ABOUT


Events at Independence Grove, a Catering by Michaels company, is the exclusive caterer and event management partner for Independence Grove Forest Preserve — A 1,100-acre nature preserve and recreation area located in Libertyville, Illinois. Opened in March 2001 as a new concept in forest preserves, Independence Grove was specifically designed to offer a premium visitor experience with the ability to host year-round events and celebrations.

Independence Grove’s pristine beauty and secluded setting makes it stand out from any other Chicagoland event venue. Described as a Midwestern one-of-a-kind treasure, its natural tranquility, vast grasslands, and stunning lake views provide a truly unique and unforgettable backdrop for any type of wedding, social, or corporate event.

Aerial View of Independence Grove

TEAM


Every member of our team has a deep-rooted passion for food and events, and a fierce dedication to quality and innovation.

Stewart glass

General Manager
224.207.0050

Stewart glass

General Manager
224.207.0050

After graduating from the University of Illinois - Champaign with a major in Accounting and Finance, Stewart worked in public accounting for one year before deciding to get into the “food business”. He went to work at Michael’s Chicago Style Red Hots in Highland Park with the intention of opening more locations. After only a year, Stewart built the off-premise catering for Michael’s and eventually purchased the remainder of the business which is today, Catering by Michaels. With over 30 years of experience, Stewart continues to lead and push the company to new heights.
Year started: 1983
Favorite items that we make: Pulled Pork, Tuna Salad, Tacos and Eclectic Sushi
Most Memorable Meal: Publican with my family
Random Fact: He loves being on a boat or spending time with his wife and either of his children who both live out of town and in different states.

david sandler

executive vice president

david sandler

executive vice president

With over 30 years of experience, David has played a key role in our growth and development. He has worked every position in the organization at one point or another and currently oversees the day-to-day operations of the company with a strong focus on the culinary and operations departments. He also creates and designs all of the unique buffets and action stations that we’re known for.
Year started: 1984
Favorite items that we make: Homemade Lime and Sea Salt Corn Tortilla Chips, Sushi, Pad See Ewe, Serbando’s Spicy Nut Mix, and all of our homemade stocks and sauces.
Random Fact: He loves spending time with his wife and son, vacationing on the beach or anywhere warm and relaxing!

jeff ware

director of operations

jeff ware

director of operations

Jeff has always been fascinated by large events; the thrill of watching 1,000 plates being plated and served in 15 minutes hooked him at an early age. Gifted with a natural business sense, perseverance and a wicked sense of humor, Jeff brings a truly unique perspective and energy to Catering by Michaels. Not only has Jeff excelled on the operations side of the business, but he has led waste reduction efforts company wide and implemented recycling both at our commissary and in the field at all of our events. He also helped build a database of over 14,500 recipes and drives the culinary vision of the company, steadily determined to create trends rather than just follow them. Jeff is also a Senior Consultant with Certified Catering Consultants, a team of seasoned experts each specializing in a specific area of the catering industry. For more information, please visit www.CertifiedCateringConsultants.com
Year started: 2000
Favorite item that we make: Well Being Soup
Random Fact: Jeff hates birds! (Now that’s random)

Alyson Vondruska

event coordinator
224.207.0054

Alyson Vondruska

event coordinator
224.207.0054

Alyson joined us with a wealth of work and educational experience, having earned two Master’s Degrees and worked at banquet facilities, country clubs, fitness facilities, park districts and resorts. Her favorite part of any meeting or event is the relationship she builds with her clients and she finds great joy in seeing the satisfaction on their faces, knowing that she has helped to make their visions, hopes and dreams come to fruition. In addition to Alyson’s work life, she shares her home life with a husband of 24 years, 3 busy and active teenagers, and her adorable dog, Tucker.

Phone: 224.207.0054

Year started: 2012
Favorite thing about IG: Its pristine beauty.
Random Fact: You would be surprised to know that this “team player” is highly competitive and will take you on in any game or sport. Don’t worry, however, she is a good loser and will graciously let you buy the first round!

Marta Mardosz

event coordinator
224.207.0051

Marta Mardosz

event coordinator
224.207.0051

Marta was born and raised in Poland where she graduated from college with Teaching English as a Second Language degree. She came to the United States in 2007, where she graduated from Northeastern Illinois University with a second Bachelors Degree. Although she studied Teaching English and Communication, she has always dreamed of planning events and finally got a chance to make it come true. Since she was a child, cooking has been a very important part of Marta’s life, especially meals cooked by her father and grandmothers.
Year Started: 2016
Favorite item that we make: Guaca Maki
Random Fact: She has completed four Chicago Marathons and can’t wait to run another!

TIFFANY HERVIG

EVENT PRODUCER
224-207-0052

TIFFANY HERVIG

EVENT PRODUCER
224-207-0052

Tiffany graduated from Northern Illinois University, DeKalb in December 2015. Originally she had gone to school to become an Elementary Teacher. While at Northern, she held an executive board position as the Fundraising & Events Vice President for her service organization, which is when she found her passion for this industry and graduated with a degree is Hospitality Management. She enjoys seeing all the pieces come together to create an event. She also loves traveling, trying new restaurants and serving others.
Year Started: 2016
Favorite item that we make: Summer Chopped Salad
Random Fact: In her free time, she enjoys baking, but recently taught herself how to make homemade sugar cookies with royal icing décor on top for family and friend's themed parties.

mike cisternino

executive chef
Catering By Michaels

mike cisternino

executive chef
Catering By Michaels

Chef Mike Cisternino grew up in an Italian family, where he learned at an early age that quality food was an essential ingredient to good living. As a child, he watched and helped his many relatives prepare culinary masterpieces from scratch. After studying psychology at Ohio State University, Mike returned to Chicago to begin pursuing a formal education in culinary arts at Chicago’s Kendall College. After receiving his culinary degree in 2002 and working for several prestigious restaurants, Mike decided to continue his education of food and life by moving to Italy. He spent nearly a year expanding his skills and knowledge of Italian Cuisine. Upon his return to the Chicago, Mike took the Executive Sous Chef position at Carmine’s on Rush Street and then in 2004, he took over his first restaurant, Rosebud of Highland Park in the heart of Chicago’s north shore. After 3 years, Mike left Rosebud to become the opening chef at Tavern at the Park. He spent 4 years at the New American style restaurant crafting comfort food rooted in classical Italian technique. Throughout his career, Mike has been a part of numerous food demonstrations ranging from Bloomingdales and Green City Market to 670 The Score Radio and WGN News. He has had various recipes and interviews published in Plate Magazine, Food Arts, Restaurant & Institutions, Chicago Sun Times, Chicago Tribune and Crain’s Business.
Year started: 2011
Favorite item that we make: Sesame Chicken
Random Fact: Chef Mike loves pedicures. Now that’s an honest man!

alvino rodriguez

executive sous chef
Catering By Michaels

alvino rodriguez

executive sous chef
Catering By Michaels

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Alvino came to the United States in 1998 and immediately began working with us. He has worked virtually every station in the kitchen and knows all of our menu items like the back of his hand.
Year started: 1998
Favorite item that we make: BBQ Ribs or Brussels Sprouts & Cauliflower with Panko
Random Fact: He used to play amateur soccer.

tom laurell

executive pastry chef
Catering By Michaels

tom laurell

executive pastry chef
Catering By Michaels

Tom comes from mainly a restaurant background having begun his career working with Tony Mantuano at Spiaggia. From there he quickly rose to head Pastry Chef at Fahrenheit Restaurant in St. Charles, before returning to Chicago to be the Executive Pastry Chef at Bin 36, Hotel Sax, and Amano for nearly 7 years.
Year started: 2014
Favorite Item that we make: Snowflake Cake and our delicious Apple Pie
Random Fact: One of Tom's first restaurant jobs was at Ed Debevics, where he was a server, entertaining people by dancing on the tables and insulting them. He got the bug entertaining and caring for people through food, and the rest is history.

Juvenal Maya

Banquet Chef & Facility Manager

Juvenal Maya

Banquet Chef & Facility Manager

Juvenal moved to the United States in 1997 and took his first job at Catering by Michaels. He then transferred to Events at Independence Grove in 2007. He enjoys working with everyone around him and the non-stop nature of his position.
Year started: 1997
Favorite thing about IG: All of the passionate people he gets to work with.
Random Fact: He always enjoys joking around with people, even if at first sight he appears stern.

Israel Segura

Function Director

Israel Segura

Function Director

Israel loves that every event he works on is different and they all offer a unique challenge. The opportunity to do something he loves in such a beautiful setting and overlooking the lake is really what motivates him every day. A native of Mexico City, Mexico, Israel has been in the Chicagoland area for 17 years and enjoys spending time with his two adorable daughters.
Year Started: 2006
Favorite item that we make: Jambalaya
Random fact: Israel loves to play volleyball and can often be found on the sand court at Independence Grove after work.

CATERING


When you book an event at Independence Grove, you get award-winning catering from Catering by Michaels. As a full service special event catering company, we are committed to providing uncompromised quality, impressive presentation, and attention to even the smallest details. Since 1980, we’ve aspired to always deliver a truly unique and memorable experience — from start to finish.

We believe that catering is more than just food on a plate; it’s about building a relationship with you, understanding your personal style, and delivering a complete experience for you and your guests.

CAREERS


Our team’s culinary and event expertise, along with their creativity and dedication are what set us apart from others in the industry. If you believe that you have something special to offer, are passionate about food and events, and love to make people smile, then we want to hear from you.

BENEFITS
• Medical, Dental, and Vision insurance options for all full-time employees and their families
• Paid vacation and personal days
• 401k retirement plan
• Casual dress code and work environment
• Continuing education opportunities
• Employee discounts

AWARDS & ASSOCIATIONS


We are humbled by the recognition we’ve received for our long history of high quality food, service, and innovation.

SOME OF OUR MOST NOTABLE AWARDS INCLUDE:

Wedding Wire
• 2011 & 2012 Bride’s Choice Awards
• 2014-2017 Couples’ Choice Awards

Events at Independence Grove has won Wedding Wire's Couples' Choice awards for 4 consecutive years in a row

Distinguished Building Award—American Institute of Architects

PLANET Grand Award—Illinois Landscape Contractors Association

WE ARE PROUD ASSOCIATES OF:

SUSTAINABILITY


We believe strongly in sustainable practices and have implemented them across the company. For example, all of our used cooking grease is recycled into bio fuel and we purchase only Energy Star labeled appliances and eco-friendly cleaning products.

We also strive to make sustainable food purchases whenever possible. Nearly 20% of the food we purchase each month 
is either sustainable or locally sourced, and 36% is vegan. At least 80% of our seafood purchases are sustainable and all of our poultry is free-range.

All food served at Independence Grove is sourced and provided by Catering by Michaels — the only caterer in North America that is both Green Restaurant Certified and Green Seal Certified.