever since.
A few years down the road, while still working hard at the family restaurant on nights and weekends, Fabio had a brief stint as a member of the Brazilian National Gymnastics Team. But as it turns out, the career window on gymnastics is relatively small, and Fabio’s thirst for creative work led him to a job with Roberto Maia, a well-known Recife architect.
Fabio spent five years with Maia, receiving a crash course in décor and formal dining. This new education was the perfect compliment to the salt-of-the-earth work ethic he’d learned while grinding away at the family restaurant. The lessons of refinement he was taught by Roberto left Fabio in the unique position of knowing how to whip up a “$10 Plate” on a “$1,000 Piece of China.”
But Fabio’s dreams soon outgrew his quaint surroundings and his heart began to yearn for the excitement and opportunity of New York. With nothing but the hope of a better future and an aptitude for working harder than everyone around him, Fabio took a one-way flight to New York with no friends or family waiting for him in the big city. During his rush to pursue his dreams, Fabio had only forgotten one thing…he didn’t speak a single word of English!
Once in New York, Fabio was faced with the daunting task of figuring out life and work without knowing the language. But he never got discouraged. After finally finding a job as a dishwasher at a restaurant, Fabio put his head down, worked hard, and was eventually noticed by the manager. Before too long, Fabio was working on the floor as a waiter and bartender, wooing customers with his homegrown charm and warm demeanor.
Although money was tight back then, Fabio began to save entire paychecks so he could dress up and eat out at the best restaurants in New York. This wasn’t an attempt at looking chic or impressive; Fabio was fascinated by what made great dining experiences work and he was willing to part with his hard-earned cash to find out.
The self-education soon began to pay off. After putting away enough money to enroll in classes at the Parsons School of Design, Fabio had the good fortune of being introduced into the world of catering. Again, without knowing anything about the business, and still learning a new language, Fabio relied on his tireless work ethic to get him by. He started out as a food passer who described every hors d’ oeuvres as “Brazilian food” through a big smile, but was soon working as a captain.
Fabio’s unique background, which now included his upbringing at the rural family restaurant in Brazil, his tutelage in fine dining with Roberto Maia, his pocket-emptying self-dates in New York, and the hours of hard work he was logging in the restaurant and catering worlds, finally converged when his bosses noticed his creative knack and asked Fabio to start designing his own events.
Within a few years, Fabio had become one of the most trusted event designers in New York, having come a long, long way from his early days in the city where he didn’t even have the words to ask how to get to the closest grocery store. Not too bad for a boy from a small town in Brazil.
After nonstop prodding from his loyal, longstanding clients, Fabio took another step toward fulfilling what has been a true realization of the American Dream when he threw open the windows of his own shop, founding Fab Arruda Events in December of 2013.
In addition to running his own company, Fabio is currently the Account Director at Christie’s Auction House, where more than four hundred breakfasts, brunches, lunches, dinners, and cocktail receptions are held annually. He has also worked extensively with THESE PEOPLE, among others, and has seen his décor published in these interesting publications.
The down-to-earth work ethic he learned growing up and the experience he’s gained around New York has left Fabio comfortable and prepared for any situation. As so many of his clients tell him, “You’re going to be at the event, right, Fab? Then I’m not worried about a thing.”