Founder and CEO, BHG
An expert in all aspects of dining and gathering to celebrate, Arthur F. Backal is the CEO of Backal Hospitality Group (BHG) and during three decades in the business has overseen world-renowned venues and executed thousands of milestone events – from intimate affairs to glittering galas. As a deeply respected voice and veteran in the hospitality industry, Backal has supplied his magic touch in the development of numerous iconic hotels and restaurants around the world. He’s also managed 20+ event spaces in New York City.
VP of Operations and Strategy, BHG
Hospitality professional with 15+ years in New York City Food & Beverage Operations. Previously Director of Food & Beverage at HUDSON with Morgans Hotel Group & F&B Operations at the New York Hilton Midtown. Total F&B lover, systems orientated, and judger of beverage lists.
Director of Events and Creative, SOTA + BHG
For 20 years, Dawn has been at the forefront of State of the Art Enterprises, Inc., she has expertly curated and managed countless momentous occasions. Her effortless can-do attitude, creative resourcefulness, and stay ahead of the trends is what she prides herself on. Each event is a one-of-a-kind production that reflects the individuals’ personal style and tastes. She contributes a strong understanding of logistical production and conveys a calming guidance resulting in clients can step back and savor all the special moments. When she is not crunching numbers on a budget or masterminding a special detail for an event, Dawn’s biggest production is being mom to Daniel, 9 and Antonia, 5 months. She resides in Staten Island with her childhood sweetheart Thomas with their 2 children.
General Manager, Versa
Joe Choi, General Manager at Versa Restaurant & Rooftop Bar, leads a team of hospitality professionals and oversees the execution of all operations throughout the property. Prior to Versa, he spent over 10 years working in the nightlife/restaurant industry throughout New York and New Jersey. Previous companies include Morgans Hotel Group, now sbe Entertainment Group and Hakkasan Group. In his free time, he enjoys traveling and pursuing his health and fitness goals.
VP of Culinary, BHG
A well-traveled and passionate Executive Chef and Director of Culinary with over 25 years of experience in restaurants, events, and private settings, Chef German Villatoro has nurtured a love for food beginning with his mother’s cooking, growing up in El Salvador. He credits his time with Rosewood Hotel & Restaurants in the Caribbean and working in 8 of America’s best food cities as well as his upbringing, for his dedication to utilizing local flavors and sustainable ingredients to create an inspiring menu.
Villatoro’s extensive experience includes well-known brands such as Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, Four Seasons, Conrad Hotels, Morgans Hotel Group, and the Michelin-rated La Grenouille restaurant. With his most recent project as Director of Culinary for Convene, he was at the helm of what started as a small team but under his leadership, rapidly grew into a formidible leader in the industry for menu concepts and kitchen design. He has also been featured in GQ Magazine, awarded by NYC Food & Wine Festival, and winner of Thrillist “Taco Takedown”.
Area Director of Operations, Versa + BHG
Hospitality professional with 20+ years of experience, having worked in Las Vegas, Chicago, Miami, & New York. Previous roles with MGM Resorts, Doral National, Cheesecake Factory, & Madison Square Garden. Not just a foodie & craft beer enthusiast, but an avid lover of sports & live concerts.
General Manager, Cellar Dog
Bio coming soon!
Director of Events, Apella & Riverpark
Prior to joining Apella, Nina spent 7 years on the events team at Mandarin Oriental, New York, most recently as Catering Sales Manager. Nina has an undergraduate and graduate degree from Johnson & Wales University including a Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Travel/Tourism with concentrations in Sales, Meeting & Event Management and Economics, as well as a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.). Culinary school sparked a passion in nutrition, making fresh juices & smoothies or cooking plant-based recipes are a favorite pastime. She’s always living for the next adventure, whether spontaneous travel plans, a day spent hiking or most recently, a Yoga Teacher Training certification!
Director of Events, Versa + BHG
A native New Yorker, Mary has over a decade experience producing events and marketing campaigns across North America for luxury fashion Houses Valentino and Cartier. After realizing her passion was hospitality, Mary brought her luxury experience to the New York City nightlife scene, and has produced some of the city’s most exclusive celebrity events spanning music, fashion, sports and television. Mary is passionate about each and every event she produces, with the ultimate goal of both exceeding client’s expectations and increasing the BHG footprint.
Director of Operations, Apella
Mynor Ruano, Director of Operations at Apella, leads the operations team and oversees all event execution on-site. He has extensive experience managing and servicing events, having previously held the position of Banquet Manager at the Gramercy Park Hotel, The Rainbow Room, and the Russian Tea Room. In addition, Mr. Ruano has worked as part of the banquet service teams at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the Plaza Hotel, the W Hotel in Union Square, and the Regent Wall Street Hotel, all in New York City. In his free time, he enjoys watching his son’s soccer games with his family.
Head of Philanthropy, BHG
Liana Silverstein Backal
A powerful advocate and fundraiser for food allergies, Liana co-founded Food Allergy Initiative (FAI – now known as FARE) in 1998. She has dedicated her life to finding a cure for life threatening food allergies. She has helped create and implement policies for schools, camps, airlines and countless other institutions. She has personally trained restaurants, hotels and universities worldwide (most notably Georgetown University) and has lobbied for stricter and clearer labeling laws before the FDA. A trusted resource, she has provided epinephrine for public places and has been integral in all areas of this growing health epidemic, including counseling families afflicted and participating in clinical trials with leading scientists.
Liana is on the top sales team at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. She has worked in real estate since college where she received an undergraduate Finance Degree from NYU’s Stern School of Business. She has strategic and complex sales strategies which include design and contract work. Fiercely loyal with attention to detail and discretion are key strengths in both real estate and the non-profit industries.
A lifelong philanthropist raised in a real estate family, Liana’s networks span all industry and backgrounds. She is involved with asthma and allergy research at the leading hospital and scientific institutions such as Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, FASI at The Broad Institute in Boston, National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Other important causes include The Jed Foundation (teen suicide prevention), Columbia Psychiatry (Dr Jeffrey Lieberman), Child Mind Institute (Dr. Howard Koplewicz), Chron’s and Colitis Foundation, The Navy Seals, and her children’s schools.
Born in Brazil and raised on Long Island, she lives on the Upper East Side with her husband and daughter and is also the proud Mother of two adult sons.
Finance Director, Apella + BHG
Helen Tran Chan
Helen Tran, Accounting Manager at Apella, oversees all accounting procedures including accounts payables, accounts receivables, and purchasing. Prior to joining Apella in 2010, Helen was a receivables coordinator in the accounting department at the Rainbow Room by Cipriani in Rockefeller Center. Ms. Tran graduated from Queens College, City University of New York with a BA in Accounting. Aside from her passion for running and traveling, Helen enjoys “foodie” adventures with her husband and two sons in New York City.
Director of Talent and Education, BHG
Tina Marie Valente Ortiz
As a certified Professional in Human Resources, Tina Marie has dedicated her professional work in advancing strategies to create positive organizational cultures. With a career that spans sixteen years, most notably serving as the head of Human Resources for the New York Operations of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, she brings an acute knowledge and talent to the workplace. Her passion lies within her family and is Pilates enthusiast.