Jim Bucko - Managing Partner of the Society Room of Hartford

Jim Bucko

Managing Partner

I was born and raised in Merrillville, Indiana and moved my family to Haddam Connecticut in 2006 to join my 3 partners to create and develop Riverhouse Properties LLC and The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station Inc. I am the managing partner for the business operations for The Riverhouse, The Society Room of Hartford and Riverhouse Catering.

For the past 27 years I have been involved in food service and hospitality. I am a graduate of Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in restaurant, hospitality and institutional management.

I started in the foodservice business at age 15 cooking breakfast at Ma’s Diner before school. I have always had a passion for the hospitality business especially catering and specifically weddings!

My experience has been gathered from several positions in the hospitality business such as General Manager of Sails Cafe restaurant on the shore of Lake Michigan and one of Indiana’s oldest private Country Clubs, Innsbrook Country Club but the majority of my experience coming from my time with White Lodging Services. I held different positions such as Banquet Manager, Director of Catering, Director of Food and Beverage, Hotel General Manager and Director of Engineering. It is also important to note that I have also worked in nearly every food service position there is, dishwasher, line cook, busboy, waiter, bartender. This was extremely important as it taught me the inner workings of the business.

During my tenure with While Lodging Service I spent the majority of my time at a 347 room Presidential Star award winning Radisson Hotel which has 35,000 square feet of banquet space and an attached 3200 seat performance Theatre, The Star Plaza. I enjoyed catering to the performers…..Don Henley, BB King, Ted Nugent, Jerry Sienfeld, Christina Aguilera to name a few. We also hosted The Miss USA pageant where our catering operations were responsible for 90% of the events for the pageant and the contestants over the course of 2 weeks. I was fortunate enough to learn how to provide service to clients with extremely high expectations. I am able to use that knowledge and provide it to our clients in our company.

I feel my greatest talent is finding exceptional people to work with. The management staff in our company, I feel, is the finest in New England. We hold ourselves to extremely high standards and it shows…….just ask our clients!

Paula Bucko - Sales Manager

Paula Bucko

Sales Manager

I joined the sales team at The Society Room in 2017 and I can honestly say this is the most enjoyable job I have ever had. I work with the most amazing group of dedicated, talented and proud hospitality professionals. We are like minded in our goal to provide not just a well-executed event but a memorable experience.

For my part, I bring years of personal event planning experience for my family and friends. Additionally, I envisioned and executed successful fundraising events for my children’s schools. Add to that my time with the Society Room during in which I have worked with hundreds of corporate clients to help orchestrate their ideal business meeting, fundraising gala, graduation event, anniversary celebration, holiday party and so on.

I have also had the pleasure of working with our wedding couples. I love to see the wedding plans transform from words on paper into something truly magical. To play a small part in one of life’s milestone moments is truly a privilege.

I am so proud that as a company, and as a management team, we navigated the pandemic with grace, consideration and honesty. We came back stronger and more eager than ever to continue doing what we love to do.

Stephen Giannini - Director of Operations

Stephen Giannini

Director of Operations

I come to the Society Room of Hartford with over 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, holding many positions along the way.

My first restaurant job was as a bus boy in a fine dining restaurant in my hometown. I was determined to work in the kitchen and follow in my mother’s footsteps, she herself being a chef. I worked my way up to line cook and eventually sous chef. I was grateful to learn all aspects of the restaurant business during my tenure there.

I branched out to managerial roles as Kitchen Manager and then General Manager at various Hartford venues including the Legislative Office Building and the Capitol complex.

At the Society Room I am privileged to work with a great group of people and am happy to be part of a team that is passionate about providing an incredible experience for our guests. I enjoy guiding our clients through their wedding celebrations, milestone events and meetings and take pride in delivering on our motto: Where Elegance Meets Excellence.

Chris Burns - Wedding Sales Manager

Chris Burns

Wedding Sales Manager

Chris is a fifth-generation hospitality professional, stemming back to his Great, Great Grandfathers bar room in the north end of Boston. His experience in the industry started at his mother’s knee, following her around the restaurant she managed, learning at a young age the rewarding passionate nature of the industry. Chris went to Windham Tech for culinary arts and since then has held positions ranging from dishwasher, line cook, waiter, kitchen supervisor to Maître D and Manager. His broad work experience paired with his social disposition brings yet another unique skillset to the already highly talented family that makes up The Society Room, providing guests at our venue with a truly incomparable experience.

Kelley Smith - Corporate Sales Manager at the Society Room of Hartford

Kelley Smith

Corporate Sales Manager

Kelley Smith brings 35 years of experience in the hospitality, event and catering industry to her current position as corporate sales manager at The Society Room of Hartford.

Kelley’s career began in 1987 at Water’s Edge Resort and Spa as a sales manager in catering. In 2004 Kelley served Pfizer as a meeting consultant where she offered support to planners and participants alike for events at five-star resorts across the U.S.

In June of 2007, Riverhouse Hospitality opened its very first event venue, The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station. Just weeks after opening, the position of corporate sales manager was created for Kelley. Due to her very impressive background in corporate, wedding and social events, Kelley was an asset from the start. Kelley’s high standard of customer service, attention to detail and natural ability to build strong relationships helped her to smoothly transition into the position of general manager, where she continued the quality of service for which The Riverhouse had become well known.

After seeing two sons off to college, Kelley took a break from the hospitality industry. Just a short time later, however, Kelley was sought out to rejoin the Riverhouse Hospitality team, this time lending her talents to The Society Room of Hartford. Here, she offers a fresh perspective and an unparalleled work ethic. Kelley focuses on overseeing and expanding the corporate sales market. She also extends her talents to showcasing the venue to prospective couples for their weddings – this happens to be the favorite part of her job!

Judi Ann Lausier - Banquet Manager

Judi Ann Lausier

Banquet Manager

Judi Ann has been a member of the Riverhouse family since 2011, starting as a server with our Belle Terrace property in Avon. With an impressive hospitality background in New Haven County, Judi Ann moved into a captain’s role for Riverhouse Catering in 2015, coordinating staff and functions at off-site venues.

“I love executing events, meeting with clients or a bride and groom and hearing how they envision their dream day. Then it’s our job to bring it all together and deliver a truly memorable day. The Society Room has so much character and the guests are mesmerized by its architecture as a former bank from the turn of the century.”

Included in her 40+ years in the hospitality industry, Judi Ann has taken some culinary classes and participated in “front of the house” training programs. She has even had her own event planning company, Creative Concierge, and has been employed as a marketing and event coordinator for a health insurance company.

Additionally, she has worked with several non-profit agencies including the United Way of West Central CT and the Michael Bolton Charity, helping to raise funds and awareness for various causes.

Judi Ann continues to be active in her community by serving as President of the Bristol Rotary Club, an ambassador for the Central CT Chamber of Commerce and is a Commissioner for the Burlington Economic Development Council.

With all Judi Ann’s years in the industry, she brings along a large network of business associates and friends. We are confident she will be a familiar face to many of our clients.

Tim Benzing - Executive Chef

Tim Benzing

Executive Chef

I was born and raised in Centerville Ohio and as a young child, I learned to appreciate quality fresh foods, cooking and eating the produce grown in our family garden. With many family vacations to the coast of New England, my love of fresh seafood was born ultimately landing me at New England Culinary Institute where I studied culinary arts.

My culinary Journey took me to New Orleans to work with Chef Roland Huet who is considered one of the great chefs of New Orleans. Foraging mushrooms, making homemade vinegars and smoking soft shell crabs were just a few of the skills that he passed onto me. I next moved to Boston to work under Chef Frank McClelland at L’espalier where I was exposed to the highest quality ingredients I had ever seen or worked with. I continued to move around the country working for exceptional chefs, refining my skills before landing in Vermont where I took my first position as executive chef at Tucker Hill in the small ski town of Fayston. I used the skills I learned to create fresh and exciting menus using local Vermont and New England farm to table ingredients before it was trendy.

I came full circle and returned to New England Culinary Institute to become a chef instructor where I remained for twelve years helping to train and instruct future chefs before taking a position with Reel Hospitality as the corporate chef.
I am very excited to bring my experience and passion for culinary arts to the Society Room where I hope to create many wonderful meals and memorable experiences for years to come.

Daniel Mallory - Sous Chef

Daniel Mallory

Sous Chef

My career in the culinary industry began in my teens.  While attending college in New Haven I had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of cuisines representing diverse cultural backgrounds.  Having been raised in Southeastern Connecticut, I became familiar with the common New England fare. It wasn’t until college that I felt compelled to dive into the culinary world, after experiencing the wide variety of foods available in the city. 

The first job I acquired was at a Lebanese restaurant, learning about fresh Mediterranean cuisine straight from the source.  From small Italian pizza joints, to large fine dining institutions, my career has taken me many places.  Travelling the country has also helped me become more rounded as a chef. From Texas Barbeque to Louisiana Cajun, venturing around the states has introduced me to some spectacular regional cuisines.  I try to represent these culinary experiences in the variety of foods I create.   

My most recent employment was as the culinary supervisor at the award winning River restaurant in Wethersfield, working closely with Chef Paul Krawic, ranked in the top 50 best chefs in America by the peer reviewed BCA. 

It is my sincerest hope that our food reflects the love that our culinary team puts in to prepare it.