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The Illinois Restaurant Association Presents the Biggest Networking Party of the Year!

Complete 2016 Expert Biographies:

2016 Confirmed Experts:

Carmen Rossi, 8 | A Hospitality Company
Patrick Wartan & Alex Pappas, Axia Law
Laurie Cairns, Blast Marketing
Kevin Boehm & Rob Katz, BOKA Restaurant Group
Beau D'Arcy & Ashvin Lad, Breakwater Chicago
Gerrin Butler, Chicago Department of Public Health
Joe Baez & Chuck Taylor, Clifton Larson Allen
Tom KoenigsbergTim McEnery & Kristen Zagozdon, Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurants
Phil Tadros, Bowtruss Coffee
Daniel Gerzina, Eater Chicago
Abe Conlon, Fat Rice
Amy Morton, Found Kitchen and Social House
Marc Epstein, Four Corners Tavern Group
Wayne Rich, Heartland Payment Systems
Glenn Keefer, Heil and Kay Insurance Agency
Doug Sohn, Hot Doug's
Bobby Gonzalez, Hotel Palomar Chicago - A Kimpton Hotel
Patrick Donnelly, Hyatt Regency Chicago
Janet Isabelli, Isabelli Media Relations
Jeremy Kudan, Kudan Real Estate
Donnie Madia, One Off Hospitality Group
Beverly Kim, Parachute
Kelly McCahon & Adam Geenen, Resource POS
Joey Terrell,
Sam Sanchez, Samco Enterprises
Michelle Dukler, TGI Concessions
Eddie Mahoney, The Fifty/50 Group
Matthew McCahill, The Godfrey Hotel / The LondonHouse Hotel
Adam Hebert, The Radler
Britt Whitfield, The Revel Group
Clinton Wolf, UnitedHealthcare
Raj Karmani, Zero Percent



Carmen Rossi

Carmen Rossi was born and raised in Frankfort, Illinois. He had received four degrees while owning and operating five profitable companies. After graduating, the lawyer turned restaurateur is breaking ground on his twelfth hospitality venue to open in the Chicagoland area.

Carmen received his B.S. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in English and Political Science. He stayed at U of I for his Master’s Degree and taught three undergraduate classes as a University employee. Carmen finished his academic career at Northern Illinois University where he received his Juris Doctorate. He currently practices commercial law, focusing on contracts and appellate court drafting.

Mr. Rossi proudly introduced “8”, a Hospitality Company that manages and employs over 400 individuals in the Chicagoland area.  In addition, Carmen serves as a Commissioner on the City of Chicago Landmark Commission, is a board member to the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce PAC and is a board member and officer of the Illinois Restaurant Association.

“A commitment to hospitality includes a series of promises to our communities as we seek to enrichen the neighborhoods by providing quality food and beautiful spaces to accommodate groups and events of all kinds.”

In 2014 he started "Chicago Knight Life" a company he has built to involve his hospitality portfolio with local Chicago charities. Chicago Knight Life reaches out directly to Chicago organizations and charities to provide a warm meal and companionship. All employees of his hospitality portfolio are encouraged to volunteer for weekly times to visit charities and pass out food, help serve and engage with conversation. Chicago Knight Life has worked with Little Black Pearl, Sarah's Circle, Ronald McDonald House, Asian Youth Services and many others.

“Over the years I have also been fortunate to interact and work with many people.  Any marginal success I have experienced has wholly been a product of my dynamic network and persistent work ethic. It’s all about making a mark with the time you have. My involvement in academic, charitable, community and professional endeavors has been quite diversified and, as a result, I stand in a stronger position to make a difference in the greater Chicagoland community.”





Patrick Warten

Patrick is a founding Partner of Axia Law. He primarily represents small and midsize enterprises in the restaurant, hospitality, and technology sectors. His background with e-commerce and the foodservice industry prior to the founding of Axia Law provided him the business acumen and operational knowledge necessary to advise his clients today.
In addition to his practical experience, Patrick also brings private equity expertise. His experience across multiple sectors enables him to advise and represent a wide variety of businesses in a full spectrum of legal matters, including, business formation, initial funding, acquisitions, business transactions, employment concerns, managing accounts receivables, contract disputes, commercial litigation, and negotiations.
Most importantly, Patrick views his role with his clients as a partnership, and not simply an attorney or legal advisor. He works with his clients to foster their growth by strategically overseeing all aspects of their operations to ensure that they are on path to success.
Patrick is entrenched in the business community, and makes it a priority to introduce his clients to centers of influence within their respective industry.

Patrick and the Axia Law Team were asked by their Alma mater, Chicago-Kent College of Law, to provide advisory services for their upcoming incubator program. His role includes working with start-ups to identify opportunities for growth and sustainability. Patrick also speaks on topics throughout the Chicago area regarding start-up growth and operations, foodservice issues, and other current regulations impacting his clients’ businesses.





Alex Pappas

Alex is a founding partner of Axia Law, a law firm that provides its clients with a breadth of practical experience, flexible billing solutions, and a partner to grow their business with.

Alex has experience in legal matters involving all aspects of commercial real estate transactions and financing. In addition, Alex’s background in banking and finance provides him with an ability to grasp complex transactions and quickly provide reliable and sound advice. With such a wide range of experience in finance, commercial real estate, and technology, Alex brings a depth of knowledge outside of the legal industry to each and every client he consults.

More specifically, Alex has established a nationwide real estate practice focused on transactions, financings, joint ventures, workouts and land development. He has been involved in notable mixed use, retail, hotel, multi-family residential, office and industrial projects throughout Chicago and the metropolitan area. He can assist in commercial litigation, business transactions, contract negotiations, commercial lease negotiations, asset purchase agreements, business entity formations, breach of contract claims, non-compete / confidentiality agreements, trademarks, non-disclosure, and fundraising/equity matters.

What makes Alex an asset to any business is the hands-on approach he takes with each of his clients. Rather than trying to maximize fees, he centers his practice on fostering company growth through creating unique opportunities for brand expansion. Alex provides his clients with a much broader role than simply serving as a legal advisor; he is a partner in their success.

Alex was asked by his Alma mater, Chicago-Kent Law School, to provide advisory and mentoring services for their incubator program. His role includes advising start-up law firms on how to identify markets, develop a company brand, and seize business opportunities. Alex is regularly invited to speak at a variety of seminars in the Chicago area. He has presented on various aspects of commercial real estate and prominent issues affecting the practice.

In addition, Alex is an Adjunct Professor of Real Estate Finance at Kendall College’s School of Hospitality Management, where he teaches his students the fundamentals of commercial real estate.





Laurie Cairns

Laurie Cairns is a Managing Partner at Blast Marketing & PR. Taking a leadership role on many of agency's accounts, Laurie helps bring brands to life through strategic positioning and award-winning creative execution. She works with clients to develop integrated marketing programs that address everything from hyper-local to national programs.

Laurie joined Blast in 2013, and works closely with the company’s President to manage the company’s operations. Prior to joining Blast, Laurie ran her own boutique agency for nearly three decades. During that time she provided strategic and creative guidance to a wide range of firms, from the Fortune 100 to start-ups. In addition, Cairns assumed the role of interim CMO for Aspect, a global enterprise software company, and has provided advisory and creative services for several non-profits. Cairns also served as marketing committee chair for Lumity, a leading Chicago-based charitable organization.





Kevin Boehm

After opening 20 successful restaurants over two decades, James Beard nominated restaurateur Kevin Boehm has become one of the nation's most successful owner/operators. Kevin, along with partner Rob Katz have not only built a successful restaurant group, but have established a restaurant culture built on great chefs, inspired hospitality, and amazing design.

Born in 1970, Boehm grew up in Springfield, Illinois and knew at a young age he was destined to be in the restaurant business. After dropping out of University of Illinois, he saved enough money as a server to open his first restaurant in 1992, the quaint Lazy Daze Café, in Seaside, Florida. Indigo Wine Bar (Blue Mountain Beach, Florida), Indigo Restaurant (Springfield, Illinois), and Six Degrees (Nashville, Tennessee) followed and Boehm got his education opening and selling restaurants all before the age of 30.

In 2002, Boehm partnered with Rob Katz and the two established Boka Restaurant Group. The pair would open 13 restaurants in less than 13 years: Boka (2003), Landmark (2005), Perennial (2008), Girl & the Goat (2010), GT Fish & Oyster (2011), Perennial Virant (2011), Balena(2012), Elaine's Coffee Call (2012), The J. Parker (2012), Little Goat Bread (2012), Little Goat Diner (2013), Momotaro (2014), and Swift and Sons (2015), and Cold Storage(2016) and establish themselves as one of the great chef-driven groups in the country. They are also opening two restaurants in late 2015, early 2016: Duck Duck Goat and GT Prime.

The groups many accolades include "3 stars" for Boka, Perennial, Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant, Balena, and Momotaro from the Chicago Tribune. A Michelin Star 2011-2015 for Boka. "Food and Wine's Best New Chef's" for Boka's Giuseppe Tentori, Perennial Virant's Paul Virant, and Girl & the Goat's Stephanie Izard. Restaurant of the Year for Girl & the Goat in Chicago Tribune, Metromix, and Eater,and "National Chef of the Year" at the Eater Awards in New York.Restaurant of the Year for GT Fish in 2011 in the Chicago Tribune. A James Beard nomination for Girl and the Goat for Best New Restaurantin 2011, and a James Beard win for Stephanie Izard for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013. Restaurant of the Year at the Jean Banchet Awards and Chef of the Year for Lee Wolen at the Banchet's and the Tribune in 2014. Restaurant of the Year for Momotaro in both Chicago Magazine and Chicago Social in 2015.

Boehm and Katz won Restaurateurs of the Year from Time Out Chicago in 2010, the Chicago Tribune in 2011, were named Empire Builders of the Year by Eater National in 2011. They were James Beard semi-finalists for Best Restaurateur in America in 2015, and finalists in 2016. 

Boehm has been a featured speaker at the National Restaurant Show, Miami Food & Wine, MUFSO, keynote speaker at the Asheville Independent Restaurant Show, and has given the commencement address at a Culinary Institute of America Graduation in New York. He is an occasional columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times Splash, and was named "40 Under 40" in Crains in 2010. He co-produces the Gold Coast Film Festival, which was started in 2004, and sat on the board of Trustees for the Hope Institute for 7 years. He currently sits on the Board of Directors of Easter Seals and 826 CHI. Kevin lives in Chicago with his wife and 3 children.





Rob Katz

After opening 20 restaurants & bars over two decades, James Beard nominated restaurateur Rob has become one of the nation's most successful owner/operators. Rob, along with partner Kevin Boehm have not only built a successful restaurant group, but have established a restaurant culture built on great chefs, inspired hospitality, and amazing design.

A native of Vancouver, B.C., Katz moved to Chicago in 1987 to work at the Chicago Board of Options Exchange, one of the world's busiest trading pits, but quickly became involved in the bar and nightclub business. He opened 4 highly successful bars and nightclubs in the 1990's, including Katacomb, Elbo Room, and Waterloo, the latter two establishing him as one of the pioneers of live music in Lincoln Park.

In 2002, Katz partnered with Boehm and the two established Boka Restaurant Group. The pair would open 13 restaurants in less than 13 years: Boka (2003), Landmark (2005), Perennial (2008), Girl & the Goat (2010), GT Fish & Oyster (2011), Perennial Virant (2011), Balena(2012), Elaine's Coffee Call (2012), The J. Parker (2012), Little Goat Bread (2012), Little Goat Diner (2013), Momotaro (2014), Swift and Sons (2015) and Cold Storage(2016) and establish themselves as one of the great chef-driven groups in the country.

 They are also opening two restaurants in late 2015, early 2016: Duck Duck Goat and GT Prime.

The groups many accolades include "3 stars" for Boka, Perennial, Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, Perennial Virant, Balena, and Momotaro from the Chicago Tribune. A Michelin Star 2011-2015 for Boka. "Food and Wine's Best New Chef's" for Boka's Giuseppe Tentori, Perennial Virant's Paul Virant, and Girl & the Goat's Stephanie Izard. Restaurant of the Year for Girl & the Goat in Chicago Tribune, Metromix, and Eater,and "National Chef of the Year" at the Eater Awards in New York.Restaurant of the Year for GT Fish in 2011 in the Chicago Tribune. A James Beard nomination for Girl and the Goat for Best New Restaurantin 2011, and a James Beard win for Stephanie Izard for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013. Restaurant of the Year at the Jean Banchet Awards and Chef of the Year for Lee Wolen at the Banchet's and the Tribune in 2014. Restaurant of the Year for Momotaro in both Chicago Magazine and Chicago Social in 2015.

Boehm and Katz won Restaurateurs of the Year from Time Out Chicago in 2010, the Chicago Tribune in 2011, were named Empire Builders of the Year by Eater National in 2011. They were James Beard semi-finalists for Best Restaurateur in America in 2015, and finalists in 2016.  Boka Restaurant Group was named one of the RH25 in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine in 2013.

Katz sits on the board of Chicago Children’s Choir, dabbles in real estate, and often speaks on restaurant panels around the country.  Rob lives in Roscoe Village with his wife Kathleen and their two children, Jamieson and Shelby, who provide a constant source of entertainment and inspiration.





Beau D'Arcy

Beau’s most recent experience includes launching two startups, both focused on increasing home-energy efficiency for homeowners throughout Chicagoland. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Beau worked for Eli Lilly & Co as an HVAC engineer, project manager and team leader. Beau earned a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and an MBA from Harvard Business School.





Ashvin Lad

Ashvin’s experience entails product development and management, marketing, business development and client relations roles in a variety of industries that include health care, financial services, government, and now hospitality. Ashvin holds a BS in Chemical Engineering and a MS in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a MBA in Marketing and Management from Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business.





Gerrin Butler

Gerrin Cheek Butler is currently the Director of Food Protection for the Chicago Department of Public Health. She has been instrumental in facilitating partnerships to develop innovative data and electronic tracking systems, including a system to detect foodborne illness via social media. The last 15 years has been spent in senior management positions at several health departments, which helped develop a passion for food safety, leadership, and public health.  During that time, she has made proven and sustained programmatic gains including: increased revenues, data driven decision making, Sanitarian Standardization Program, and lean process development. Gerrin received her B.S. in Environmental Health from Illinois State University and a Master of Public Administration from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.





Joe Baez

Joe is senior manager with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP with 12 years of experience working with a wide range of closely held companies. He specializes in companies within the food and beverage industry as they deal with the challenges of a dynamic, constantly changing marketplace. Through this experience Joe has gained a comprehensive understanding of the concerns confronting owners and managers of restaurants, franchises, suppliers, processors and distributors. He brings extensive expertise in performing and supervising audits, reviews and compilations for closely held companies with sales from $1 to $300 million, including assisting with the development and implementation of proper internal control procedures. In addition, Joe has significant experience in performing due diligence procedures in business acquisitions and other transaction advisory consulting. Joe graduated with a bachelor of science in accounting from Illinois State University. He is a Certified Public Accountant, licensed in Illinois, and is a member of the Illinois Society of Certified Public Accountants and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. In addition, Joe is active in the Chicago chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth and the Illinois Restaurant Association.





Chuck Taylor

Chuck is a senior tax manager with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP. He has extensive experience providing tax, accounting and business solutions to a wide variety of closely-held businesses and their stakeholders ranging from entrepreneurial start-ups to large multi-national corporations. He is highly skilled in tax consulting and planning for the unique situations encountered by business owners and executives operating in the restaurant and other food related industries. Chuck offers comprehensive tax strategy and overall planning programs for multiple-entity companies, including those in transition and/or new business ventures. He supplies hands-on assistance with the complex areas of multi-state and local sales and use tax issues. In addition, Chuck has in-depth knowledge of corporate structuring and restructuring issues to capitalize on favorable tax positions. He holds a Master of Taxation from DePaul University and a BS in accounting from Indiana University. Chuck is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the Indiana CPA Society, and the Illinois Restaurant Association.





Tom Koenigsberg





Tim McEnery





Kristen Zagozdon





Phil Tadros

Tadros is an entrepreneur in the hospitality industry, operating numerous coffee shops in the Chicago metropolitan area. He opened his first shop at the age of 19 after dropping out of Columbia College Chicago, the college he would return to a decade later to open another coffee shop and catering business. Tadros dreamed of opening a restaurant or bar but purchased the coffee shop because of his age. He sold the shop after a year and moved to a bigger space and opened the cafe Dollop. During his time at Dollop, he began working on a web design for the cafe. Others began ​asking him for help with similar projects which led Tadros to launch his own interactive agency.

In 2007 Tadros founded Doejo, an interactive agency that works with brands on web and mobile design and development. Clients of the company have included Burton Snowboards, Groupon, ​and Homeless Cop from Cartoon's Network Adult Swim. Tadros also serves as the company's CEO.
Tadros expanded his hospitality business to include the opening of additional cafes throughout Chicago. He is the founder of Bow Truss, a coffee shop that he funded directly from a ​crowdfunding loan service, paying back all investors with interest on the $300,000 originally ​invested. Tadros expanded Bow Truss into eight locations by 2015 with plans to open at least ​nine more starting in 2016. 
​   ​
In addition to Dollop and Bow Truss, Tadros also owns and operates ​Aquanaut Brewing Company, Bunny Micro Bakery and Apotheca Foods. Tadros combined his ​knowledge of co-working and coffee shops and launched SPACE in 2014. SPACE is a co-working spacelocated in Chicago that provides office space as well as a Bow Truss Coffee shop and Aquanaut brewery. Additional ventures that Tadros has been involved in include the event planning directory company Galaist and expense tracking application TextHog. He is also involved in the small business crowdfunding site FundedFoods.





Daniel Gerzina

As editor of Eater Chicago, Daniel Gerzina brings extensive journalism training and a deep background in restaurants and writing to covering Chicago’s booming restaurant and bar scene. Raised in New York State, Gerzina holds a journalism degree from Columbia College Chicago, years of experience working in restaurants themselves and at Chicago newspapers, magazines, and online publications, as well as decorated family roots in both cooking and writing.

In addition to running Eater Chicago, Gerzina’s writing has appeared in many local publications including the Chicago TribuneTime Out Chicago, andMichigan Avenue magazine, as well as international food and travel magazines. He became the editor of Eater Chicago, the Chicago branch of the largest online network of restaurant and bar news and feature publications in North America, in December 2012. He has appeared as an expert commentator on numerous television and radio programs, including Good Day ChicagoU and Me in the Morning, and had a weekly segment on WGN Radio. He is regularly asked to moderate panels on the restaurant industry, judge cooking and mixology competitions, and speak to college classes.

He lives in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood and when he’s not writing, editing or eating out, he watches his New York Mets and Knicks, often with great frustration.





Abe Conlon

Abraham Conlon: Growing up in Lowell MA, Abraham Conlon’s culinary beginning was heavily impacted by his Portuguese heritage and a strong Southeast Asian presence in his community. Beginning a professional cooking career at the age of 15, Conlon gained knowledge of classic sensibilities early on.  He continued his training at the Culinary Institute of America while also studying fusion techniques under Chef Norman Van Aken. The next stage in Conlon’s career found him running Chez Asian Bistro in the Dominican Republic followed by Augustine’s at Fredericksburg Square in Virginia where he at the time became the youngest chef to be awarded a Four Diamond Award by AAA. 
As chef and owner of his increasingly popular restaurant Fat Rice in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, Conlon has quickly been recognized as one of the city’s top chefs.  Fat Rice is a return to his roots, harmonizing the rich influence of Conlon’s upbringing and heritage with a thirst for culinary exploration and preservation by focusing on food from modest traditions prepared with an immense respect for custom and technique.  He has received many awards and recognition including Fat Rice being named “One of the Best 10 New Restaurants” by Bon Appetit magazine in 2013, a Jean Banchet award in 2014 and 2015 and a 2016 finalist nomination from The James Beard Foundation to name a few.





Amy Morton

Amy Morton is the owner and operator of Found. Having spent most of her life in the restaurant biz, she took the last decade off to have her family and is incredibly excited to open Found right in her own neighborhood! Most important to Amy is that her guests love the food and feel great hanging out in her place. She strives to make a difference in someone’s life every day.





Marc Epstein

Marc Epstein has been with the company since the opening of Sidebar Grille in 2005. After Sidebar, Marc continued to grow with Four Corners, opening Kirkwood and WestEnd before accepting the position of Managing Director of Four Corners Tavern Group in 2007. In his current role, Marc’s chief responsibilities include overseeing day-to-day operations, managing new location openings, and quality control of service and products, as well as offering guidance to management at all Four Corners locations. During his time with Four Corners Tavern Group, Marc has orchestrated the training, staffing, and openings of every new location.

Prior to making his way to Chicago in 1999, Marc worked for industry leaders in hospitality throughout the country. Before he joined Four Corners Tavern Group, Marc held a management positions at Hillstone Restaurant Group (Houston’s) and J. Alexanders. 





Wayne Rich

Wayne Rich spent 25 years Owning, Operating and Managing restaurants in Corporate, Multi-Unit and Independent environments before joining Heartland.

Wayne is passionate about technologies that help restaurants engage their customers and streamline workflows.  During his 14 years in leadership roles he has helped Heartland become one of the most respected brands in Restaurant Payment and Software Solutions.





Glenn Keefer





Doug Sohn

A graduate of the culinary program at Kendall College, Doug has held at least 4 or 5 jobs in the food industry. Most notably, he was a vendor at both Wrigley Field and Comiskey Park in the 1980s. He cooked in restaurants, catering companies and corporate dining facilities before becoming a cookbook editor in the later part of the 20th century. One day a friend of his ate a bad hot dog, resulting in the opening of Hot Doug’s, the Sausage Superstore, in Chicago in 2001. It closed in 2014. It was kinda famous in between.

He now oversees the Hot Doug’s concession stand in the bleachers at Wrigley Field and feels personally responsible for the Cubs recent success.





Bobby Gonzalez

Bobby is an award winning Concierge at the Hotel Palomar Chicago- a Kimpton Hotel. Bobby got his start in hospitality in 2007 re-stocking mini bars at the W Hotel. Now with Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, he has the privilege of working for the leading hospitality brand to work for in the world via Forbes top 100 list. Bobby is a member of Les Clef d'Or USA, an organization that represents Concierge that are at the pinnacle of the profession. Bobby is an extremely active member of the Chicago Hotel Concierge Association, where he's a chairman of a committee that welcomes new businesses to the City of Chicago. Bobby has won several awards including the IHLA Employee of the Year award for all of Chicago, and the Concierge Preferred Jon Winke Rising Star award, voted in by his peers. Bobby runs his hotels Social Media outlets and is always looking for new ways to improve them. Bobby is born and raised on Chicago's Southside and loves his Chicago White Sox!





Patrick Donnelly

As General Manager of the 2,019 room Hyatt Regency Chicago, the city’s largest hotel and largest Hyatt in the world, Patrick Donelly oversees all operations and is responsible for the overall vision and future direction of the property. Donelly ensures the hotel’s prominence as a lead employer, hotel and destination through his active status in the business community. He is both a member and officer of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association’s Board of Directors and a 2011 IHLA Ambassador of Hospitality Award recipient, a member of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and sits on the
Board of Director’s for the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association winning their 2013 Chairman’s Choice of the Year Award. Donelly is on the Executive Committee for Choose Chicago and the Executive Committee for Choose Chicago’s Sports Commission. In 2015, Donelly was appointed Chairman of the
Board for the Illinois Restaurant Association.

Mr. Donelly is committed to the community and supports several charitable organizations. Mr. Donelly began his Hyatt career in 1986, served as Hyatt’s Regional F&B Director at Hyatt Regency Chicago from 1991-1995, and returned to the hotel as General Manager in 2007 with many years of Hyatt experience gained through prominent Catering, Convention Services and F&B positions he held at several Hyatt hotels nationwide. Mr. Donelly has served as General Manager at Hyatt Regency Knoxville, Hyatt Regency Milwaukee and Hyatt Regency O’Hare.





Janet Isabelli

Janet has served as a public relations, marketing and event consultant to dozens of the nation’s premier destinations for more than 15 years. Before founding Isabelli Media Relations (IMR) in 2011, she held the position of Vice President at Wagstaff Worldwide, where she led the company’s Midwest office for nearly a decade. Previously, she served as the Assistant Director of College Programming at the University Chicago, where she oversaw large-scale events for The College, and she gleaned foundational career experience working for renowned branding expert Adrienne Weiss.

In her tenure, Janet has represented internationally recognized entities such as Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago, Soho House Group, Intercontinental Hotels, the Illinois Restaurant Association, the James Beard Foundation and numerous others. The media relations campaign for Chicago’s annual, premier epicurean event – Bon Appétit presents Chicago Gourmet – falls under her agency’s care, as well as those for countless, award-winning restaurants and chefs.

A Chicago native since 1995, she has contributed to many of the city’s leading non-profit organizations including Chicago Gateway Green, Lookingglass Theater, CASA of Cook County and the more recently established Ferrer Foundation. She was named one of Crain’s Chicago Business’ “40 Under 40” emerging business professionals in 2007 and one of Newcity magazine’s “Food & Drink 50″ in 2013 and 2015. In 2016, FW: Chicago Women magazine named her one of Chicago’s leading women in food industry.

Janet holds undergraduate degrees in Spanish Language & Literature and Law, Letters & Society from the University of Chicago, where she remains active in the alumni community.





Jeremy Kudan

Since 1999, Kudan Group has successfully served buyers, owners and tenants in thousands of real estate and business transactions across Chicagoland. There is no secret to our success – we simply put our clients’ interests first. Our clients include some of Chicago’s best known restaurants, nightclubs and bars, as well as office users, retailers, investors, and property owners. As well, Kudan Group has consulted on thousands of restaurant transactions in Chicagoland and continues to lead the market in restaurant brokerage, sales and site selection.





Donnie Madia

Among the city's most acclaimed restaurateurs, Chicago-born Donald J. Madia has mastered the art of collaboration to execute his singular unerring instincts for style, atmosphere and hospitality. His unique blend of visionary inspiration, attention to detail and sense of unlimited possibility informs all he touches— as evidenced in Blackbird, avec, The Publican, The Violet Hour, Big Star, Publican Quality Meats, Nico Osteria and Dove’s Luncheonette. His gift for connecting talented individuals and business acumen was recognized by the James Beard Foundation through consecutive nominations for Outstanding Restaurateur in 2012 and 2013.





Beverly Kim

After twenty years of working in kitchens, Beverly Kim finally opened her own restaurant with her husband Johnny in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. Parachute, which opened May 2014, has recently been named “Chicago’s Best New Restaurant 2015” by Chicago Tribune, and “Restaurant of the Year 2014” by Eater Chicago, and listed in Bon Appetite’s Hot Ten. Parachute was a James Beard Award finalist for Best New Restaurant this past year.

In 2011, her finalist standing on Top Chef Season 9 has further proven her abilities as a chef.





Kelly McCahon





Adam Geenen





Joey Terrell

Born Allentown Pennsylvania
Served in USMC – Decorated for Vietnam Combat Service 1968 to 1971 - 
Graduate New York Institute of Technology  B.S – Accounting
Graduated Allentown Business College ASB -- Accounting
Worked for 
CPA firm in Philadelphia area for 7 years
Canteen Corporation – Independence Park Philadelphia
ARA Services—Davre’s Fine Dining Division—Chicago
Owned a Hotel Management Company operating 6 hotels, bars and restaurants
Owner of Denny’s Restaurant in Mokena (20 years)  and Denny’s Restaurant Joliet (9 years)
Member of
Illinois Restaurant Association, Board of Directors
Served on Denny’s Franchisee Association Board of Directors 6 years
U.S. Green Building Council Chicago South Suburban Chapter Board of Directors 2 years
Greener Restaurants with the National Restaurant Association
American Association of Individual Investors.





Sam Sanchez

Sam Sanchez is an accomplished restaurateur with an
extensive hospitality industry background spanning concept development, bar and restaurant management and operations, new product development, menu development, advertising, marketing and promotions. Sanchez was recentlyawarded Restauranteur of the Year 2015 from the Illinois Restaurant Association.
He specializes in American and Northern Mexican cuisine and is a tequila connoisseur. 
Mr. Sanchez is the principal partner and oversees all facets of a restaurant business, including operations and business development for two John Barleycorn locations, two Moe’s Cantina locations and Old Crow Smokehouse location. He oversees future growth and expansion for all three brands.  
He is currently developing a brand new Old Crow Smokehouse in 
Huntington Beach, California and Moe’s Cantina in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Mr. Sanchez also owns EMC Construction, a full-service construction company which handles both renovations of existing properties and new construction, and Samco Enterprises, a staff management and personnel training company. In addition to his primary businesses, Mr. Sanchez serves as a consultant for Revolution Brands, a minority-owned spirits company that launched the 4 Rebels Vodka brand in Illinois in August 2009.  He is also an investor in an online ticketing company, HasTickets. Mr. Sanchez is very active in Chicago’s hospitality community and in the neighborhoods where his venues are located. He is the president of the Chicago Hospitality Association, a member and former officer of the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce. He is also serves as Corporate Secretary of the Illinois Restaurant Association. He is an active member in the River North Business Association, the Central Lakeview Merchants Association, the East Lakeview Neighbors Association, the Greater North Michigan Avenue Association, the Downtown Leadership Club and Club 42.  He is a Co-chair on the Steering committee on the Illinois Business Immigration Coalition and a mentor for Excellence in Education.

Maintaining viable and attractive neighborhoods for both the residents and the business sector is a priority for Mr. Sanchez. 
He is presently working with city and community leaders to stimulate economic growth in the 43rd Ward by redeveloping the Lincoln Park property vacated by Children’s Memorial Hospital in June 2012.  He has been a vocal participant in development plans for the Wrigleyville neighborhood, especially projects that
will have a major impact on the neighborhood such as ballpark renovations, street closures and the mixed-use Addison Park on Clark development.  
He is currently a board member for the Lakefront Sculpture Exhibit (LSE), a privately-funded, not-for-profit corporation that concentrates on enriching the community with public art projects while supporting local artist in the 43rd and 44th Wards.

Safety and security is a top concern for Mr. Sanchez in the communities where he does business and Chicago at large. He is actively involved with the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), in the 44th, 43rd and 42nd Wards, working with residents and the police department to identify and solve neighborhood problems. Mr. Sanchez collaborated with the City of Chicago and the Chicago Police Department to implement and maintain private security companies in major entertainment districts to enhance security and address safety issues important to both residents and bar and restaurant owners. He was instrumental in laying the groundwork with city and state legislators for the Comprehensive Alcohol Responsible Retailing Act (C.A.R.R.A). This act was developed to curb overconsumption and binge drinking by setting service standards for both retail and on-premise alcohol sales.

Mr. Sanchez believes in giving back to the community and hosts many charitable events at his venues throughout the year. Highlights include: the 43rd Ward and 44th Ward Annual Senior Summer Barbecues; the 43rd Ward Annual Senior Bingo Party; the 44th Ward Annual Children’s Holiday Party, the Ugly Sweater Party, an annual food drive for the Greater Chicago Food Depository; Pinko de Mayo, an annual event benefitting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation; and the Links Technology Cup, an annual fundraiser benefitting the Schaumburg Park Foundation. He also serves as a mentor and motivational speaker for Latino high school students with an interest in public policy and business as part of a Mentorship Program developed by Alderman George Cardenas.

Mr. Sanchez has been married to Marga for 24 years and has three daughters: Samantha, Korina, and Camila. In his spare time, Mr. Sanchez enjoys entertaining at home and cooking for his family and friends.




Michelle Dukler





Eddie Mahoney

A key member of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group since 2008, Eddie Mahoney today serves as an Operating Partner of The Fifty/50, among other properties within the group, overseeing the day-to-day operations of the successful Chicago concepts.  With a spirited determination to serve diners and bar-goers with high quality food and beverage experiences, Mahoney maintains The Fifty/50 and the group’s remaining venues’ notorious reputations with his knowledge and expertise.  

First introduced to the world of entertaining by his mother, a frequent party host, Mahoney has always enjoyed treating others with warm hospitality; ensuring patrons are always well fed and properly imbibed.  Embracing his inherent talent for serving, Mahoney immersed himself fully in the food and beverage industry, working at bars and restaurants throughout his youth and collegiate career.  Acknowledging his work with concepts including Kilroy’s, Bogart’s Char House, and Luxbar as beneficial learning experiences, Mahoney took his career to The Fifty/50 team in 2008.  Starting as a manager at the upscale sports bar, Mahoney quickly secured a leadership role within the concept, being promoted to General Manager before taking on the role as Operating Partner of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group.

Aspiring to oversee more properties in the years to come, Mahoney highlights The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s Owners Greg Mohr and Scott Weiner as his industry role models, thanks to their training, guidance, and innovative ideas, hoping to mirror their successes within his own career. Dedicated to providing upscale food and beverage experiences accentuated by fresh, quality ingredients and warm hospitality, Mahoney eagerly welcomes guests savoring The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s one-of-a-kind concepts.





Matthew McCahill

Matthew McCahill leads the growing division of Food and Beverage as Corporate Food & Beverage Director at Oxford Hotels and Resorts. Matthew has used his originality and formula for success to create a top food and beverage venues across the United States.
During McCahill’s impressive 25-year career, he has worked alongside notables including Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Nick Nicholas in fine dining restaurants and hotels from Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Chicago. Most recently, McCahill served as food and beverage director for the Dana Hotel & Spa, where the property’s rooftop bar was named one of the top three hotel bars in the country for the past two years by Nightlife & Bar Magazine, and one of the top ten high profile bars in Chicago.
While there, he also concepted, designed, built and launched the Bartenders Booth, a private cocktail tasting table and industry first.
His experience also includes key management roles at Mondrian Hotel-Asia De Cuba and SBE Group’s Prey Supper Club in L.A., to Bella Lounge and Restaurant in Chicago. He also served as managing partner at Soiree/Prost before joining the Sax Hotel’s Crimson Lounge as general manager. He studied hotel restaurant management from Honolulu Business College where he earned his degree, and currently calls Chicago home. Matthew has all the working knowledge needed to remain one of the top F&B Directors in the industry.





Adam Hebert

Adam Hebert has spent his entire working career in food service and hospitality. He has grown vertically and professionally in the industry starting as a dish washer at a suburban Chinese restaurant at the age of 16.  Adam is currently the Co-owner of The Radler, a German-American Beer Hall on Chicago’s North West Side, where he and his business partner Nathan Sears were the first to implement a no-tip system in a mid-level establishment in Illinois. His goals of improving restaurant labor conditions and providing the best in food, service and hospitality have lead him to his current position.  As an educator of  industry professionals on the benefits of eliminating tipping, Adam has spoken at ILRA community round tables, was featured on WBEZ’s  Morning Shift and is happy to be with you today as a panelist for this years “Meet the Experts”.





Britt Whitfield





Clinton Wolf

Clinton is a Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives.  He is responsible for developing and managing key alliance partnerships that create business value across the organization and help advance UnitedHealth Group’s mission to help people live healthier lives.

Clinton’s currently works on the joint venture between UnitedHealth Group and the National Restaurant Association.  Clinton joined UnitedHealth Group in 2000.  He has served in several areas across the organization including leading efforts in finance, Six Sigma process improvement, and medical network negotiations.   Most recently he was responsible for building and managing products with local health plans on behalf of small, mid-size and large multi-site employers, as well as individuals and families

Prior to joining UnitedHealth Group, Clinton was a consultant with Deloitte and served in strategic and capital planning for the Washington University School of Medicine.  His first job was working for Pizza Hut.

Clinton earned a BA in Business and History from Drury University and an MBA from Washington University in St Louis and resides in Chicago with his wife and two children.





Raj Karmani

Raj Karmani is the founder and CEO of Zero Percent, a Chicago-based public benefit corporation with the mission to make fresh, nutritious food accessible to those in need.  Zero Percent provides an online food rescue platform, and partner with restaurants and food service operators (such as The Signature Room, Lou Malnati's, Eurest, Google dining and Sodexo) to make sure that any excess food is donated to local nonprofits in an easy, reliable and safe way. Every donation is tracked using an Uber-style app and detailed data is available on a dashboard for analysis. More than 10,000 meals are donated every week from nearly 100 businesses to 70+ nonprofits in Chicago, and soon in other cities. 69% of the donated food is prepared or perishable.  In Fall 2014, Zero Percent received the CityLIGHTS Trailblazing Award from the Illinois Technology Association for its model.



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