Annie Cobetto had anything but an average American childhood. She grew up in Saudi Arabia, and her family’s worldwide travels nurtured an acute curiosity and appreciation for food, hospitality, culture and design. After earning degrees in business administration and hospitality and tourism management in Charleston, SC, her impressive résumé begins — but certainly doesn’t end — in Augusta, GA, working in events for the Masters Tournament. When Kentucky became her home, Annie eventually landed at the postcard-perfect Ashbourne Farms in La Grange, KY. There, she oversees more than 20 private events and two culinary showcases a year, all of which she runs in tandem with the conservation efforts to preserve the farm’s wild landscapes and ecosystems. Annie has honed an unteachable knack for curating events of all kinds on the gorgeous property — down to the grittiest details most guests never even notice. When the curveballs come, she lights some candles and tackles each day with her almost magic intuition, impeccable style and warm disposition. You’ll want to become best buddies with Annie Cobetto, our newest FACE of the South.
Your upbringing it so interesting. Tell us a bit about this unique trajectory and how you ended up back in Kentucky.
I honestly never could have guessed I would end up in Kentucky! Although I spent at least a week here each year visiting my grandparents, and my mom grew up here, so I’ve always felt very connected to the culture. I was born in Denver, CO, and then moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, when I was 2 years old. To me, Saudi still feels like home. My family lived there for a total of 19 years, the latter part of which I was in boarding school in Hudson, OH, and then college in Charleston, SC. Following college, I spent about three years in Augusta, GA, working with events surrounding the Masters Tournament and managing a mail-order company. While I was in college, my parents moved back to a farm outside of Lexington, KY, so I was here often to visit. My sister and her husband also ended up in Lexington, and, honestly, I felt a little left out! When I moved to Kentucky about six years ago, I thought it would be a short-term decision, and I would inevitably end up somewhere further South and with a lot more sunshine. Fast forward to now, and I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be!
What element of life in Saudi Arabia — or your worldwide travels in general — have you kept with you?
Having the opportunity to travel often and interact with people from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, it’s always remained true for me that really good people are absolutely everywhere. I see cultural differences as a virtue and an exciting opportunity to learn — never as a barrier.
Arab cultures have a deep sense of gracious hospitality and an old-world sense of ritual surrounding time spent with family and friends and especially during celebrations. I am happiest when I have the opportunity to host the people I care about, and there’s something very sacred to me about rituals. An hour before bed (or earlier), you can find me lighting candles around my house and contemplating my intentions for the following day.
What excites or fulfills you most about the event world?
The opportunity to create lasting memories is, by far, the most exciting part. So much of my life is stored in my memories, and I have some incredible ones! They will always be with me and always give me reasons to feel grateful. It’s exciting to create an environment where people get to tune out from their usual routine, connect with others, have fun, stimulate all their senses and, in the process, create positive memories.
You pride yourself on attention to details in every event. Can you give us a few examples of some fantastic details you’ve implemented or seen at an event recently?
While design details make me very, very happy, the details I’m most concerned with when I’m creating an experience are the nuances. The things I don’t necessarily want anyone else to notice, but nonetheless impact how they feel. I nitpick over precise placement of silverware, the delicacy of any glassware and how it feels in my hand, aroma (back to my candle-lighting rituals), anticipation of needs based on body language and before someone has to ask for something, remembering your guests, family or friends favorite things and having them available without request. These are all things I can’t bottle up and sell to the average client, but I promise they are tremendously valuable when it comes to making people feel good.
Conservation is a big part of the buzz surrounding Ashbourne Farms. Tell us about this and what makes this farm so unique?
A large part of the farm, which is more than 2,500 acres, is under a land conservation easement — meaning it’s protected from development in perpetuity. The views are breathtaking — driving in past pastures with horses and an abundance of wildlife roaming freely. It’s really the place that makes everything we do special. Our pursuit of culinary excellence and ultra-refined service is amazing, but it’s really the environment that makes it so special — not only the land surrounding us but the juxtaposition of gorgeous design and luxury with this pristine farm as the backdrop.
Is there an instance you can tell us about where a mishap resulted in a lesson learned?
If I’m being honest, the event world is an ever-revolving door of mishaps. What I’ve learned to do very successfully is manage the mishaps with grace. I have learned something new at every single event I’ve ever been a part of. There’s always something. I’m constantly looking at how I can do better or be more innovative in my approach towards growth. Even with that innate desire to always grow, I still have the outliers to contend with: weather, traffic, people and their peculiarities, and the many other things that are beyond my control. My biggest lesson has been to expect the unexpected and have the confidence and stillness of mind to shift and adjust to accommodate any changes, while still achieving my overall desired outcome.
Where can we find you on your days off? Do you even have days off?
I take days off, just not as regularly as most. A typical day off often involves meditation, sweating in an infrared sauna, cooking, listening to music or books on Audible, going out to eat, thumbing through art and design books for inspiration, and catching up with friends and family. Those who know me know that it’s almost impossible to get me to plan my days off. It’s the one day I get to do whatever I want, and I cherish that.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
“Never underestimate the power of positive thinking,” and “Read The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind by Joseph Murphy.” Both pieces of advice were from my dear friend Justin Levenson.
What’s something that people are surprised to learn about you?
I am a certified plant-based nutritionist and feel very passionately about plants’ ability to help us heal and maintain our health.
Besides friends, family and faith, name three things you can’t live without.
The ability to create, good music, exceptionally soft bed linen (Okay I can live without the third, but I’d really rather not!)
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Annie, and thank you to Jessa Mayhew for snapping these stunning photos (unless otherwise credited).
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