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TSE Featured Speakers: Ron Ben-Israel, Tara Melvin, & More

Meet the speakers of Catersource + The Special Event!

Only one more week until we come together in Austin, TX! Let’s get to know this year’s featured speakers. Get your calendar ready—there's a lot of great sessions coming your way! 

Ron Ben-Israel, Owner, Ron Ben-Israel Cakes 


As Chef-Owner of one of the country’s finest couture cake studios, Ron Ben-Israel started his confectionery adventures after a fifteen-year career as a professional modern dancer. Upon retiring from performing with companies spanning three continents, he utilized his art background and ballet training into the discipline of pastry arts.  

After apprenticeships and engagements in Toronto, Canada and Lyon, France he was led to New York City. In 1996 his cakes were discovered while displayed in the windows of Mikimoto on Fifth Avenue. Commissions quickly followed from Villeroy & Boch, Baccarat, DeBeer’s, Bloomingdales, and Bergdorf-Goodman. 

In 1999 Ron established his flagship design studio and bakery in Manhattan’s fashionable SoHo neighborhood. In addition to wonderful private clients, many of New York’s premier hotels such as The Pierre, The St. Regis, The NY Palace, The Ritz-Carlton, The Waldorf-Astoria, The Four Seasons and the Mandarin Oriental are devotees. Aside from serving the northeast, his cakes are frequently delivered to destinations throughout the continental U.S and abroad. 

A Candid Conversation with Ron Ben-Israel 
10:30 a.m. Thursday, February 15 

Enjoy unfettered access to celebrity chef and trendsetting cake designer Ron Ben-Israel and bring your questions! From how to run a wildly successful cake business, to opening a second business—cookies!—during the pandemic, to how he became a TV cooking show judge (with times, perhaps on how you, too could become one), to the cost of his cakes, to the construction of his delicate sugar paste flowers, he is here to answer your questions during this delightful and casual gathering. 

Tara Melvin, Founder, President & CEO, National Society of Black Wedding and Event Professionals (NSBWEP) 


The National Society of Black Wedding & Event Professionals was an idea birthed by original Founder, President & CEO, Tara Melvin of Perfect Planning Events & The Signature CEO Conference.  For many years, Tara recognized a void in the industry which did not shine the light or elevate Black Creative Entrepreneurs in the wedding and event planning industry.  As an industry leader, she desired to create a space  that would galvanize and build a legacy and platform for black wedding and event professionals throughout the United States and beyond with a common purpose to encourage the excellence for their talent, create unity within the black community and beyond, elevate business acumen via education, yield financial support to its members via scholarships, and bring awareness to others who are unaware of black-owned businesses who provide exceptional services for its consumers, and our contribution in the wedding and event planning industry.  On June 16, 2020, undergirded by the support of the Board of Directors, The National Society of Black Wedding & Event Professionals evolved! 

Andre Howell, Vice President of Operations, Multicultural Foodservice and Hospitality Alliance (MFHA) 


As Vice President of Operations for The Multicultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance (MFHA), Andre Howell is responsible for managing the association’s day-to-day operations, ensuring the development and delivery of Cultural Intelligence solutions, and growing its membership base and network. Before entering the non-profit realm, Andre held a variety of high-level operational and marketing positions in the insurance industry: in particular, at Allstate Insurance Company, MetLife, Inc., and the Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., where he established several successful multicultural marketing initiatives that have resulted in more than $12 million in new business from people of color. 

Jen Bertolino, Director of Sales, Destination Management, Czerlonka Productions 


Jen is a Director on the International Live Events Association (ILEA) International Board of Governors and is currently acting as a liaison to the DEI Committee. In her day-to-day life, she is the Director of Sales, Destination Management, for Czerlonka Event Design & Management in Boston. Jen was also named Smart Woman of the Year 2022 by Smart Meetings Magazine. Beyond her eventful life, she finds joy in travel, exploring cultures, and creating cherished memories. She brings her passion for dance and performance to Voices of Hope, a non-profit group raising funds for cancer research. In winter, she hits the ski slopes, while summers find her on boats or relaxing on beaches. 

Jonathan Jow, Director of Strategy, BoothEasy Photo Booth Company 

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Jonathan Jow is a dedicated professional who has been blessed to work with some amazing companies in the marketing and technology space for over 20 years, along with more than 15 years of involvement in the events industry. Prior to joining the events industry, Jonathan worked in technology consulting as well as investment banking. With a focus on creativity and a passion for bringing people together, Jonathan has had the privilege of contributing to integrated marketing and event marketing campaigns that have touched millions of people and driven hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. 

Over the years, Jonathan has had the opportunity to work with various brands, aiding them in their growth through customer-centric experiences that aimed to leave a positive impact. Even amidst challenging times like the pandemic, he strived to adapt and find innovative ways to connect with audiences, ensuring memorable experiences that resonated with customers. 

Apart from his professional endeavors, Jonathan takes pleasure in mentoring and supporting fellow professionals in their journeys. Through contributions to industry publications, he seeks to share valuable insights and trends, hoping to inspire growth and progress within the marketing and events community. 

Lucas Mendieta, President & Co-Founder, Cutting Edge Elite 

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Lucas Mendieta is the President and Co-Founder of Cutting Edge Elite, a national event staffing agency, where he focuses on the overall growth of the company. He has 18 years of experience in hospitality and is also on the board of NACE in Atlanta, as the Community Affairs Chair. Lucas was unhoused for a few years when the events industry fell on his lap. With his street smarts and intuition, he was able to build a multi-million dollar company from scratch that focuses on lifting and empowering others. His motto is "We want to help people make a living, while they build a life." 

Diversifying Your Workforce: From Back of the House to the Boardroom 
10:00 a.m. Tuesday, February 13 

Diversity at the leadership level is especially important and influences the rest of the company. Learn from industry leaders how to build a diverse pipeline and create opportunities for diversity, equity, and inclusion at all levels of an organization. You will also learn strategies for creating the pipeline starting at entry level up to the organization's leadership. 

You can see Ron, Tara, Andre, Jen, Jonathan, and Lucas LIVE at Catersource + The Special Event in Austin NEXT WEEK from Feb 12-15. 

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