Founded by Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm in 2002, Boka Restaurant Group is one of the premier chef-driven restaurant groups in the country. Anchored by partnerships with five of America’s great chefs, Giuseppe Tentori, Stephanie Izard, Chris Pandel, Lee Wolen, and Gene Kato, BRG has distinct culinary experiences, each of them individually crafted and conceptually unique.
One of the things I love most about what I do is working with talented, interesting, passionate people. Connecting people, supporting people, and combining our skills to solve problems together is what this business is all about.
Ian Goldberg has worked in the restaurant industry since he was 15 years old and was the first employee ever hired by Boka Restaurant Group. Born in Chicago, Goldberg graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and a focus in Entrepreneurship.
When he joined BRG as a bartender at Boka in 2003, Goldberg made it his mission to learn everything he could about the hospitality business. Paired with his passion for food, wine, and service, Goldberg’s tenacity, ability to listen and reflect, and commitment to problem-solving made him a critical member of the quickly expanding group. Over the next eight years, Goldberg rose from Bartender to Assistant General Manager, to General Manager, to Director of Operations, and then to Vice President in 2011. In 2019, he was named Chief Operating Officer.
Throughout his tenure with BRG, Goldberg worked to transform the group into an ecosystem that thrives because it is rooted in the work ethic, passion, and genuine hospitality that continue to fuel his own career.
Hospitality is one of the few industries that brings people together from all different walks of life. There's something really magical about working for a place that creates experiences that bring others love and joy.
Since the beginning of her career, Abby Kritzler has dedicated herself to making a difference in the lives of others through collaboration and empowerment.
While studying Sociology, Community Advocacy, and Social Policy in college, Kritzler balanced volunteer work with a restaurant job, aiming to continue her career in nonprofit and advocacy. When she began working at Landmark Grill & Lounge as a Server Assistant in 2007, she only intended to stay a few months, but Kritzler soon fell in love with the way hospitality impacts people of diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and skill sets. In 2011, Kritzler requested a meeting with Boka Restaurant Group Co-Founders, Rob Katz and Kevin Boehm, to discuss ideas for the company (the original notes from the meeting still sit on Kritzler’s desk today). Afterward, Katz and Boehm offered Kritzler a position as their Executive Assistant. Within months she was promoted to Executive Director of Boka Restaurant Group.
Today, as Chief Culture Officer, Kritzler strives every day to find new ways to bring joy to BRG team members, guests, and clients, and continues to build the infrastructure that makes BRG a group that gives back.
When I see people in our company grow and flourish, it's exciting and inspiring. Helping to create a space where someone else can learn, grow, and be empowered to forge their own path gives me an enormous sense of fulfillment.
With a background in accounting, design, and business, Jami Madonia’s distinct blend of analytical and creative thinking has made her a key strategic voice within Boka Restaurant Group.
After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Advertising and Design, Madonia began working as a hostess for The N9NE Group in Chicago, before pursuing a career in advertising. Madonia soon discovered that what she loved about design—thinking about how people engage with an experience and problem solving to improve that experience—was the foundation of hospitality as well. She stayed with The N9NE Group, rising to become its Regional Controller. When the company closed and Madonia started her own financial consulting firm, Boka Restaurant Group became one of her first clients. In 2015, she joined BRG as Controller to develop and oversee the accounting team. Since then, Madonia has built the financial backbone of the company, while cultivating a culture of team-building, mentorship, and empowerment.
Today, as Chief Financial Officer, Madonia continues to give BRG the structure to raise the bar for the hospitality industry. When she’s not in the office, Madonia can be found spending time with her two children, Alexandra and Weston.
A northern California native, Taylor Crowley found an early calling to the world of hospitality growing up in a family owned business specializing in event planning. She attended Miami University and graduated with a degree in Business Marketing and a minor in Entrepreneurship.After moving to Chicago in 2003, Crowley gained her first hotel experience at the Four Seasons Chicago, then moved on to open the Elysian Hotel (now Waldorf Astoria Chicago) as Catering Manager and quickly scaled the ranks to become the luxury property’s Director of Catering.
In 2012, Crowley joined Boka Restaurant Group as the Director of Events for the J. Parker and the former Perennial Virant. In October 2015, Crowley joined the corporate team to develop BRG’s marketing department. In this role, she heads up all marketing efforts including social media, visual strategy, marketing and private event coordination, brand standards, business development, and sales initiatives.
A Columbia College Chicago graduate, Emily Finkelstein didn’t plan for a career in hospitality, it found her through a side job at a restaurant. But once a management track presented itself, Finkelstein seized the opportunity and learned many roles within the Boka Restaurant Group—including Manager, General Manager, and in Operations.
She now excels as the Director of People Operations. As someone who thrives surrounded by diverse people, it’s natural she gravitated toward a path that touches nearly all facets of the industry. And with a toddler in the mix, Finkelstein has practice juggling with several balls in the air. She aims to organize and structure the growth of Boka Restaurant Group, focusing mainly on Human Resource initiatives.
A true southerner, Gabe Garza was born in New Orleans and spent much of his early life in Houston. While pursuing degrees from Louisiana State University and Vanderbilt University, Garza’s love for hospitality flourished. He quickly became an innovating force in the New Orleans and Birmingham culinary scenes, conceptualizing three restaurants and advancing to the role of managing partner, a position he held for twelve years.
Today, Garza oversees five Boka Restaurant Group properties—Cabra, Cira, Devereaux, Lazy Bird, Somerset—leveraging his unique experience in entertainment and southern hospitality to uphold the conceptual integrity and operational success of each restaurant.
Kyle Pepperell has a rich background in the creative arts. While pursuing an acting career in both undergraduate and graduate capacities, Pepperell simultaneously discovered another creative outlet in wine and hospitality. He joined the Boka Restaurant Group as a server and helped open Landmark. His new calling then drew him to work in New York at Plein Sud and Rosemary’s, but he returned to BRG at Boka in 2013 and took over the wine program in February 2014.
Now Director of Operations for Boka, GT Fish & Oyster, and GT Prime Steakhouse, Pepperell creates a fun and approachable atmosphere and encourages guests to taste new wines and experience flavors and styles from different regions around the world.
With more than 15 years of experience, Miguel Tamura’s resume includes Michelin star restaurants and luxury hotels in Spain, Japan, and the United States. A graduate from Les Roches Global Hospitality School, his passion for the industry led him to work with renowned hospitality names such as “El Bulli” catering in Madrid and as an assistant Food & Beverage Manager at the Park Hyatt Chicago. In his home country of Spain, he served as the Director for Teatriz, a gastronomic theatre in Madrid, then joined Hotel Golf Almerimar, a 5 star golf and spa resort in Andalusia where he received several awards as General Manager.
Tamura joined Boka Restaurant Group in 2017 and is currently the Director of Operations for Bellemore, Cold Storage, Izakaya at Momotaro, Momotaro, and Swift & Sons. He hopes to inspire the same work ethic and enthusiasm in his teams that he has enjoyed throughout his career.
MichelleHerndon started her illustrious career in HR staffing, diversity, and inclusion training for Limited Brands. She then joined Boka Restaurant Group in2011 as Director of Events for Balena and has since navigated the events world as part of the opening team for Dutch and Doc’s and, most recently, The Hoxton.
In 2020, Herndon began a position as Director of Diversity + Community focusing on diversity in hiring, mentoring and developing talent within our teams, as well as expanding community programs within Chicago. Outside of BRG, Herndon also enjoys spending time in professional lifestyle coaching.
Grown in New Jersey, and molded in New Orleans, Dan Millstein has always had an appreciation for entertainment. In the 1990s and early 2000s, you could find him DJing underground electronic raves and spearheading a successful party promotion company. But when the need for a flexible schedule arose, Millstein sought out the premier New Orleans restaurant group, the Brennan Family. Busser to lead captain, head trainer to manager, he decided to make food and hospitality his full time gig. “I love that restaurants and bars are forms of expression. Every one of them is a living breathing work of performance art and a new show gets put on every day.”
Now as Facilities and Operations Manager, Millstein is responsible for overseeing all facilities maintenance within the Boka Restaurant Group. He’s also the Director of Operations for BRG’s first quick service restaurant, Little Momma, in West Lafayette, Indiana.
Arianna Favia understands the value of getting out what you put into an endeavor. Starting in bartending and serving, she quickly learned that the harder and better you work, the greater benefits you earn. With those same values in mind, she made the jump to sales after college but realized she was missing something—the restaurant industry. Fortunately for Favia, she jumped at the chance to take an open sales and events position at Momotaro, coincidentally just as she was returning from an eye-opening trip to Japan.
In 2020, she was promoted to Group Director of Event Sales where she became the sales team liaison supporting training, business development, and overall sales for nearly half of all BRG properties.
With close to 20 years in the industry, Brian is a lifelong hospitality professional committed to creating personal, connected experiences. Each day his goal is to foster a welcoming atmosphere for guests to celebrate and feel like they’re family. Brian’s hospitality journey began with Boka Restaurant Group in 2012. Since then, he has held a variety of positions across a wide breadth of BRG’s portfolio.
Prior to working with Boka Restaurant Group, Brian spent five years working with Atlanta’s Fifth Group Restaurants. Originally from the Philadelphia suburbs, with close to a decade in Atlanta, Brian came to Chicago to pursue his MFA in Acting. He completed his studies at The Theatre School of DePaul University in 2012. He brings those lessons in creativity and collaboration to his work with Boka Restaurant Group.
Chicagoland born and bred, Hyun Song oversees all staff accounts and daily operations of the accounting department. With a background from DePaul University and a degree in accounting, Song pursued her love of food, community, and numbers with the Boka Restaurant Group.
Even though her department doesn’t directly interact with customers, she appreciates how her team can mentor, nurture, support, and celebrate everyone from within, making exceptional hospitality possible. Another of Song’s passions include practicing Kendo, a Japanese martial art descended from sword fighting, where she is certified first-dan (degree).
Hospitality has come second nature to Kristine Basas since high school. Experience in hosting, serving, culinary school, accounting, and now Human Resources makes her a most well-rounded and knowledgeable member of the corporate team.
Basas focuses on the overall employee experience. Sometimes that means explaining benefits and procedures, sometimes it’s being a resource or a confidant, but all the time it requires her to extend hospitality to everyone she interacts with. When she’s not at work, Basas likes to get outside and aims to visit as many National Parks as possible.