Skip navigation
Lettuce Entertain You Home page


“You can tell a lot about a person by the types of people they choose to surround themselves with.” Founder Rich Melman

Founding Partners

Read full bio for Richard Melman

Richard Melman


Richard Melman is the Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, a Chicago-based corporation that owns over 125 restaurants nationwide.

The restaurant business has been Melman's life work, beginning with his early days in a family-owned restaurant, and later as a teenager working in fast food eateries, at a soda fountain, and selling restaurant supplies. After realizing that he wasn't cut out to be a college student, and failing to convince his father that he should be made a partner in the family business, Melman met Jerry A. Orzoff, a man who immediately and unconditionally believed in Melman's ability to create and run restaurants. In 1971 the two opened R.J. Grunts, a hip burger joint that soon became one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago. Here Melman and Orzoff presented food differently and with a sense of humor, creating the youthful and fun restaurant which was a forerunner in the trend towards dining out as entertainment that swept this country in the early 1970s.

Melman and Orzoff continued to develop restaurant concepts together until Orzoff's death in 1981. Through his relationship with Orzoff, Melman formulated a philosophy based on the importance of partners, of sharing responsibilities and profits with them, and of developing and growing together. Today, Melman has 70 working partners, most of whom have come up through the organization.

To operate so many restaurants well, Lettuce has needed to hire, train and develop people, and then keep them happy and focused on excellence. Melman's guiding philosophy is that he is not interested in being the biggest, the richest or the most well-known restaurateur. He has always just wanted to be the best he can be. He places enormous value on the over 7,000 people who work for Lettuce Entertain You and feels tremendous responsibility for their continued success. Melman’s commitment now is to develop the young leaders of Lettuce to ensure that the company will be around for another 50 years.

Melman's personal life revolves around his family. He and his wife Martha have been married for forty-one years and have three children who are successful restaurateurs themselves.

Read full bio for Jerry A. Orzoff

Jerry A. Orzoff


IN LOVING MEMORY 1936 – 1981

Read full bio for Fred Joast

Fred Joast

Founding Partner and Executive Committee

Fred Joast says it’s the opportunities for creative expression and challenge that keep him enamored of the world of restaurants. Joast joined Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. (LEYE) in 1973, was one of the first to become part of the organization. He consulted with Richard Melman on the development of the first LEYE property, R.J. Grunts. He then became a partner in the company and was heavily involved in the creation, planning, and development of the second LEYE property, Fritz, That’s It! in Evanston, Illinois and the majority of the restaurants to follow. Fred is a troubleshooter and a master at organizing the back of the house; or kitchen operations. Joast currently assists all LEYE properties in his capacity as Founding Partner and Executive Vice President, Operations.

In addition to assisting in operations, Joast keeps track of new talent and innovations in the foodservice industry through his role as periodic guest lecturer at Princeton University and the Cornell School of Hotel and Restaurant Management, as well as through his membership on the Board of Trustees at Kendall College.

Austrian-born Joast, who attended European hotel schools, worked at several major Chicago restaurants, including Biggs, The Standard Club, Gaslight Club and French Market, before joining LEYE. Married, Joast enjoys spending time with his family and pursues travel, expedition diving, and photography in his free time. His personal commitment is to others: to share his knowledge and expertise, so they can attain their goals and succeed personally and professionally. Joast believes that his success depends on their success.

Read full bio for Bob Wattel

Bob Wattel

Founding Partner

IN LOVING MEMORY 1940 – 2018

One of the Founding Partners in Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. (LEYE), Bob Wattel was responsible for Advertising, Market Research, Frequent Diner Program, and Customer Service.

Wattel began his career with LEYE in 1974 as a Manager of Great Gritzbe’s Flying Food Show. In 1975, he helped establish his present position with an eye to providing a “core of support for the company’s establishments”. Citing the nature of the restaurant industry and LEYE’s rapid growth, Wattel stressed the importance of being able to make decisions quickly and effectively as well as to keep up with the constantly changing industry.

“I feel as though I’m a developer of people, and I appreciate the challenge I get from working in such a fast-paced environment,” said Wattel.
“I get a great feeling of excitement when I tell people that I’m a partner of Lettuce Entertain You,” he often said.

Bob enjoyed spending time with his wife, two sons, and daughter. Wattel enjoyed softball and golf. He was also an avid fan of Chicago sports teams, including the Cubs, Bears, and Bulls. Wattel was a graduate of Roosevelt University with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.

Read full bio for Marvin Magid

Marvin Magid

Executive Vice President

IN LOVING MEMORY 1946 – 1987

Read full bio for Charles Haskell

Charles Haskell

Founding Partner and Executive Committee

IN LOVING MEMORY 1944 – 2015

Executive Partners

Read full bio for Kevin Brown

Kevin Brown


Kevin Brown brings more than 40 years of experience and leadership in the restaurant industry to his position as Chief Executive Officer of Lettuce Entertain You® Enterprises, Inc. (LEYE). Lettuce Entertain You is one of the most highly regarded multi-concept restaurant companies with more than 130 restaurants and over 60 concepts nationwide.

As CEO of Lettuce Entertain You, Kevin works with Chairman and Founder Richard Melman, President R.J. Melman, and other key members of the executive team to continue the trend of innovation and creating new concepts while strategically growing existing concepts.

Kevin is a Pittsburgh native and a graduate of Michigan State University. In 1977, he was the first candidate Rich Melman interviewed on a college campus. Kevin accepted the job offer at R.J. Grunts, Lettuce Entertain You’s first restaurant.

In his early years at Lettuce Entertain You, Kevin held management positions at The Pump Room and Un Grand Café, and was awarded his first partnership opportunity in 1981. He later developed some of the group’s most popular concepts including Shaw’s Crab House, Wow Bao, Mity Nice Bar & Grill and Big Bowl, which has grown to more than seven locations in Chicago, Minnesota and Virginia.

Throughout his career, Kevin’s successes were rewarded with increased responsibilities. He was made President of Lettuce Entertain You in 2000, and was named CEO in 2003.

Kevin is a committed participant in the community and dedicates time to civic duties as a Trustee of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Read full bio for R.J. Melman

R.J. Melman

President of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc.

R.J. Melman is the President of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Since joining the company full time in 2001, he has held numerous positions within LEYE, as well as consulting on restaurant projects outside of the company.

R.J., alongside his siblings Jerrod and Molly Melman, created and opened more than 13 concepts, beginning in June 2008 with HUB 51 and SUB 51. Their roster of restaurants now includes RPM Italian, RPM Steak, Three Dots and a Dash, Ramen-San, Sushi-San, Bub City, Joe’s Live, Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Summer House Santa Monica, il Porcellino, Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood.

In 2019, R.J. and his partners introduced a multi-concept restaurant and private event space on the Chicago Riverfront, which includes Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood, which opened in January 2020. One of his goals is to expand the Lettuce brand to new and exciting markets, opening Aba in Austin, TX in 2021 and opening the first Lettuce restaurant in Florida in 2022 with Aba in Miami at Bal Harbour Shops.

R.J. graduated from the University of Kansas and resides in Chicago with his wife Kate and son William. He is active within the Chicago philanthropic and business communities and serves on a number of boards and committees, including the Board of Directors for Del Taco Restaurants and the leadership committee of YPO’s Chicago Chapter.

Read full bio for Jerrod Melman

Jerrod Melman


Jerrod Melman is an Executive Partner at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. He has opened restaurants, bars and nightclubs in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. In 2008, Jerrod, along with his partners, opened HUB 51 and lower-level club SUB 51 in downtown Chicago.

Since then, he has opened more than a dozen Lettuce restaurants including RPM Italian, RPM Steak, Bub City and Three Dots and A Dash. Since graduating from DePaul University with a bachelor’s degree in communications, Jerrod has worked with other renowned hospitality groups, including BR Guest Hospitality and Union Square Hospitality Group in New York as well as In-N-Out Burger in Arizona.

In addition to building the RPM and San brands of restaurants, Jerrod and his partners have introduced several new projects, including Bub City and Joe’s Live – a restaurant and music venue in Rosemont, IL and an Italian-American comfort food restaurant, il Porcellino.

In December 2017, the team behind Ramen-San introduced Sushi-San, a casual sushi spot in River North, followed by two additional Ramen-San locations in Chicago’s Fulton Market and Ramen-San Deluxe in Streeterville neighborhood in 2018.

In 2019, Jerrod and his partners introduced Pizzeria Portofino and RPM Events, and in January 2020, RPM Seafood opened, all three part of the multi-concept project on the Chicago Riverfront.

Read full bio for Molly Melman

Molly Melman


Molly Melman is an executive partner and director of divisional training for HUB 51, RPM Italian, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash, Ramen-San, RPM Steak, Bub City & Joe’s Live, il Porcellino, Sushi-San, RPM Seafood, RPM Events and Pizzeria Portofino.

Molly graduated from the University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Psychology. After college, she moved to the East Coast to teach kindergarten in the South Bronx through the nonprofit organization Teach for America. After moving back to Chicago, she joined her brothers, R.J. and Jerrod, as they were opening HUB 51 in River North in June 2008. Eager to help out, Molly began hosting and serving at the restaurant. She then moved into a management role to learn the ins and outs of the operational side of the industry.

From there, Molly was able to combine her teaching skills with her restaurant background and moved into the role of divisional training manager in 2011 and helped to rewrite Lettuce’s training program. In this position, she is responsible for interviewing and hiring candidates for all positions, overseeing the training and development for new restaurant openings, as well as working with a team of trainers who run hourly training and ongoing development.

Molly has helped to open several restaurants in and around Chicago, including RPM Italian and RPM Steak with celebrity partners Giuliana and Bill Rancic, Studio Paris, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash, Ramen-san, and il Porcellino in downtown Chicago, as well as Bub City and Joe’s Live in Rosemont, Illinois. In June 2016, Molly played a large role in the expansion of the RPM brand to Washington, D.C., opening RPM Italian.

Molly and her partners most recently opened a multi-concept restaurant and private event space on the Chicago River, including Pizzeria Portofino, which opened in July 2019, RPM Events which opened in September 2019, and RPM Seafood which opened January 2020.

Molly is a creator and founding member of the Rowe Club, a group created to empower women in the restaurant industry which launched in 2017. The Rowe Club was created around three main focuses: education, networking and philanthropy.

Read full bio for Bill Nevruz

Bill Nevruz

Executive Partner and Divisional President for Shaw’s Crab House, Tokio Pub, Quality Crab & Oyster Bah, Crab Cellar and Seaside’s To Go

Bill Nevruz is an Executive Partner and Divisional President for Shaw’s Crab House, Tokio Pub, Quality Crab & Oyster Bah, Crab Cellar and Seaside’s To Go.

Bill started his career as a restaurant manager on the East Coast. He began to look for opportunities in the growing restaurant scene of Chicago. A position at the iconic Shaw’s Crab House presented itself in 2000 and soon after, he became General Manager of another Lettuce Entertain You restaurant Mity Nice Grill. He then went to Shaw’s Crab House in Schaumburg in 1999 as the General Manager and in 2005, he returned to Shaw’s in Chicago in the same role. As a General Manager, he concentrated on generating sales and helping to develop new programs for the restaurants like the renowned weekend brunch buffet and sushi menu and Shaw’s.

Pushing Shaw’s growth led Bill to be recognized as a company leader, and in 2010, Bill was promoted to Divisional Supervisor. In this position, he was able to contribute to the company by developing his own management teams and exploring and developing new concept ideas. In 2011, his entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to the creation of Tokio Pub. Shortly after Tokio Pub’s opening, Bill became Partner of both this original concept and Shaw’s.

In 2015, Bill seized the opportunity to work directly with Rich Melman on opening Oyster Bah, a neighborhood, east-coast inspired seafood house in the heart of Lincoln Park. He utilized the direct relationships with oyster growers and seafood purveyors that have been established at Shaw’s to present a quality product at this new restaurant. He evolved the concept into a crab-centric seafood spot and re-named it Quality Crab & Oyster Bah in 2019. With the discovery of the high demand for great crab, he and his team opened Crab Cellar in 2018, Chicago’s only unlimited king crab and prime burger restaurant.

Bill treasures his time with his wife, Paula and their four children, A.J., Molly, Brooke and Dottie. Bill lives by a theme his father taught him, “Aces in their places.” He leads by this example, putting his team in a position where they will always find the most success.

Read full bio for Christopher Meers

Christopher Meers

Divisional President of Mon Ami Gabi, Café Ba Ba Reeba, El Segundo Sol, Stripburger, Community Canteen, RPM Italian in Chicago and Washington D.C., RPM Steak, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash, Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar

Christopher Meers, is Divisional President of Mon Ami Gabi, Café Ba Ba Reeba, El Segundo Sol, Stripburger, Community Canteen, RPM Italian in Chicago and Washington D.C., RPM Steak, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash, Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar (West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Chicago and North Bethesda), Ramen-san, Sushi-san, The Windy City Smokeout and Summer House Santa Monica Chicago, North Bethesda and O’Hare.

Born in Washington D.C. and raised in Bethesda, MD, Chris began his restaurant career at the age of 16 by convincing his parents to let him work part-time as a dishwasher at a local steakhouse. This experience led Chris to a variety of restaurant jobs while still in high school, including food runner, sandwich shop manager and weekend produce vendor, where he learned that “the concepts of good food and good profit go together.”

While attending the University of Maryland, Chris went to work for the restaurant group Capital Management, followed by Ruth’s Chris Steak House. While at Ruth’s Chris, he became immersed in the operational side of the restaurant business while opening and then managing their Cleveland, OH. location.

In 1998, Chris was approached by Lettuce and accepted the position of General Manager of Executive Chef/Partner Gabino Sotelino’s Ambria and Mon Ami Gabi restaurants in Chicago. This partnership with Gabino led to the expansion of the Mon Ami Gabi concept to Las Vegas, Oakbrook, IL, Bethesda, MD and Reston, VA.

This early connection with Chef Gabino remains most important to Chris, who says he has learned many aspects of the restaurant business from working with Gabino, and values his professional and personal relationship with him.

In between the openings of Mon Ami Gabi’s, Chris also worked with his team to develop and open Stripburger in Las Vegas in 2007, followed by Community Canteen in 2008, located next door to the Mon Ami Gabi in Reston, VA.

Also, in 2008, Chris collaborated with Lettuce Partners R.J. and Jerrod Melman to open Hub 51 in Chicago’s River North area, followed the next year by M Street Kitchen in Santa Monica, CA, which introduced the West Coast to Lettuce Entertain You.

Because of his relationship with R.J. and Jerrod, Chris says, “I have a new understanding of how to reach certain demographics, how important bar business is to the success of a restaurant and how to market in this day and age.”

2010 brought a new restaurant to Chris’ division with the opening of a Mexican concept, El Segundo Sol in Las Vegas.

This was followed by more collaboration with R.J. and Jerrod, including Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar and, along with Chef/ Partner Doug Psaltis, the openings of RPM Italian, Bub City, and the 2013 openings of Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar Hollywood, Three Dots and a Dash, Summer House Santa Monica and another Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar.

In 2014, the partners introduced a new concept, RPM Steak and in January 2015 opened both Summer House and Stella Barra in North Bethesda, MD. Most recently, the partners opened a second RPM Italian location in Washington D.C.

Over the past years, Chris’ relationships with Lettuce Founder Rich Melman and CEO Kevin Brown have become especially important to him, as he notes, “I am grateful for the leeway they give me at Lettuce. I can be a true entrepreneur and build restaurants with my own ideas.”

Chris lives in the Chicago area with his wife Melissa and their three children. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching the Chicago Bears, and is an avid runner who competes in several triathlons each year.

Read full bio for Dave Quillen

Dave Quillen

Divisional President of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab Chicago, Las Vegas and Washington D.C.

At the age of 16, Dave began his career in the restaurant business working at a small, privately owned seafood house near his home in Delaware as a prep cook. Dave quickly took to working in the kitchen and gained great experience as a result. This experience led to other restaurant jobs, from breakfast and short order cook to line cook at a respected seafood chain.

While in college at James Madison University, Dave was working as a line cook at the local Red Lobster restaurant. As graduation came near, Dave was questioning his decision to pursue law school. His GM at the time thought Dave had the tools necessary to be successful in the restaurant business and interviewed him for a management position. A few months later, Dave moved to Washington, D.C. and began a career in management.

“I realized that the restaurant industry offered everything I wanted in a career. A dynamic environment, aggressive pace, and a true feeling of accomplishment at the end of every day” says Quillen. Intrigued by other aspects of the industry, Dave moved south to work for some small regional chains in North Carolina. At 24, he became a General Manager and specialized in opening restaurants. Dave was with Firebirds Wood Fired Grill since it’s beginning. Dave opened multiple locations, including the first location outside of North Carolina, in Phoenix, Arizona. There he became engrossed in the financials of the business and was fortunate enough to build many fruitful relationships with industry professionals.

It was through one of those relationships that Dave learned of the opportunity to work with Lettuce Entertain You and Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. Dave was offered a position as a #2 manager and accepted immediately. He was soon in Chicago learning all about Joe’s and Lettuce. Dave moved to Las Vegas as part of the opening management team for Joe’s in 2004.

A new restaurant opening afforded Dave the unique opportunity to work directly with Rich Melman. Dave says, “Seeing Rich’s attention to detail and incredible vision was inspiring and educational.” In 2005, Dave was promoted to General Manager of Joe’s. In 2009, Dave became a partner at Joe’s in Las Vegas and in 2015 was promoted to the Operating Partner of the Joe’s division.

After 16 years, Joe’s continues to grow. Dave states it simply, “It is no secret that the success of the restaurant is due to the caring family of employees and managers that work at Joe’s. I am very fortunate to be a part of it.”

Dave’s life outside of Joe’s stays pretty busy with his wife Sandra, son Cameron, and daughter Avery. He enjoys playing golf, watching the Pittsburgh Steelers, and NASCAR.

Read full bio for Ethan Samson

Ethan Samson

Vice President & Deputy General Counsel

Ethan Samson is the Vice President & Deputy General Counsel for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Ethan grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) with dual degrees in Finance and Accounting, receiving his CPA shortly after. He started with LEYE in 2003 as a summer intern and upon graduating college he immediately started as a Staff Accountant for Lettuce. Ethan continued in this role until earning his JD from Chicago-Kent College of Law in 2010 and was admitted to the Illinois Bar that same year. After spending the next four years working as a Corporate Attorney specializing in Mergers and Acquisitions at Reed Smith LLP, Ethan re-joined LEYE in the legal department in January 2014.

Since his return, Ethan has had the opportunity to be on the frontlines of the company’s growth by participating in the negotiations of new projects and helping the operations teams work through ever-changing regulations and a multitude of other legal matters. In June 2017, Ethan played a key role in facilitating the Wow Bao transaction with Valor Equity Partners (Valor), a Chicago-based equity firm that partnered with LEYE to grow the Wow Bao brand.

Ethan sits on the Board of Directors for both the Legal Aid Society of Metropolitan Family Services and for the Kendall College Trust.

He met his wife, Michaela, through their careers at LEYE. They live in the city with their Shiba Inu-mix, Maki. Ethan also enjoys golf, live music, trying new restaurants, rooting for the Cubs, grilling, and participating in his book club’s debates.

Read full bio for Howard Katz

Howard Katz

Divisional President of Wildfire and Big Bowl

Howard Katz is the Divisional President of Wildfire and Big Bowl. During his time with Lettuce Entertain You, he has worked as a manager for more than 15 different restaurant concepts and has a great mind for business and creativity, mixed with a passion for people and great food.

Katz began his restaurant career in high school as a hamburger cook at the Ground Round in Morton Grove, Illinois. Then, just after receiving his bachelor’s degree in Restaurant Management from the University of Illinois in 1982, Katz was hired by LEYE. His career with Lettuce started as a manager for Bones (now L. Woods) as well as The Great Gritzby’s and Jonathan’s, where he was promoted to General Manager at age 23, the youngest GM in the company’s history. From Jonathan’s he worked at Fritz, That’s It! And then was part of the opening team at Café Ba Ba Reeba! in 1985.

In 1989, Katz was promoted to Partner with LEYE at the young age of 28, again the youngest in LEYE history. As Partner, he was at the forefront of creating new concepts including Tucci Benucch, Tucci Milan and Tucchetti and others outside of the Chicagoland area in markets including Minnesota, Arizona, and Seattle.

Katz was made President of Wildfire in 1997 and upon his arrival, Katz and his partner Joe Decker made several changes to transform the restaurant into a steakhouse. Katz now oversees 7 Wildfire locations in Illinois, Minnesota, and Virginia that are among the busiest and most recognizable restaurants within Lettuce.

In July 2014, Katz took over operations of the Big Bowl division with the goal of bringing it back to its original roots of fresh and delicious Chinese and Thai food.

Katz spends most of his time in the hustle and bustle of the restaurants. He works on a daily basis with employees in both the front and back-of-house, instilling in his team the importance of the philosophies upon which LEYE was founded. A North Shore resident, Katz is married with two sons, Joshua and Daniel and enjoys watching his sons play college baseball and going to Cubs game.

Read full bio for Jay Stieber

Jay Stieber

Executive Vice President and General Counsel of LEYE

Jay Stieber is the Executive Vice President and General Counsel of LEYE and 2018 Chairman of the National Restaurant Association.

Jay joined the LEYE team in 1995 bringing a myriad of experiences. As one of the partners of LEYE, Jay spends the majority of his time dealing with issues involving strategic and tax planning, real estate, bank relations, investor relations and other legal matters. He also spends a considerable amount of time working on on governmental affairs at the federal, State and local levels. He has negotiated and been instrumental in most of LEYE’s many projects.

Jay has a BS in accounting from DePaul University, a JD from Northwestern University School of Law, and is a CPA and an attorney. He is the Chairman of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) and a past chairman of the Illinois Restaurant Association (IRA). Jay is also Chairman of the Restaurant Law Center. He is also a board member of the Chicago Chamber of Commerce, its PAC and a member of the Economic Club of Chicago.

Originally from New York, Jay has traveled extensively throughout the world. Jay is married and in his free time enjoys golf, cooking his favorite gazpacho recipe and Northwestern University football.

Read full bio for Jennifer Bell

Jennifer Bell


Jennifer Bell is the CMO at Lettuce Entertain You. Jennifer has played a pivotal role in growing our marketing department on both a store and corporate level. Jennifer oversees and manages all marketing facets, including PR, Frequent Diner loyalty program, gift cards, direct mail, data insights, digital and email marketing, social media, web, and graphic design.

Jennifer has grown up in restaurants with her career at Lettuce, starting more than 25 years ago as a server at Maggiano’s. After she received her Mass Communications degree from Winona State University, she joined the Lettuce team and quickly progressed through the marketing department at Lettuce.

Not only does she have a deep passion and a strong knowledge of the restaurant industry, but she has also been a thought leader and mentor in the marketing department, growing a strong team of creative thinkers. Jennifer has created a great synergy between technology and marketing in her most recent role to enhance our guest experience. She also focuses on maintaining Lettuce’s reputation, building customer loyalty, and advancing our digital presence. Being curious and growing her knowledge is part of her personal growth. Recently, she completed two Executive Education courses at Kellogg on Crisis Public Relations and Digital Marketing Strategies.

Jennifer is proud to be a Board Member for Culinary Care, a non-profit with a mission to nourish as many cancer recoveries as possible. 

Jennifer lives in Evanston with her husband Mark and son Gus and their dog Rocky. She enjoys gardening, cooking, reading, and dining out.

Read full bio for Kevin Reynolds

Kevin Reynolds

Divisional President of Lettuce Fly and KKD

Born and raised in Chicago, Kevin Reynolds’ first introduction to the hospitality business was at the age of 14, sweeping floors at a local tavern. He continued working in restaurants throughout high school and college, but it was while working at Ditka’s, with its high-energy atmosphere and great food, that cemented his passion for the restaurant industry. While attending DePaul University in Chicago’s Lincoln Park, Reynolds worked as General Manager for a local treasure, McGee’s Bar & Grill. Working closely with McGee’s owners and management, he helped make the location a go-to destination for great food, sports, entertainment, and libations. During his three years at McGee’s, the spark to own his own restaurant truly ignited.

Reynolds wanted to “learn from the best,” and in 1993, he joined Lettuce Entertain You at Maggiano’s Little Italy. In 1996, Reynolds was promoted to General Manager of Maggiano’s Old Orchard. Later that year, Lettuce Entertain You sold Maggiano’s to Brinker International. Reynolds then became Partner with Maggiano’s in 1999, and in 2001, he became Maggiano’s Northeast Area Director.

Ready for a new challenge, Reynolds joined Areas USA in 2009, a company that specializes in food and beverage concessions in airports and motorways. As Senior Director of Operations, his responsibilities included: design, construction, marketing, leasing and staffing multi-unit operations. Reynolds and his team opened more than 60 restaurants in less than three years in eight cities, nationwide. Here, he learned to manage multiple brands at once while tendering contracts, negotiated new franchise locations, and continued to build brand relationships.

In 2011, he re-joined the Lettuce team leading the way in developing non-traditional concepts in airports. The airport restaurants proved to be an integral sector of growth and Reynolds was made Partner in September 2012. In 2014, Reynold’s expanded Lettuce’s portfolio to Navy Pier with the openings of Ozzie’s Pops & Pretzels, Big City Chicken, Frankie’s By The Slice and Big Bowl Express.

Reynolds is currently involved with airport operations in Chicago, D.C., Denver, Phoenix, Charlotte and Orlando. In 2015, he was appointed CEO of Kremeworks LLC, dba Krispy Kreme in the Pacific Northwest.

Reynolds lives in Winnetka with his wife, Andrea, and their three children. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, playing golf, biking and volunteering.

Read full bio for Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs

Executive Partner & Divisional President Aba, Antico Posto, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ema, Rotisserie Ema, L. Woods, The Dalcy

Marc began his career with Lettuce Entertain You in the fall of 1991, as a banquet server and busser at Bones (now L. Woods) in Lincolnwood, IL. After being cross-trained as a server, host and line cook, Marc became a manager of the restaurant upon his graduation from UIC in the summer of 1995.

Two years later, Marc was transferred to R.J. Grunts, Lettuce’s first restaurant, and was quickly promoted to General Manager. It was there that he first worked alongside Rich Melman on the re-development of the restaurant, which went on to launch what would become Marc’s lifelong career in restaurants and hospitality.

In Marc’s time with Lettuce, he has been a Partner for 1more than 4 years and has led the creation, design and re-concept of more than 16 restaurants across Chicagoland. Today, his portfolio includes Beatrix; a restaurant and coffeehouse located in River North, Streeterville, Fulton Market and Oak Brook, Beatrix Market; a quick and healthful grab and go experience with five locations and growing, Ēma; a Mediterranean and California-inspired restaurant, Aba; the sister restaurant to Ēma, The Dalcy; Lettuce’s private event hall in Fulton Market and Aba in Austin, TX; Lettuce’s first concept in Texas.

Marc is centered around his love for restaurant design, menu development and team building. His restaurants and chefs have earned many accolades including a Michelin Bib Gourmand.

Outside of the restaurants, Marc sits on Lettuce’s Executive Board, is a member of the Lettuce Consulting Group and is an Advisory Council member at DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership. He enjoys spending time with his wife Vanessa and their three children, Samantha, Alexandra and Gabriel, visiting new restaurants, and traveling.

Read full bio for Mark Tormey

Mark Tormey

Divisional President of Di Pescara, Saranello's, Petterino's, The Ivy Room and Do-Rite Donuts

Mark Tormey was born in 1953 in West Point, New York the oldest of five children. He is the son of a colonel in the U. S. Army. Most of his adolescent years were spent in Washington D. C., where he got his first experience in a series of small restaurants, working as a dishwasher, busboy and as a waiter.

Mark Tormey received a B.S. from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where he studied Hotel and Restaurant Administration, interning in such diverse properties as Tavern on the Green in New York City and Heritage House in Mendocino, California.

He arrived in Chicago in 1977 and for two years working at The Hyatt Regency Chicago as a restaurant manager. In 1979 he moved on to Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises as an Assistant General Manager at Jonathan Livingston Seafood. In 1982, he became General Manager of the Pump Room. He became a partner at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in 1984. Throughout the 1980’s, he headed up the Lettuce Entertain You Management Division, opening successfully, the Chicago P. J. Clarke’s, Jim McMahon’s Restaurant and The Club at the Wrigley Building.

In 1991, Mark and Rich Melman opened the first Maggiano’s Little Italy, a Southern Italian Family Style Restaurant that became an instant success. In 1992 and 1994, Lettuce Entertain You, under Tormey’s direction, opened two more Maggiano’s. In 1995, Lettuce Entertain You sold the restaurant to Brinker International. After the sale, Mark headed up the Maggiano’s brand as President for 15 years. Mark oversaw 47 restaurants, increasing sales to $450 million. Today, Maggiano’s Little Italy is still a successful Brinker International brand operating in locations from coast to coast.

In 2005, Mark came back to Lettuce Entertain You and developed a new restaurant, Di Pescara, in the esteemed Northbrook Court Mall. Di Pescara, named after a fishing village on the Adriatic coast, features fresh seafood, homemade Italian and prime steaks. Today, Mark also oversees The Ivy Room, an event space in River North, Petterino’s in Chicago’s Theater District, Saranello’s in Wheeling, IL.

In addition the Lettuce Entertain You concepts, Mark is an executive partner with Do-Rite Donuts, a chef-owned counter service restaurant that serves up artisanal donuts made daily, plus fried chicken sandwiches and coffee.

Mark resides in Chicago with his family. His son Clay is also part of the Lettuce Entertain You family as the General Manager at Bub City in Rosemont, IL. In his free time, he likes to play golf, swim, and jog. For Mark, it is the inherent challenge to be better each and every day that motivates him. The restaurant business provides him with just that opportunity.

Read full bio for Sara Rowe

Sara Rowe

Senior Vice President of the Shaw’s Crab House Division

IN LOVING MEMORY 1971 – 2010

Read full bio for Scott Barton

Scott Barton

Divisional President of Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Osteria Via Stato, Pizzeria Via Stato, Tallboy Taco, M Burger, Ozzie’s Pops & Pretzels and Big City Chicken

Scott Barton is Divisional President at Lettuce Entertain You and oversees concepts from fine dining to fast-casual, delivery and carryout only concepts to private event spaces including Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Osteria Via Stato, Pizzeria Via Stato, Tallboy Taco, M Burger, Ozzie’s Pops & Pretzels and Big City Chicken.

Scott joined Lettuce in 1992 as a restaurant manager for Avanzare. Today he works directly with chefs, managers, and partners to develop and grow a variety of Lettuce concepts.

Working closely with his management teams, he strives to define and achieve new goals to improve the restaurants and guest experience. His attention to what makes a restaurant successful— genuine hospitality and a focus on details—remains at the core of his operations and training.

Read full bio for Steve Donahue

Steve Donahue

Chief Financial Officer

If anyone could “count” the ways to succeed in a restaurant, it would be Steve Donahue. Beginning his career in restaurants and working his way through accounting, Steve is now the Chief Financial Officer for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.

Steve Donahue grew up in Freeport, Illinois working in restaurants during high school and then into college where he graduated from the University of Illinois- Urbana Champaign. In 1989, Steve graduated with a BS in accounting. Then in May of 1990, he passed his CPA. Steve began working at a machine tool distributing company in Schaumburg, Illinois as a staff accountant balancing many responsibilities at a small company. Steve answered a newspaper ad for a staff accounting position with LEYE. He interviewed with Tom Muno, now a fellow partner, accepted the position and moved his way up from staff accountant to accounting manager to a controller and eventually to be a LEYE partner, where he helps oversee the accounting department with a focus on new concepts.

As a partner, Steve especially takes pride in working for the best restaurant company in the world. Steve never has a boring day as he is always working with new concepts and talented people. Steve sees the LEYE as a group of partnerships and his challenge is to make sure that everything is done consistently within a diverse group of restaurants. This means tracking everything from sales to food and labor costs to construction costs. But, with his background in restaurants, Steve is able to understand the restaurant business and translate it into accounting.

When Steve is away from the office, he lives in Chicago with his wife, Toni, and their two beautiful sons, Sam and Jack. He enjoys running, biking, spending time with his sons, and exploring Chicago’s vibrant restaurant scene.

Read full bio for Susie Southgate-Fox

Susie Southgate-Fox

Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Corporate Operations

Susie Southgate-Fox is a partner and the Executive Vice President of Human Resources for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc (LEYE). Southgate-Fox began working with Richard Melman, the founder and Chairman of the Board of LEYE, in the late 1960’s. She met Melman at his father’s restaurant, Mr. Ricky’s, where she worked as a cashier and hostess. In 1974 Susie began her career with Lettuce Entertain You as a server at Bones. After being promoted to management positions at Ed Debevic’s and Shaw’s Crab House, Southgate-Fox joined the corporate office in 1988 as Manager of Human Resources. She then became the Director of Training, and was made Vice President of Training and Development and finally was named Senior Vice President of Human Resources in 1992. Now, she also oversees administrative day to day operations at the corporate office.

Southgate-Fox currently oversees all aspects of human resources and is extensively involved with employee relations, coaching, and counseling, resolving employee grievances and disputes as well as keeping LEYE in compliance with current labor laws. As the company continues to grow at a rapid pace, Southgate-Fox works diligently with the HR team and stores to make Lettuce an employer of choice and in keeping our philosophy and culture alive.

Born in England and raised in Israel, Southgate-Fox earned a B.A. degree in Special Education from Northeastern University in Chicago and taught emotionally disturbed adolescents for 12 years. She later taught Organizational Behavior at Kendall College where she formally sat on the college’s Advisory Board. Currently, she sits on the Board of Advisors for William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, UNLV. In 2004, Southgate-Fox was the recipient of the “Elliot Motivator of the Year” award.

Southgate-Fox’s personal interests include traveling, reading, exploring new restaurants, and spending time with her family. She is married with two sons. Susie Southgate-Fox bears the distinction of being the first LEYE partner who is also a mom.

Read full bio for Thomas Muno

Thomas Muno

Senior Vice President of Accounting and Operational Analysis

Thomas Muno is Senior Vice President of Accounting and Operational Analysis for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc (LEYE). Upon graduating from Loyola University in 1984, Tom began his career with LEYE as an entry-level accountant. Since then, Tom has held almost every accounting position including assistant to the vice president of finance, accounting manager, assistant controller of operations and Controller of LEYE.

Working in these various positions enabled Tom to learn different aspects of the LEYE as a business and gain valuable experience in not only the accounting area but also restaurant operations. He has performed and/or directly supervised every function in the accounting department. This includes the general ledger accounting, budgeting, cash flow, internal audit, and payroll for over 100 locations, including the corporate office.

In his current position, Tom oversees the LEYE Accounting department and is involved in the year-end audit, tax planning and strategic planning. He collaborates with restaurant operators on a multitude of projects from menu costing and budgeting to break-even analysis and new store projections.

Tom is married with two children and when he is not at work he enjoys spending time with his family, watching the Cubs and Blackhawks, reading and trying to golf.

Managing Partners

Read full bio for Adam Rochman

Adam Rochman

Managing Partner of Wildfire and Big Bowl

Adam’s appreciation of food came at an early age. He recounts fondly of watching Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, and Martin Yan on Saturday afternoon television as a child. That appreciation for food grew to be an interest in cooking, and soon after, recognition that working in the restaurant industry was what he wanted to do. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago he was familiar with Lettuce Entertain You and wanted to gain experience with the company to enhance his restaurant industry education.

In the fall of 1997, Rochman was a freshman at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, enrolled in their Hospitality Management program. The summer of his freshman year, Adam secured an internship at Shaw’s Seafood Grill in Deerfield. His experiences with Lettuce’s Internship program were the foundation for his career. He immediately felt welcomed into the Lettuce family and began to understand the organization’s culture that would later come to define his personal management style.

Upon graduation, in May of 2001, he returned home to Chicago. A meeting with Lettuce Partners, Bob Loeschorn and President of Wildfire, Howard Katz, proved to be a pivotal point in Adam’s life. He became a #3 Manager at Wildfire Chicago and began to develop his own approach to management, taking on as much responsibility as he could. Two years later, he was asked to be part of the opening team for Wildfire’s fifth location in Schaumburg. He began working closely with Katz. “Howard’s energetic and systematic approach pushed me to be a better manager,” says Rochman. He would spend the next three years in Schaumburg as a #2 Manager, mastering the practice of Wildfire systems and operations. In 2006, Adam was promoted to General Manager of Wildfire Glenview at the age of 26; it was a job that came with tremendous challenges and rewards. Rochman recounts, “Our goal was to provide the best food and the best experience to a notably loyal following of guests.” Over the next six years in Glenview, he created long-lasting relationships with hundreds of regular guests, while guiding a skilled, polished, professional and friendly staff.

In his final years in Glenview, Adam shifted his focus and priority to the further development of his management team, making it his primary responsibility to guide and teach his managers, ensuring that as opportunities within the company became available, his managers would be the strongest candidates for advancement. In late 2012 Adam was promoted to Partner and Vice President of Wildfire Restaurants.

Rochman states, “I have always had great appreciation and respect for the Wildfire partners. Becoming their partner brings me great joy and excitement about my future and the future of an organization of which I hope to always be a part.”

Today, Adam oversees the operations of Wildfire and Big Bowl locations throughout the Chicago area.

Adam resides in the Lincoln Square neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, and in his free time, he enjoys travel, playing tennis, and following Cubs baseball.

Read full bio for Amarit Dulyapaibul

Amarit Dulyapaibul

Managing Partner of the

Amarit Dulyapaibul is a managing partner and oversees operations and development for the “San” brand of restaurants including Ramen-san and Sushi-san.

At an early age, he began working at the restaurants his parents own and operate in downtown Chicago. Moving through the ranks, he started as a dishwasher, became a host, then a server and eventually transitioned to a manager role. Through this, Amarit has gained a tremendous amount of respect for all the hardworking individuals that devote their time to the industry.

After graduating with a Master of Arts in Architecture from Tulane University, Amarit returned to Chicago to begin his career. Specializing in high-end residential design and construction, he developed his understanding of space, scale and atmosphere that would eventually prove instrumental in his success at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE). After two years of design work, Amarit returned to hospitality.

In 2011, Amarit joined Lettuce Entertain You as part of the team at Ben Pao. He spent time at several other concepts, including Foodlife and Foodease, to learn different styles of operations and management. Eventually, he came to work under the leadership of partners R.J., Jerrod, and Molly Melman at Paris Club Bistro & Bar and Studio Paris Nightclub.

Amarit was promoted to General Manager of the 59 W. Hubbard building and oversaw the opening of Ramen-san in 2014, where he has consistently grown year-over-year revenues via delivery technologies and various strategic partnerships. In early 2016, Amarit helped open il Porcellino in the same building; in late 2017, he and the team opened nearby Sushi-san.

Today, Amarit oversees operations and growth for the “San” brands, which includes Ramen-san Deluxe in Streeterville, Ramen-san in River North and Ramen-san Whisky Bar in Fulton Market in addition to Sushi-san in River North and in the Willis Tower.

Born and raised in the heart of Chicago, Amarit resides in downtown Chicago with his wife, Torie.

Read full bio for Bob Loeschorn

Bob Loeschorn

Vice President of Big Bowl and Wildfire

Bob Loeschorn is Vice President of Big Bowl and Wildfire, two of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ most successful restaurant concepts, which have locations in Chicago, Oak Brook, Lincolnshire, Schaumburg, Glenview, Illinois, Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and McLean, VA.

Bob Loeschorn began his career with LEYE in December 1986 as a manager of LEYE’s Ed Debevic’s in Torrence, California. After opening the Beverly Hills Ed Debevic’s, Bob moved up the ranks quickly and was promoted to supervisor of the three Ed’s, located in Torrance, Beverly Hills and Phoenix, Arizona. In August of 1992, Bob assisted with the opening of Tucci Benucch in Minneapolis, Minnesota, followed by the Tucci opening in Seattle, Washington. In November of 1995, Bob relocated to Chicago to oversee the opening of Wildfire. As part of the development of Chicago’s Wildfire, he has acted as both the general manager and supervisor for the restaurant. Bob’s extensive commitment and dedication are evident in Wildfire’s success.

Loeschorn has been in the restaurant business for 30 years beginning with his mom and dad’s motel and small New Hampshire restaurant. At age 19, his desire to explore led him to a Los Angeles catering company where Bob served guests ranging from Ronald Reagan to members of the L.A. Rams. Missing the restaurant atmosphere, Bob joined the staff at Los Angeles’ Victoria Station, where he held positions ranging from prep cook to regional kitchen manager and general manager in charge of west coast management training, over his 10 years of employment with Victoria Station. The restructuring of the company in November 1986 prompted Bob “to test the water outside of Victoria Station.” Bob has been with LEYE ever since.

Bob, his wife Kimberly and their two children, Hannah and Charlie, reside in the Northern Suburbs of Chicago. In his spare time, he enjoys cycling, ice skating, skiing and traveling with his family.

Read full bio for Carrol Symank

Carrol Symank

Vice President of Risk Operations

Carrol Symank is the Vice President of Risk Operations for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE). Symank oversees sanitation programs for more than 130 restaurants and works to maintain the company’s high standards of providing safe, wholesome food. Symank heads the Risk Management Department, which focuses on all matters of guest and employee health and safety.

Symank has a diverse background in the hospitality industry as he started working in restaurants in his hometown of Houston, Texas and from there, his career took him to New York and eventually to Chicago, where he started with LEYE in 1988 with a focus in training. He was quickly promoted to Director of Training and in this position he opened more than 30 restaurants. Symank was named a Partner and became the Vice President of Training in 2001. In 2003, he took over the food safety programs at LEYE. Currently under his supervision are the operations of food safety, sanitation, general liability, security, workers compensation, insurance and customer service.

Symank has a passion for the industry and enjoys his work with both employees and guests. He prides himself on being able turn negative situations into a positive ones. His adopted motto is “work hard and be nice to people.”

Symank is married and has two children. His wife, Cheryl Baran Symank is also employed with LEYE. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his family. The couple loves dining out but entertaining at home proves to be a way for Symank and his wife to shift gears from work, while still doing something they love.

Read full bio for Chris Favero

Chris Favero

Vice President of Foodlife and Navy Pier Restaurants

For three decades, Chris Favero has been part the team at Lettuce Entertain You. He began is career in the restaurant business at his father’s side and growing up with his siblings in the kitchen of the Favero family’s restaurant. After opening the third and last family restaurant, Chris was ready to pursue his love for restaurants with a company he felt was like family, Lettuce Entertain You.

In 1990, Chris joined Lettuce as a manager at Ed Debevic’s in Deerfield, IL. It was during his time at Ed’s that Chris developed the skills that would set him up for his next success. When Lettuce sold Ed Debevic’s, Chris was invited to be a part of the opening team of Foodlife, Chicago’s first food hall. This gave Chris the opportunity to work directly with Richard Melman, whom Chris still counts as his mentor to this day. Creating and developing many of the foodlife concepts, Chris was also given to opportunity to work with Lettuce consulting clients. Chris consulted with both Campbell Soup to create “souplife” and with Compass Group PLC for the SSP and Moto Divisions. The latter gave Chris the direct experience of developing concepts for the UK and other European markets. In 1998, Chris also opened Chicago Flat Sammies known for its multi-ethnic sandwich called the “Flat Sammie.” Interested in fun, quick and casual concepts, Chris then became part of the ensemble team, headed by Rich Melman, to open Wow Bao in Water Tower Place.

Chris turned to his roots and became the Supervising/Managing Partner of Frankie’s Scaloppine and 5th floor Pizzeria in Chicago, a pair of Italian restaurants located in the 900 shops located on Michigan Ave. This also led to the expansion of Frankie’s brand to Navy Pier in Chicago With Frankie’s by the slice pizzeria. He is now the Vice President of Foodlife and Navy Pier Restaurants.

Chris still enjoys working with quick casual concepts and creating new experiences for his customers, but most frequently can be found in the dining room with the guests at Big Bowl Express and Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. Most recently he has re-connected with the Women’s Piemontese Society and serves on the advisory board of the Children’s Brittle Bone Foundation and is the Co-founder of Gold Coats Holiday Drive benefiting Chicago Lights.

Chris still prides on the interactions with his customers and the buzz of a busy fun shift. He enjoys welcoming young employees that are passionate and full of enthusiasm and hopes to help them grow and develop. Chris enjoys food, visiting ethnic markets, outdoor sports, traveling and cherishes time with family and friends.

Read full bio for Don Carson

Don Carson

President of Don & Charlie's

The restaurant business is in Don Carson’s blood. The son of legendary Chicago restaurateur Chris Carson, Don is also associated with one of the city’s other leading restaurant luminaries, Richard Melman.

Carson, who oversaw operations at Don & Charlie’s eatery in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a Managing Partner in one of the nation’s leading restaurant organizations, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc.

Carson was raised in Rogers Park, which is located on the North Side of Chicago. Growing up in a restaurant family, Carson remembers dining out three to four days a week as a young boy. While growing up eating, tasting and trying new food items Carson learned to appreciate food that was prepared from scratch with no thought ever given to skimping on quality.

Carson began his career at the Millionaire’s Club Library and Carson’s, The Place for Ribs, before teaming up with Melman in late 1982. At Don & Charlie’s, their goal was simple, be the best that you can be and always care for your guests.

Although restaurants are his full-time passion, he does save a little energy for jazz and softball, his part-time loves. Carson is the father of three girls.

Read full bio for Gabino Sotelino

Gabino Sotelino

Chef Partner of Mon Ami Gabi and Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

Considered by many in the industry and the culinary community as one of the most respected leaders and owner/chefs in Chicago, it is no secret that the talent behind Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and Mon Ami Gabi comes from Chef Gabino Sotelino, chef/partner of Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba and the five Mon Ami Gabi locations with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc.

A native of Spain, Sotelino was born to a Basque mother and a Galician father in Vigo, a city in northwestern Spain. At age nine, his family enrolled him in the San Francisco el Grande seminary in Madrid. His religious vocation lasted until he was 12 when he decided to leave and became a bellhop at the posh Hotel Ritz. After making enough detours through the kitchen, he landed a job on the cooking staff at age 14.

From the Ritz, he moved to other top hotel kitchens throughout Europe including Plaza Athenee in Paris and Koons Hotel in Switzerland. He eventually joined Hilton International Hotels as part of a team opening hotels around the world including Hong Kong, London, Cairo, Istanbul, Tokyo, the Canary Islands as well as Montreal where he eventually stayed. After spending a year and a half working at the Montreal Exposition, Sotelino moved to the United States where he joined the Madison Hotel organization opening new hotels before becoming the executive chef at Capitol Hill Restaurants. His duties included service for special functions at the White House. Soon after, Le Perroquet called and his culinary contributions to the city of Chicago began.

Chicago embraced the talents of Sotelino upon his arrival in 1974 when he assumed the position and quickly established himself as the premier executive chef for the four-star restaurant Le Perroquet. In 1977, he met Richard Melman, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s CEO and founder, who offered him a position as the chef for LEYE’s newly acquired restaurant, The Pump Room. Sotelino accepted and, as a master of his craft soon turned the Pump Room into one of the finest restaurants in the Midwest.

The partnership between Sotelino and Melman flourished and they were soon planning the creation of LEYE’s first original fine dining restaurant, Ambria, which opened to rave reviews in 1980. In 1981, Gabino introduced Chicago to a true Parisian bistro with Un Grand Café (now Mon Ami Gabi, or “My Friend Gabino,”) a combination of Ambria’s quality cuisine with a more informal atmosphere.

In 1985, Melman gave Sotelino the opportunity to open another restaurant – Chicago’s first-ever tapas bar. Sotelino felt that the city of Chicago needed a taste of Spain in the restaurant scene, and he took great pride in representing the culture and gastronomy of his home to the people of Chicago. Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba has made tapas, the hot and cold appetizers of Spain, an integral element of Chicago’s dining scene.

Having garnered dozens of accolades since he opened Ambria in 1980, Sotelino’s Ambria was rated Chicago’s favorite restaurant by the 1998 Zagat guide. In 1997, Chef Sotelino was bestowed the Perrier-Jouet chef of the Midwest award by the James Beard Foundation, the most prestigious culinary award given in the United States. Gourmet magazine’s best restaurants in America listed Ambria as “one of the top tables in the Midwest” in 1997, 1998 and 1999. Gault Millau’s The Best of Chicago, called Sotelino “one of the most gifted chefs in the Midwest – and a lot of other towns as well,” and gave Ambria a rating of three toques. The Best of Chicago awarded only four restaurants with this honor, which was the highest given. Sotelino was also named “Chicago Chef of the Year” by the Chefs of America in 1990.

While open, Ambria received a four-star ranking from Chicago Magazine, Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun-Times. The American Automobile Association also rewarded Ambria the coveted five-diamond ranking. Ambria also swept first and second place honors in Zagat guides under food, service and ambiance categories for more than 12 consecutive years. Both Ambria and Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba also made Chicago magazine’s list of Top 40 Restaurants Ever that the publication put together for its 40th anniversary issue in 2010.

Active in community and industry affairs, Sotelino has been honored with some of the most prestigious awards. Sotelino was awarded the Medalla al Merito Nacional of Spain in 1990. It is the most distinguished award given by the king of Spain to a Spanish native living outside the country who has demonstrated outstanding service and contribution to his country. He has been honored with the Academie Culinaire de France, an award traditionally given to French national chefs for their outstanding contributions to the culinary arts of France-Sotelino was the first Spaniard to receive this prestigious French award. He is also a member of the Commanderie des Cordon Bleus de France, a select group of expert chefs chosen from around the world and is one of only three national chairpersons of the Grand Master Chefs Association. Sotelino has also held the highly regarded position of president of the Euro-Toques inc. USA Chapter.

Read full bio for Geoff Alexander

Geoff Alexander

President and CEO of Wow Bao

Nine days after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1993, Geoff Alexander joined Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE). After two decades of working on multiple concepts within LEYE’s portfolio, Alexander took over LEYE’s three unit Wow Bao concept in 2009.

Under Alexander’s leadership, Wow Bao revolutionized the way diners would interact with restaurants by being a pioneer in technology and social media. More than a decade ago, Alexander implemented mobile ordering, self-ordering kiosks, bicycle delivery, domestic shipping, and made Wow Bao one of the first Chicago brick & mortar restaurants to take to the streets with its BAO-Mobile Food Truck.

Alexander has overseen Wow Bao’s inclusion into airports, NFL/MLB/NHL/NBA stadiums, university campuses, music venues, and more than 300 grocers sell Wow Bao’s frozen retail line.

In 2018 Alexander changed the landscape for fast casual dining by introducing Wow Bao 2.0 – a fully tech enabled front of the house environment, where guests order via an iOS or Android device, and pick up their food from an animated personalized cubby.

Shortly after being named to Nation’s Restaurant News 2020 Power List, Alexander evolved the restaurant industry once again by launching 300 Wow Bao Dark Kitchens in more than 130 cities in less than a year. This new extension of the business is not only allowing Wow Bao to grow a national footprint, it is also helping restaurant operators across the nation grow top line sales and increase bottom line profits.

Read full bio for Gerard Centioli

Gerard Centioli

Senior VP of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

Gerard Vincent Centioli is Founder of ICON LLC, Founder, President & CEO of ICON INC (ICON) and Senior Partner & Senior VP of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. (LEYE).

Born and raised in Seattle, Washington, Gerard Centioli spent his childhood employed in all segments of a KFC franchise (41 units) owned by Gil’s Enterprises, Inc., his family business. He worked after school, weekends and holidays learning about restaurant operations, finance, marketing, purchasing, distribution, real estate, construction and every other aspect of the company. After receiving his Bachelor of Business Administration degree with majors in public accounting and marketing from Gonzaga University in Washington, Centioli went on to hold the posts of Assistant to the President and Vice President for Gil’s Enterprises, Inc.

Gil’s Enterprises, Inc. merged into Collins Food International, Inc. (NYSE: CF) in July, 1983 at which time Centioli was named Regional Vice President of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Division of CF. In March 1984, he was named Vice President of Administration of the Kentucky Fried Chicken Division of CF. His affiliation with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. began in 1984, through a joint venture with CF to develop the Ed Debevic’s concept. The joint venture between CF and LEYE named Centioli Vice President of Ed Debevic’s, Inc. He was named President & CEO of Ed Debevic’s, Inc. in 1988. He was named President & CEO of the Tucci Division of LEYE in 1992. He was named a member of the LEYE Executive Committee in 1993. Centioli was named President & CEO of the Maggiano’s / Corner Bakery Division of LEYE in 1993.

Maggiano’s and Corner Bakery were preparing for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) of the company’s stock in 1995. In anticipation of the IPO, the individual Maggiano’s and Corner Bakery entities were merged into a single corporation – Maggiano’s / Corner Bakery, Inc. and Centioli was named President and CEO. Maggiano’s / Corner Bakery, Inc. ultimately merged into Brinker International, Inc. (NYSE: EAT) in August 1995. Centioli was named Senior Vice President of EAT and President and CEO of the Maggiano’s / Corner Bakery Division. In October 1995 he was elected to the Board of Directors of EAT. In January 1996 EAT formed the Italian Concepts Division which included Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Maggiano’s Little Italy and Corner Bakery, at which time Centioli was named President and CEO of the Division. While under Centioli’s direction, Romano’s Macaroni Grill grew from 62 to 94 units, Maggiano’s Little Italy grew from inception to 10 units and the Corner Bakery grew from inception to 42 units. In April 1997 EAT formed the Emerging Concepts Division and named Centioli President and CEO. The Emerging Concepts Division was comprised of Maggiano’s Little Italy, Corner Bakery, Big Bowl and Wildfire.

On March 8, 1999, Gerard Centioli, Richard Melman and Michael Fox founded ICON LLC. ICON was formed to establish partnerships with bona fide icons for the expressed purpose of multi-unit development.

The first ICON partnership was established with Joe’s Stone Crab, Inc. of Miami Beach, Florida. This famous restaurant, opened by Joe and Jennie Weiss in Miami Beach in 1913, began serving Florida Stone Crab in 1921. In 1999, ICON and the Weiss Family formed Joe’s Stone Crab Development Company to develop the brand beyond Miami. The first ICONcept, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, opened on October 19, 2000 in Chicago at The Shops at North Bridge. A second Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab opened on October 22, 2004 in Las Vegas at The Forum Shops at Caesars. A third Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab opened on January 31, 2014 in The White House neighborhood of Washington, D.C.

The second ICON partnership was established with Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, Inc. [NYSE: KKD] of Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Vernon Rudolph opened the first store in Winston-Salem on July 13, 1937 making America’s best-loved doughnuts. In 2000, ICON and KKD formed KremeWorks LLC to develop the brand in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Hawaii and British Columbia. The first ICONcept, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts & Coffee, opened in Issaquah, Washington on October 30, 2001. KremeWorks developed a dozen and operates ten Krispy Kreme Doughnuts & Coffee shops in the Pacific Northwest and Hawaii.

The third ICON partnership was established with PICK-QUICK Drive In, Inc. of Fife, Washington. In 2007, ICON founder Gerard Centioli and Joe Burgi formed PICK-QUICK Development Company LLC to develop the concept beyond Fife. The first ICONcept, the PICK-QUICK Drive In Flagship, broke ground in Auburn, Washington on September 27, 2010. On March 8, 2011, the 12th anniversary of ICON LLC, the PICK-QUICK Drive In Flagship opened. On October 18, 2016 the first PICK-QUICK Walk Up and Drive Thru opened in Seattle, Washington.

Crain’s Chicago Business named Centioli one of the 40 Players Under 40 in 1994. Nation’s Restaurant News named Centioli one of the Top 50 New Players in 1997. Centioli was elected to the Board of Regents of Gonzaga University in April 1999 where he continues to serve. In June 1999, Centioli was elected to the Board of Directors of Lawry’s Restaurants, Inc. where he continues to serve and Chair the Strategic Planning Committee. Centioli was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Italian American Foundation in March 2000.

In March 2002, Centioli was elected to the Board of Directors of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) where he served as Chair of the Quality Assurance Committee. Centioli was elected to the Board of Directors of the Italian American Chamber of Commerce – Pacific Northwest in January 2011.

In September 2012, Festa Italiana presented him the Gill A. Centioli Memorial Award.

Centioli has a passion for college football that he acquired attending University of Washington games with his father, a season ticket holder since 1951. He is now a University of Washington and University of Notre Dame season ticket holder and attends games with his children and grandchildren. Centioli also enjoys celebrating his children’s avocations by flying with his son Lauren Vincent, a pilot and attending opera with his daughter Cicilia Rose, an opera singer.

Read full bio for Jean Joho

Jean Joho

Chef/Proprietor of Everest and Eiffel Tower

Known the world over for having made an indelible mark on the culinary world with his exquisite personal cuisine, Chef J. Joho humbly entered the profession as a 6-year-old, peeling vegetables in his aunt’s restaurant kitchen in Alsace, France. His formal training began as a 13-year-old apprentice for Paul Haeberlin of the acclaimed L’Auberge de L’Ill, and continued in kitchens in France, Italy, and Switzerland. By the age of 23, Joho was the sous chef at a Michelin three-star restaurant where he commanded a 35-person staff. It was while he was studying at the Hotel Restaurant School in Strasbourg that Joho immersed himself in the hotel and restaurant business, as well as the arts of butchering, pastry, cheese and wine.

Joho’s rise to international success began on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange with Everest, which is now one of the world’s premier dining rooms. Today, his establishments across the country in Chicago (Everest) and Las Vegas (Eiffel Tower Restaurant) set standards for dining and win accolades at every turn. Joho is also a partner in several other concepts, including Chicago’s M Burger, and was a founding partner of the Corner Bakery concept.

Inspired by the arts, Joho has filled his restaurants with the work of many of his friends, including Ivo Soldini, the Swiss sculptor whose bronze statues adorn each of the tables at Everest, Italian sculptor Virginio Ferarri, and painters including John Westmark and Tim Anderson. Joho has also authored “The Eiffel Tower Restaurant Cookbook: Capturing the magic of Paris” where he shared 50 of his signature dishes, transporting the magic of Paris into kitchens of gourmet homes across the country.

Chef Joho was awarded the Critic’s Choice Lifetime Achievement Award by the Chicago Tribune in 2016. See the video presentation of Chef Joho experience here. Joho was also named “Restaurateur of the Year” by Gayot in 2012. James Beard Foundation has awarded; “Who’s Who”, “Best New Restaurant”, “Best American Chef: Midwest”; nominations for “Best Outstanding Restaurant”, “Outstanding Chef,” and “Outstanding Service.”

Recently, Chef Joho and his team at Everest celebrated the 30th anniversary of the French fine dining institution, which Robert Parker calls “a brilliant meal from a great chef at the top of his game.” Everest has been awarded many accolades; The highest marks from Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Magazine, the “country’s best selection of Alsace wine” by USA Today, The New York Times and Saveur and the Five-Diamond AAA rating. Everest is a member of Les Grande Table Du Monde Traditions & Qualité, Maitre Cuisiniers de France and the only Chicago member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux/Relais Gourmand.

Read full bio for Jeffrey Drazin

Jeffrey Drazin

Managing Partner of the "San" brand

Jeffrey Drazin is a managing partner of the “San” brand of restaurants that includes Ramen-San, Sushi-San, Il Porcellino, and Dance Studio.

Without a doubt, Jeffrey knew that he belonged in the hospitality industry. At age 16, he scooped ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins (where he learned there is no better flavor than Peanut Butter ‘n’ Chocolate), and during college he worked at Ned Kelly’s steakhouse. There, Jeffrey discovered the different facets of restaurant life: He worked as a line and prep cook in the heat of the kitchen before eventually transitioning to the front of the house as a server. But it was his internship at Lettuce Entertain You’s Lincolnshire location of Wildfire before his final year of college that made him realize restaurants are exactly where he was meant to be.

After receiving his Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management from the University of Illinois in 2001, Jeffrey joined Lettuce Entertain You as a manager at Wildfire in Minnesota. Under the leadership of the Wildfire partners, Jeffrey was mentored on how to run a successful restaurant. From there, he was part of the opening teams for three different Wildfires and landed as the General Manager at the Lincolnshire location of Wildfire.

In 2014, Jeffrey moved to LEYE’s Melman / Meers division of restaurants to oversee the 59 W. Hubbard building that included Ramen-San, Paris Club Bistro & Bar and Studio Paris Nightclub. In early 2016, Jeffrey helped open Il Porcellino in the former Paris Club space.

In late 2017, Jeffrey and the team opened nearby Sushi-San. Ramen-San Whisky Bar in Chicago’s West Loop and Ramen-San Deluxe in the Streeterville neighborhood followed in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Jeffrey is looking forward to opening Tallboy Taco in Streeterville and a second location of Sushi-San in the iconic Willis Tower in Spring 2020.

Under the guidance of partners R.J. Melman, Jerrod Melman and Chris Meers, Jeffrey has learned how to be a leader in the industry and is excited to continue training and developing his teams to create exceptional restaurants. He is very proud of his work in the division and is eager to see what the future has in store for the “San” brand.

Jeffrey would not be where he is today without the love and support of his wonderful family and amazing wife, Allie. When not in the restaurants, Jeffrey enjoys spending time with his son, Emerson. He also loves traveling to far-off locations to explore new cultures and cuisines.

Read full bio for Joe Decker

Joe Decker

Vice President and Executive Chef of Wildfire

Joe Decker is Vice President and Executive Chef of Wildfire. He currently oversees all Wildfire culinary operations in Chicago, Oak Brook, Glenview, Schaumburg, and Lincolnshire, IL, Minnesota, and Virginia locations. Joe was part of the initial team which developed the menu at the 1940’s-inspired dinner club. Signature dishes at Wildfire include Filet Medallion Trio, Macadamia Nut Crusted Halibut, Wildfire Chopped Salad, Horseradish Crusted Filet Mignon, Roasted Prime Rib of Beef, and Cedar Planked Salmon. It prides itself on being ranked in the top five “Most Popular” restaurants in Chicago’s Zagat Guide.

Decker, a Chicago native, got his start in the food business by volunteering to work for free at Ann’s Bakery in suburban Wilmette in exchange for learning the secrets of great baking.

His next stop was the Oakton Bakery in Skokie, where he confirmed the hunch that he loved the food business but disliked bakery hours. Decker continued his culinary education and added a few hours to his sleep by enrolling in Washburne Trade School, graduating in 1981.

Decker pursued a career track that took him through some of the top restaurants in the country. He apprenticed at Jimmy’s Place in Chicago and went on to become sous chef at Cafe Provencal in Evanston, where he mastered French food preparation. “The roots of my cooking stem from Cafe Provencal. The rustic French cuisine: olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and peppers. The transition is easy to make. Both cuisines utilize the finest ingredients, prepared simply.”

The next stops were Mallory’s, where he ran the kitchen, and Don Roth’s Restaurants. While with Roth’s, Decker took a cooking sabbatical to New Orleans, where he studied Cajun cooking at four famed restaurants — K-Paul’s, LeRuth’s, Commander’s Palace and Mr. B’s. From there, he embarked on the fate-determining trip to Europe.

After traveling throughout Italy, Decker came back to the U.S. with the inspiration to re-create the rustic Italian cuisine with which he had fallen in love. He headed out to California to hone his country Italian cooking at Trattoria Primizia near San Jose. The restaurant was one of the first to feature thin-crust “designer” pizzas.

Less than a year later, Decker auditioned before LEYE’s Richard Melman. It was the late Marvin Magid who extended the invitation to Decker, stating, “You talk a big game, now I want to see if you can cook.” The twelve-course Italian feast Joe created was such a success that he was awarded the position of chef at Avanzare, LEYE’s first Italian restaurant. He became Scoozi!’s head chef when it opened in 1986, creating its healthy country Italian cuisine.

In addition to Scoozi! and Avanzare, Decker has been instrumental in opening several other of LEYE’s successful restaurants over the years including Twin City Grill in Minneapolis; Tucci Bennuch in Minneapolis; Tucchetti in Arizona; foodlife in Chicago; and Ben Pao in Chicago. He helped bring a version of the 87-year-old Miami Florida’s best-kept secret, Joe’s Stone Crab to Chicago and is a partner and helped open Chicago’s Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab.

Decker continues to play an integral role in the LEYE’s corporate and restaurant kitchens to develop the innovative food concepts that have made the company one of the nation’s leading independent restaurant groups. He has joined the Big Bowl team and oversees chefs and menu development. Decker enjoys the diversity of complex Asian cooking and the simplicity of American food.

Decker is happily married to his wife, Kim and enjoys working out and cooking at home. His family loves attending sporting events, especially their two athletic sons’.

Read full bio for John Buchanan

John Buchanan

Founding Partner and President of Lettuce Consulting Group and Senior Vice President of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises

He’ll tell you he’s never had a dull day in the restaurant business and Chicago-born John Buchanan is probably right. That’s largely because Buchanan, who began his career in the business as a dishwasher, has worked at more than two dozen Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc. (LEYE) properties since joining the organization in 1978. When Rich Melman, LEYE founder and Chairman of the Board, realized the need for a Human Resources Department, he selected Buchanan to head up the project. John was the original author of Lettuce’s Management Training Program.

Buchanan held the position of Vice President of Training and Development at LEYE for several years, but ultimately missed the excitement of operations. He went on to create several Lettuce concepts as well as participating in dozens of restaurant openings, being involved in all aspects of their creation.

A psychology graduate of Northern Illinois University, Buchanan is a natural teacher and often lectures at LEYE’s internal “Management University” on a variety of topics. His ability to teach and motivate has led to the position of President of Lettuce Consulting Group. Buchanan, who lists Benjamin Franklin, Clarence Darrow, and Houdini among his heroes, worked for a major steak house chain as well as Interstate United Corporation before joining LEYE. His career at LEYE began at Evanston’s Fritz, That’s It! in 1978.

Read full bio for Kelly Clancy

Kelly Clancy

Managing Partner for RPM Restaurants

Kelly Clancy is the Managing Partner and Divisional Supervisor for RPM Restaurants, including RPM Italian, RPM Steak, Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood in Chicago and RPM Italian in Washington, D.C.

Quite literally growing up in restaurants, Kelly worked in her father’s restaurant answering phones, washing dishes, making pizzas and eventually managing during college. Having this familiarity with the hospitality industry, it was only fitting that Kelly went to work for The Kimpton Group after graduating college. She quickly realized that her passion lies in restaurants and found herself applying at Chicago’s greatest restaurant group, Lettuce Entertain You.

She began her career working at Mity Nice Grill for two years before transferring to the Mon Ami Gabi division. There, Kelly worked with partners such as Susan Weaver, Christian Eckmann, and Michael Cunningham and was able to learn and continue to grow. She moved over to Hub 51 and Paris Club Bistro & Bar in December 2011 before making the move to open RPM Italian in Chicago in February 2012. From there, she continued on the managing team that eventually opened RPM Steak and a second location of RPM Italian in Washington, D.C. In the latter part of 2019 and early 2020, she and the team opened their most ambitious project to date on the Chicago riverfront – a multi-concept space that includes Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood.

In early 2022, Kelly and her partners are excited to expand the RPM brand to Las Vegas with the opening of RPM Italian at The Forum Shops at Caesars Palace.

Born and raised on the south side of Chicago, Kelly and is a die-hard White Sox fan. She is married and loves live music and traveling. She believes that experiencing other cultures, cuisines, and languages are truly what life is all about and helps create authentic and meaningful experiences in the restaurants. Kelly gets her inspiration and motivation from her peers and teammates and gets her energy and joy from watching them grow and helping them become more successful. She is excited for what the future holds for RPM and watching it become a worldwide brand with global recognition.

Read full bio for Kiran Pinto

Kiran Pinto

Partner with The Ivy Room, Gem Catering & Events, Lettuce Parties & Special Events, Grubhub & Ambria

Kiran Pinto is a Lettuce Entertain You (LEYE) Partner with The Ivy Room, Gem Catering & Events, Lettuce Parties & Special Events, Grubhub & Ambria.

For as long as she can remember, Kiran has been passionate about food and was culturally influenced by her Irish-German mother and Indian father while growing up in Peoria, IL. After high school, Kiran attended Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration and spent her college years interning at local restaurants. It was in Boston that she began a focus on front-of-the-house operations. She studied abroad in London and Sydney to experience hospitality firsthand from a global perspective.

After her travels, Kiran established roots closer to home in Chicago and that is where she first met Scott Barton – a career encounter that changed her life. Kiran spent five years at Tru and then went on to L2O and M Burger. In 2011, Kiran joined RJ and Jerrod Melman’s division for the openings of Paris Club, Studio Paris, RPM Italian, Ramen-San and RPM Steak. In 2015, Kiran joined Mark Tormey to establish Lettuce’s first events venue, The Ivy Room. Kiran began managing the Lettuce Parties & Special Events team. She is most excited about the new venture, Gem Catering & Events in response to guests’ requests to bring Lettuce quality food and service to venues, homes and offices across the city.

With over a decade at LEYE, Kiran has built a solid reputation for her commitment to the guest dining experience and leading an exceptional team. When she’s not restaurant hopping throughout the city with her husband, Cory, and her son, Julien, you’ll find Kiran traveling for friends, family, laughter and more places to eat.

Read full bio for Mark Dorian

Mark Dorian

Vice President of Purchasing

Mark Dorian, is the Vice President of Purchasing for Lettuce Entertain You.

A native of New York City, Mark started his restaurant career at the world-renowned Greenbrier in West Virginia. After completing the two-year Culinary Apprenticeship Program, he moved back to New York City for the next 10 years, spending the final four years at Danny Meyer’s Union Square Café as Executive Sous Chef. In 1994 he moved to Chicago and Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises where he held the position of Chef at Un Grand Café, Papagus, Brasserie Jo, and the Corporate Lab. In February of 2001, he became a partner with the opening of Petterino’s and DiPescara.

Continuing to challenge himself, Mark accepted the VP of Purchasing position in 2009. His knowledge of food, beverage, and operations gave him the experience necessary to be the perfect fit for VP of Purchasing at Lettuce Entertain You.

Mark is married with four daughters and currently resides in one of Chicago’s west suburbs. He enjoys cooking at home for friends and family and is also an avid long-distance cyclist.

Read full bio for Michael Giles

Michael Giles

Managing Partner and operator for Aba, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ema, Rotisserie Ema, and The Dalcy

Michael Giles is a Managing Partner and operator for Aba, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ema, Rotisserie Ema, and The Dalcy. With a strong passion for food and operations, Michael has worked for several restaurant groups in multiple cities including Minneapolis, San Diego and Portland.

Starting with Lettuce Entertain You in August 2010, Michael worked at Scoozi in River North and quickly was promoted to the General Manager. Just three years later, Michael led the opening team at Beatrix River North, a neighborhood coffeehouse and restaurant. After finding success in the concept, Michael became a Partner in August 2015 and has continued to rise with Lettuce Entertain You ever since.

Michael has since been influential in the opening of Beatrix Streeterville, Beatrix Fulton Market, Beatrix Market, Ēma and Rotisserie Ēma. Most recently, Michael led the opening of Aba, a Mediterranean restaurant and rooftop patio featuring a light, California style of cooking and The Dalcy, a 6,000-square foot private event hall in Fulton Market.

Michael oversees daily operations, food quality, and the ongoing training and development of the management team. Working closely with the chef team to facilitate new and creative ideas, Michael is constantly focused on hiring and developing his management teams and growth.

As a Gold Coast resident, he enjoys checking out new bars and restaurants, exploring the city and playing ice hockey. He also enjoys travel, especially visiting his native hometown of Edina, MN., and spending time with family and friends.

Read full bio for Perry Fuselier

Perry Fuselier

Vice President of Mon Ami Division Las Vegas

Perry’s career started at the early age of thirteen in New Orleans at LeRuth’s Restaurant, a Mobile five-star establishment run by famed chef/owner Warren LeRuth. For five dollars a day, Perry helped set the dining room, wipe down chandeliers, polish silverware and vacuum the floors. As a teenager, he appreciated the money, but the most treasured part of working at LeRuth’s was working with his father every day, who was also employed there.

After a total of fifteen proud years of Perry working alongside his father, including a period at his own restaurant, Chez Pierre’s (where his father handled all of the cooking and Perry ran the front of the house), Perry went to work for another restaurant icon, Ruth Fertel of Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Under Fertel’s mentoring, he learned the secrets of success: serve the best quality product to your guests and take care of your employees. After a promotion to General Manager of the Metairie, Louisiana location, Perry worked tirelessly to grow the now popular Ruth’s Chris name. Perry trained many of the future restaurant general managers that helped Ruth’s Chris’ grow to seventy-five stores.

In 1999, Perry was approached by Lettuce Entertain You to open the new Mon Ami Gabi restaurant in Las Vegas. It was an exceptional opportunity for him to learn from Richard Melman. Perry then went on to help open the third and fourth locations of Mon Ami Gabi and work with Gabino Sotelino at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!

As a devoted leader, Perry currently oversees all operations of Mon Ami Gabi Las Vegas and the opening of Stripburger and El Segundo Sol. He prides himself on employee development- a skill learned over the past seven years with Lettuce Entertain You.

Perry is now at home in the culinary hub of Las Vegas. Although his career has taken him far from those first simple tasks when assisting the opening captain at LeRuth’s, one aspect remains constant: valuing family time. Perry spends precious moments away from the restaurant dining and traveling with his wife Arlyn and spending time with his children, Taylor and Ashley and stepson, Brandon. He also enjoys spending time on the golf course.

Read full bio for Randy Brand

Randy Brand

Vice President of Osteria Via Stato, Pizzeria Via Stato, Tallboy Taco, M Burger and Big City Chicken

Randy was born into the hospitality business, helping his parents operate a small, family-owned resort in northern Minnesota, serving returning guests each summer. He attended the University of Denver, graduating with a degree in Hotel and Restaurant Management in 1989. While working in San Francisco, Randy liked what he saw of Lettuce Entertain You at the National Restaurant Show and shortly thereafter, moved with his young family to Chicago.

Working first at Petterino’s and Papagus, Randy opened Osteria Via Stato in 2004, which led to Pizzeria Via Stato soon after. In 2009 he opened the first M Burger, a fast-casual burger spot, which now has four locations. California-inspired Tallboy Taco and Big City Chicken, a quick-service fried chicken restaurant on Navy Pier, both opened their first locations in 2014. M Burger, Tallboy Taco and Big City Chicken continue to grow with locations in Midway airport coming in 2020.

His expertise outside of operations has also grown with his construction management of new restaurant locations.

Randy focuses on employee development within the restaurants he oversees, encouraging managers and hourly staff to grow, learn, develop, build relationships, communicate and lead. He also strives to enable his team to develop as individuals, “My job is to provide opportunities for people to grow. Nothing would please me more than to know that this team – this restaurant – has allowed people to provide for their family and themselves.”

Randy enjoys spending time with his wife, Heidi, and their three daughters, Ally, Caroline and Claire.

Read full bio for Ryan Richardson

Ryan Richardson

Managing Partner for Mon Ami Gabi, Stripburger and El Segundo Sol

Ryan Richardson is a Managing Partner for Mon Ami Gabi, Stripburger and El Segundo Sol in Las Vegas.

With almost 15 years in the restaurant industry, Ryan has spent almost his entire restaurant career with Lettuce Entertain You, with all of it at Mon Ami Gabi in Las Vegas.

Ryan is a native of New Orleans and that is where he learned of his love of food. While in college he held restaurant jobs at various local spots and also was a manager at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

He started his career at Lettuce in 2003 as an Assistant General Manager at Mon Ami Gabi. He stayed there until 2005 when he returned to New Orleans for a brief stay. After Katrina in late 2005, Ryan returned to Mon Ami Gabi as an Assistant General Manager.

Due to his strong skills in management, he became General Manager of the restaurant in 2007, where he oversees Lettuce Entertain You’s largest property, which serves approximately 20,000 people a week. He also was involved with the rollout of breakfast which on some days serves as many as 1,000 people.

Ryan is responsible for the overall operation of Mon Ami in Las Vegas including the financials, hiring, motivating the team, working with the kitchen and the front of house.

Ryan got married in Santa Barbara, CA on September 27, 2016. In his free time, he likes to travel, work out and dining out at new restaurants.

Read full bio for Steve LaHaie

Steve LaHaie

Senior Vice President of the Shaw’s Crab House Division

Steve LaHaie is Senior Vice President of the Shaw’s Crab House Division of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Inc.® (LEYE), which includes Shaw’s Crab House in both Chicago and Schaumburg, Tokio Asian Fusion in Schaumburg and Quality Crab & Oyster Bah in Chicago’s Lincoln Park.

Raised on the shores of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Steve comes from a restaurant family. His grandfather and great-grandfather were fishermen and his father ran a restaurant which featured fresh fish from Lake Michigan. He has a B.A. in Business from Northern Michigan University and an M.B.A. in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management from Michigan State University’s School of Hospitality Business.

Steve joined Lettuce in l981, working as a manager at Jonathan Livingston Seafood restaurant. With his extensive seafood knowledge and growing leadership, Lettuce CEO Kevin Brown pulled Steve into his new project, Shaw’s Crab House. In 1984, Steve became General Manager at Shaw’s first location in Chicago.

Steve was instrumental in Shaw’s divisional growth, managing daily operations while assisting in new restaurant openings. Working again with Kevin in 1986, they opened Shaw’s Deerfield followed by The Eccentric in 1989. With Shaw’s continued success and Steve’s hard work, he was promoted to Managing Partner in 1990. In 1993, the Shaw’s team opened Mity Nice Bar & Grill in Chicago’s Water Tower Place. In 2000, Steve opened Shaw’s third location in Schaumburg. Steve helped open Tokio Asian Fusion in Schaumburg; an izakaya-inspired Asian-fusion restaurant. The Shaw’s Team opened their newest venture, Quality Crab & Oyster Bah, in 2015 on Halsted Street in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago.

During this time, Steve spearheaded the growth in Shaw’s oyster program and menu development, bringing Shaw’s into the spotlight as one of the country’s premier seafood restaurants. Hoping to share his enthusiasm for oysters and fresh fish, he developed several seafood festivals, including Shaw’s annual Oyster festival – a now popular annual event in the Chicagoland area. He initiated a partnership with Shaw’s and Chicago’s famous Shedd Aquarium by joining their sustainable seafood program which supports healthy fishing management.

“I feel a connection to the Great Lakes and all they provide. I grew up on the lakes, live close to one now and vacation in Michigan. I appreciate their beauty and support their health. I want to ensure that the Shaw’s team and menus support this anyway we can,” states Steve.

He looks forward to Shaw’s future and loves his job. “I feel fortunate to be part of this great restaurant in this wonderful city.” Steve is grateful to Kevin Brown for pulling him into this project years ago. “Kevin has been an inspiration to work with and is always bringing new ideas to the table. He is a wonderful partner to have.”

Steve resides in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood near the shores of Lake Michigan.

Read full bio for Yves Roubaud

Yves Roubaud

Executive Chef/Proprietor of Shaw's Crab House

Yves Roubaud, a native of Martigues, France, has been with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises for 40 years. Roubaud began his culinary career with training from Lycee Hotelier de Nice while honing his skills in classic kitchens in the French Riviera.

Chef Roubaud began his career with Lettuce as part of the opening culinary team that created Ambria in 1980, and soon after, Un Grand Cafe. Chef Roubaud worked with Kevin Brown (now CEO of Lettuce) to open the Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago in 1984. Their shared food philosophy of only using the highest quality seafood and letting that quality speak for itself has created a reputation that has spanned more than three decades. Countless personal relationships with oyster farmers, fishermen, and seafood historians have been the building blocks of the culinary culture that has made Shaw’s Crab House one of the most recognizable restaurants in Chicago.

Today, his focus is primarily on his purveyor relationships which ensure the freshest Alaskan king crab, Maine lobster, fin fish and shrimp for Shaw’s, one of the country’s premier seafood restaurants.

When he’s not creating seafood masterpieces for Shaw’s, Roubaud relaxes by traveling, bicycling, and reading. He also spends time as a member of the Academie Culinaire, the chef association of France. Roubaud is married with two children and two grandchildren.


Read full bio for Aaron Mervis

Aaron Mervis

Partner of Wildfire and Big Bowl

Aaron Mervis is a Partner of Wildfire and Big Bowl.

It is no surprise that Aaron Mervis ended up in the restaurant industry; his family is obsessed with food. Mervis grew up going to Lettuce Entertain You restaurants. When he was a teenager, he started talking about what kind of restaurant he would open one day, and thought of Merv’s Bar & Grill. This idea gave him focus and a goal.

After high school, Mervis decided on Washington University in St. Louis and graduated with a degree in Marketing, Spanish, and English Literature. Still, he often thought about the restaurant industry but planned to enter it through marketing. First though, traveling to Europe and experiencing the cultures and cuisines of many different countries were a priority. He spent the next six months traveling and eating his way through Western Europe and then landed in Madrid to teach English for the rest of the year. This experience of meeting new people and sharing stories and adventures helped solidify his dream of running a restaurant.

In 1999 he returned home and met Howard Katz and the Wildfire division. He started his career as a host in Lincolnshire and knew right away that the restaurant business was a perfect fit. The Lincolnshire location was packed, the food was outstanding, and there were numerous challenges for him to help solve. In 2000, he was promoted to the management training program. It was then that Mervis found his first mentor, Ross Buter, who taught him many different aspects of the restaurant industry. Buter encouraged his ideas and challenged him to pursue them with meticulous attention to detail. His first memorable project was to revamp the martini list and make exciting new cocktails, like the martini flight and his dad’s Bloody Mary recipe (both still signatures on the menu today).

Katz and Buter pushed Mervis hard to learn and grow within the company. In 2002 they promoted him to a #2 manager and then encouraged him to experience the opening of the next Wildfire in Glenview in 2004. The challenges of a new restaurant proved pivotal to his success as a General Manager later. In 2006 he returned to Wildfire in Lincolnshire as the General Manager. Just one year later, Katz gave him the opportunity to open their newest location in McLean, VA. The experience of developing a restaurant outside of Chicago while dealing with new market difficulties and a struggling economy motivated him. Mervis now supervises Wildfire in Tysons Galleria.

His current goals are to continue developing his managers’ careers and to expand the company’s name in the DC area. LEYE has played an important role in his personal life as well. At a rehearsal dinner in October 2008 at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! he met his wife Lindsey. They live outside of Washington, DC with their daughters Gracie and Kate. They both love sports, theater, music and, of course – food.

Read full bio for Alan Garfin

Alan Garfin

Vice President of Lettuce Consulting


Alan Garfin was a Senior Vice President and a founding partner of the Lettuce Consulting Group. His responsibilities included restaurant and other hospitality venue services such as back of house operations improvements and implementation, concept development and refreshes, facility build-outs and staff and management training. He also conducted operations assessments, analyzes F&B operations and creates standardization plans for growth.

Alan was instrumental in defining the Consulting Group’s own operating best practices by developing the project methodologies and managing many of the projects. He went on to work with restaurant groups, hotels, theaters, residential dining services, grocery chains and multiple sports venues. Alan led initiative rollouts to chains of more than 100 units.

Alan was in the industry for over 35 years. He began working with LEYE in 1988, working his way up to General Manager and Area Supervisor, periodically joining the opening team for several Lettuce concepts.

Alan earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management at Indiana University with a concentration in Food and Beverage Management.

Read full bio for Cannon Porter

Cannon Porter

Partner of Aba and The Dalcy

Cannon Porter is a Partner of Aba and The Dalcy at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. Her passion for the hospitality industry began in 2004 when she started working at Texas Roadhouse in East Lansing, MI. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, Cannon was promoted to Service and Kitchen Manager. After spending nine years at Texas Roadhouse, Cannon came to Chicago to join the opening team of Beatrix River North as a manager in 2013, where she quickly was promoted to General Manager. In 2015, Cannon led the management team to open Ēma, as the General Manager.

In 2017, Cannon proudly went on to open and oversee Beatrix’s third location in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, where she focused on all aspects of the restaurant including working with the chef and management team, while maintaining a high standard for food and service.

Most recently, Cannon opened one of Lettuce Entertain You’s largest concepts with Aba, a restaurant and rooftop patio and The Dalcy, a private event hall, both located in Fulton Market.

Cannon has a true passion for food and cocktails. When she’s not in the restaurants, Cannon enjoys biking, dining out, attending sporting events and concerts.

Read full bio for Christian Eckmann

Christian Eckmann

Chef Partner of Bub City, Bub City Rosemont, Joe's Life and Three Dots and a Dash

Christian Eckmann is a Chef Partner at Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants where he oversees menu development for more than a dozen restaurant concepts nationwide and is instrumental in the expansion of one of the most successful divisions within the Chicago-based company.

Eckmann initially set out to become a doctor, earning degrees in zoology and neurobiology from Miami University. Upon graduating in 1996, Eckmann decided to take a position in the business world while simultaneously working weekends in the kitchen at Froggy’s in Highwood, Illinois, under chef Thierry Lefeuvre.

In 1998, Eckmann enrolled at Kendall College in Evanston to learn the culinary fundamentals and further expand his knowledge. He headed west to Phoenix as part of his coursework and trained under renowned chef Vincent Guerithault at his first restaurant, Vincent on Camelback, which notoriously introduced the hybrid of French-American and Southwest cuisine. Before graduating with a degree in Culinary Arts in 2000, Eckmann secured a position alongside the internationally acclaimed French master Jean Banchet at the prestigious Le Français in Wheeling, Illinois.

For a year, Eckmann worked alongside Juan Mari Arzak at his three-star Michelin restaurant, Arzak in the Basque town of San Sebastian, and left with a new connection to Spanish cooking combined with his French training. In late 2002, he was introduced to Lettuce managing partner Gabino Sotelino and shortly after in January 2003, he was hired by Chef Sotelino to serve as the sous chef of acclaimed fine dining restaurant Ambria before heading up the kitchen as executive chef. When Ambria closed its doors in June 2007, Eckmann teamed up with LEYE divisional president Chris Meers, whose restaurant repertoire at the time included Mon Ami Gabi locations in Las Vegas, Bethesda, Maryland, Oak Brook and Lincoln Park, Illinois, and the Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! locations in Chicago and Las Vegas.

Today he works to create and implement new dishes for concepts including RJ Grunts, Bub City in River North and Rosemont, Ramen-san, RPM Italian and Three Dots and a Dash. Eckmann is also part of the Bub City Pit Crew, where he travels with the Bub City Rig to festivals nationwide, and plays a large role in the annual Windy City Smokeout—Chicago’s premier BBQ, country music and craft beer festival. In 2015, he made associate partner with Lettuce Entertain You. Eckmann is also a partner with the Windy City Smokeout.

Eckmann resides in Chicago with his wife, Aimee, and son, Sebastian. When not experimenting in the kitchen, he enjoys traveling throughout the world to find new influences, competing in triathlons and gardening at home.

Read full bio for CJ Jacobson

CJ Jacobson

Chef/Partner of Aba and Ema

Orange County-born, Chef CJ Jacobson is best known for his ‘rustic-refined’ way of cooking. His craft revolves around hyper-seasonal, local California ingredients, where foraging plays the main part in the flavor profiles that he creates in his kitchen.

Jacobson has always been one for a good competition. Even before starring on two seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef and, most recently, winning Top Chef Duels in 2014, he attended Pepperdine University in Malibu on a volleyball scholarship and made the U.S. National Volleyball Team.

His professional volleyball career took him to Belgium, Israel, and the Netherlands, where he discovered food could be exciting and inspiring. Jacobson then returned to L.A. where he ultimately decided that restaurants would be his next career path. He enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu-affiliated College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, graduating in 2004 and his first professional job was cooking at Axe, a highly regarded restaurant with an ingredient-driven California menu.

He went on to work throughout California at Campanile under Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton and as a private chef for VIPs such as Arianna Huffington and Guess clothing’s Marciano family.

After his first appearance on Top Chef in 2007, Jacobson accepted a position as executive chef at The Yard, a gastropub in Santa Monica, CA. The following year, Jacobson participated in the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour and in 2012, he staged at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma, working closely with acclaimed Chef René Redzepi. It was there he honed his skills and appreciation for every single ingredient—foraging for it, exploring it, and researching it. In July 2013, he became the executive chef at Girasol restaurant in Studio City, CA, and a year later was brought in as the first chef-in-residence at Intro in Chicago, IL which garnered three stars from the Chicago Tribune.

Jacobson is now the Chef Partner at Aba and Ēma, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant concepts focused on light, Mediterranean-style cooking. Aba recently opened its second location in Austin, TX in 2020 and in 2022, will open a third location in Miami, FL at the Bal Habour Shops.

Read full bio for Corey Milner

Corey Milner

Associate Partner of Summer House and Stella Barra

Corey has always had a passion for the restaurant industry. Starting as a dishwasher in high school at Mrs. Peters Chicken in Kansas City, he worked his way through the restaurant with several positions and received his first management job at J. Gilberts Wood Fired Steaks. He then managed at Houston’s and J. Alexander’s. Working for J. Alexander’s Corey traveled to San Antonio, Houston, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, and finally Chicago.

Finding himself eating at Lettuce Entertain You restaurants on his days off, it was only natural that his next step was to join the Lettuce team. After an inspiring meeting with Executive Partner/President Chris Meers, Corey began his career with LEYE in 2012 as the General Manager at Mon Ami Gabi.

After 8 months at Mon Ami Gabi, Corey quickly proved himself as an integral part of the team and moved to Summer House Santa Monica and Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Chicago to open the restaurants as General Manager. “It was such an awesome learning experience,” said Corey. “From setting up contracts to choosing every detail like plates and napkins, it really taught me what it took to open a restaurant.”

Corey opened Summer House and Stella Barra in Chicago in 2013, followed by a second location in North Bethesda in 2015. Working at the restaurants and spending time with Chris Meers has given Corey the skills to become an entrepreneur.

Operating two of Lettuce’s fastest growing and busiest brands, Corey is passionate about improving hospitality, staying up on food trends, building loyalty with his guests and most importantly, developing his team. “Building a restaurant from the ground up, we were able to put together a fantastic team. It’s been rewarding to cultivate the talent we’ve been given here at our restaurants, and see future leaders move up in the company,” said Corey.

Corey became an Associate Partner in September 2017 after five years with Lettuce. “I am proud of the foundation that we have built over the last few years and I look forward to continuing to grow the Summer House and Stella Barra brands and developing the next generation.”

If he is not at one of the restaurants, you will typically find him on the sidelines of one of his three children’s soccer games with his wife, Shauna.

Read full bio for Darryl Smith

Darryl Smith

Associate Partner of Sushi-San

Darryl is an Associate Partner with Sushi-san, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant in Chicago’s River North. He started his career in hospitality while he was in high school, starting as a dishwasher and then becoming a supervisor at Pizzeria Venti in Barrington, IL.

While attending Western Illinois University, Darryl worked for Levy Restaurants at Arlington Park International Racecourse and the United Center as a shift supervisor for the food and beverage concessions. He graduated from college with a degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management and was referred to Shaw’s Crab House, which is where started his career with Lettuce Entertain You.

In 2009, Darryl started his first role at Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago as a manager and immediately connected with the senior staff and talented management team including partners Sara Rowe and Bill Nevruz. During his time at Shaw’s, Darryl grew to run the Oyster Bar and also take over the wine program.

Darryl had the opportunity to join the team at RPM Italian in Chicago in 2012 shortly after the modern Italian restaurant opened. In addition to running service and managing the beverage program, Darryl also collaborated with the chef team to control food cost at the restaurant. Working with the RPM Italian team opened his eyes to a whole new world of ingredients, preparations and flavors.

In 2014, the RPM Restaurants brand expanded with the opening of RPM Steak in Chicago. As part of the opening team, Darryl spearheaded educating and training the staff about the menu items in addition to managing food costs alongside the chef team. During his time at RPM Steak, Darryl had the opportunity to work alongside Wine Director Richard Hanauer who taught him about the world of fine wine and service. In 2016, Darryl earned his certification as a CMS Certified Sommelier.

Most recently, Darryl opened Sushi-san in 2017 as the General Manager. Working with an entirely new cuisine afforded him another excellent opportunity to learn from Master Sushi Chef Kaze Chan and his partners. Today, Sushi-san has been recognized as one of the Best Sushi Restaurants in Chicago by The Infatuation.

Darryl along with his partners will open a second location of Sushi-san at Catalog in Willis Tower in August 2021.

Growing up in Georgia, WI and the suburbs of Chicago, Darryl and his wife Rosemary met while working at Shaw’s Crab House and are the proud parents of two daughters, Cecelia and Louisa. When he isn’t working in the restaurants, Darryl enjoys trying new restaurants, golfing, fishing, biking through the city and running along the Chicago lakefront.

Read full bio for David DiGregorio

David DiGregorio

Chef Partner at Osteria Via Stato

Raised in Rhode Island, Chef David DiGregorio attributes his appreciation of food to his Italian family’s tradition of cooking and eating together, later knowing as a child that he wanted to be a chef. At fourteen years old, he started his career working at various restaurants until entering the Culinary Arts Program at Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island in 1978.

Throughout a two–year American Culinary Federation apprenticeship at the Mobil four-star Swiss Chalet Restaurant, Chef DiGregorio gained a strong background in cooking classic continental cuisine. In 1982, he moved his career path to Chicago and joined the reopening staff at the 95th Restaurant as a saucier. After working several positions in the kitchen, DiGregorio took over as the 95th’s executive chef in March 1986. Under his leadership, the restaurant was named one of the top ten restaurants of the year by critic James Ward and earned many national industry awards.

During his time with the 95th restaurant, Chef DiGregorio gained the attention of Rich Melman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. In 1992, he became a part of the Lettuce Entertain You family. As Executive Chef Partner of local River North Maggiano’s, he brought to Chicago the Italian tradition of family-style dining and a greater appreciation of classic, American-Italian cuisine making the restaurant a legendary Chicago favorite.

In 2004, after taking a trip and dining throughout Italy with LEYE founder and Chairman Rich Melman, the team opened Osteria Via Stato in Chicago’s River North. Focusing on Italian dining that he experienced during his journey, the restaurant follows the Italian tradition of seasonal ingredients and local flavors. Osteria Via Stato’s simple and honest approach has made it a favorite mainstay for today’s epicureans—from neighborhood locals to award-winning chefs and winemakers throughout the world. In 2007, Chef DiGregorio and his team launched Pizzeria Via Stato, a Roman-style pizzeria featuring ingredient-driven tavern pizzas, salads, and small plates.

Chef DiGregorio continues to keep creativity and quality his top priorities for developing his ever-evolving, seasonally-driven menus. He seeks out and develops relationships with farmers, family-owned establishments and artisanal purveyors throughout the Midwest, assuring him the freshest, most innovative ingredients available.

Osteria Via Stato has received numerous awards and accolades including recognition in Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Food & Wine; as well as being named Best Italian Restaurant in Time Out Chicago. The restaurant is also the recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence. Chef DiGregorio keeps an active schedule supporting charities and organizations close to his heart, including Chicago’s Green City Market, Meals-on-Wheels and United Cerebral Palsy Seguin of Greater Chicago.

Chef DiGregorio and his wife, Tiyang, have been married for 30 years and have three sons.

Read full bio for Eric Rose

Eric Rose

Partner of Hub 51, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash and Joe’s Live

Eric Rose is a Partner of Hub 51, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash and Joe’s Live.

For ten years, Eric has been an integral part of the Melman division influencing the growth of Hub 51, Bub City, Three Dots and a Dash, The Windy City Smokeout and the most recent location of Bub City and Joe’s Live in Rosemont. Eric developed a fondness for dining out at a young age, seeking new experiences at great restaurants all over the world. Though he grew up in Northbrook, Illinois, Eric developed a great relationship with his grandparents on the West Coast. His grandfather, a great businessman himself, also had a passion for food and fine dining – a trait that inspired Eric as a young man. After attending Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Eric returned to Chicago to focus on a career in the hospitality industry.

After working with Bravo! Cucina Italiana and J Alexander’s, Eric joined Lettuce Entertain You in 2008. Originally hired to work at the first LEYE restaurant, RJ Grunts, he was seen as an integral part of the team and Partners RJ and Jerrod Melman asked him to help open Hub 51.

A strong leader, Eric built a unique culture among his team which has played a significant role in his success within the company. “The best part about my role as manager, and now partner, is I can help my staff find their calling. Whether it is here, in the restaurant industry or elsewhere, I am excited to help our team grow,” states Eric.

A resident of Northbrook, Eric enjoys playing basketball, traveling, and spending time with his wife, Ashley, and their two daughters, Maya and Taylor.

Read full bio for Francis Brennan

Francis Brennan

Chef Partner

In 1998, Francis Brennan walked into a two-star Michelin restaurant in Dublin, Ireland and asked if he could work for free to learn – and the chef said yes. Brennan had worked in kitchens while attending University of California at Santa Barbara, but with no other experience in the field, this top-tier restaurant gave him a full-time position just one month later. At this point, Brennan still did not consider pursuing a career as a chef until one night in the middle of service. He remembers having an epiphany that as a chef, he could take an ingredient and turn it into a moment of pure happiness for a guest. Years later, that remains Brennan’s favorite part of being a chef and he is influenced and motivated by the look that comes over guests when they taste something they love.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay area, Chef Brennan enjoyed cooking for his family and friends from an early age. Never attending formal culinary school, Brennan developed his style while living and working in Europe and all over the United States. Now Brennan is Partner and Chef for Summer House Santa Monica and Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar.

Before landing at Lettuce Entertain You, Brennan worked at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, Ireland, the famed Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago, and Aquavit in New York City, before honing his love and skill for baking at Payard Patisserie in New York City, where he became the head bread baker. After his time in New York, Brennan moved home to San Francisco to become Chef de Cuisine at Fifth Floor. Wanting to move back to Chicago, he took a job with the Park Hyatt on Michigan Avenue as the Chef de Cuisine at NoMI. He moved on to join the Lettuce Entertain You family in 2008 on the opening team of L2O, where he would create their famed bread program and where he met Chef/Partner Jeff Mahin who was also from Northern California.

The two chefs started collaborating on side projects from the beginning, searching for a way to bring California-inspired cuisine to Chicago and serve the type of food that they enjoyed back home. In the meantime, Brennan started working at Petterino’s downtown where he noticed a small, underused space in the building, which he saw as an opportunity to team up with Mahin to create Do-Rite Donuts, a chef-driven doughnut concept that prepares small batches using seasonal ingredients. Brennan was then enlisted by Executive Partner and President of the Mon Ami Gabi Division, Chris Meers, to help out at Mon Ami Gabi and Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, extending both restaurants’ bread programs, which put him in the right place to finally create his California-style concept with Mahin–Summer House Santa Monica on Halsted. In January 2015, he and Chef Mahin expanded Summer House Santa Monica to the Washington, D.C. market, opening Summer House in North Bethesda, MD. In February 2015, Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar opened in North Bethesda, MD.

Brennan now lives in Lincoln Park with his wife Sarah and their children, Henry and Harrison. When not working, he works on the couple’s 150-year-old vintage row house and enjoys traveling and dining with his family.

Read full bio for Grant Waspi

Grant Waspi

Associate Partner and Director of Operations at Lettuce Fly, LLC

Grant Waspi is the Associate Partner and Director of Operations at Lettuce Fly, LLC, the airport division of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants. Lettuce Fly introduces Lettuce’s high-quality dining experiences to the traveling public including full-service restaurants, bars, kiosks and markets.

Originally from Palatine, IL, Grant has been working in the restaurant industry ever since he was 14 years old, when he worked as a busboy and food runner at Fritzl’s European Restaurant & Pub in Lake Zurich, IL. While Grant was in school studying Business Management at Eastern Illinois University, he continued working in restaurants, working a multitude of positions both front-of-house and back-of-house at Tracks Bar and Grill in Cary, IL.

Grant started his career with Lettuce as an intern in 2007 at Osteria Via Stato in Chicago, IL. He worked his way up to Manager and was promoted to General Manager in 2011. In 2015, Grant moved up to Divisional Supervisor, assisting Executive Partner Scott Barton in the day-to-day operations.

In 2018, Grant began to work with Lettuce Fly and today, Grant oversees more than a dozen different airport restaurants in several cities around the country including Chicago, Washington D.C., Denver, Charlotte and Orlando is coming soon. The airport restaurant brands include signature Lettuce concepts like Big Bowl, Magic Pan, Hub 51, Summer House Santa Monica, Urban Olive, RJ Grunts Burgers & Fries, Big City Chicken, Tallboy Taco, and more to come in the future.

In addition to overseeing operations of Lettuce Fly, Grant also works in partnership with Dream Golf at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Nekoosa, WI, assisting in development of food and beverage programs at the resort. Grant is passionate about bringing the same attention to detail and Lettuce culture of caring to Lettuce Fly concepts. To achieve this, Grant believes it is critical to spend time working side-by-side with the employees in the restaurants.

When Grant is not in the restaurants, he enjoys spending time with his wife Michelle and their three children Payton, Maya and Easton and their dog Stone. As a family they love to be outdoors, and enjoy skiing, camping, fishing, and hiking.

Read full bio for Greg Nemeth

Greg Nemeth

Partner of Wildfire and Big Bowl

Greg Nemeth is a Partner with the Wildfire & Big Bowl Division at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises.

Born in Chicago but raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Greg’s passion for food started when he would assist his mom in making dinner as a child. Growing up he worked many different positions at a local iconic restaurant, The Hayward Fishery, and that cemented his hospitality career trajectory.

A graduate of California Culinary Academy, Greg held various leadership positions within the hospitality industry, including with The Santa Barbara Biltmore, Max’s Restaurants of San Francisco, The Northern California Golf Association, The Cheesecake Factory and Granite City.
In 2006, Greg rejoined Max’s Restaurants, as they were looking to expand into the Chicagoland market. He returned to his hometown and opened Billy Berk’s Restaurant & Piano Bar in Westfield’s Old Orchard.
Greg joined Lettuce Entertain You in 2010 and since then has served as a General Manager at three Wildfire locations, Lincolnshire, Chicago and Glenview where he plays an important role in developing the management team in the Wildfire division.

Greg lives in Western Springs with his wife, Marina and their children, Andrew and Lucia. He loves attending Little League Games, orchestra concerts and dance recitals.

Read full bio for Hisanobu Osaka

Hisanobu Osaka


Chef Hisanobu Osaka, a native from Japan, started his culinary journey after graduating from Tsuji Culinary School in Osaka—Japan’s most famous culinary school. Chef Osaka has been working in the culinary industry for more than 30 years focusing on both Japanese and French cuisine. For the first 10 years of his career, Chef Osaka worked for Hilton Hotel Group alongside well renowned chef and Sopexa winner Mizuno san, and Seiyo Shokubo, a very successful bistro in Nagoya. As Chef de Partie at the Hilton in Nagoya, Chef Osaka assisted in special events, where he was able to work with world-renowned Michelin-starred Chef Mark Meneau of L’Esperance. With that experience, Chef Osaka’s interests spread abroad when he was chosen to become the executive and private chef for the General Counsel of Japan in New Orleans in 1998.

In 2002, Chef Osaka joined Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto to work as a sous chef for his restaurants in Philadelphia and New York. Chef Osaka was able to influence menu development as well as further master his craft. In 2009, he went on to work with Chef Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud and Daniel in New York (where Daniel won three Michelin stars in 2010) before returning to Chef Morimoto’s team as a corporate chef where he assisted with training and menu development at Morimoto Napa, Waikiki, Mexico and Miami. Chef Osaka was also part of the opening team for Chef Morimoto’s Canvas in New York as well as his restaurant in Chicago.

Shortly after his arrival to Chicago, Chef Osaka joined Lettuce Entertain You as a corporate chef and served as the visiting chef of Intro from November 2016 – January 2017. Currently, Chef Osaka works alongside chefs in the Lettuce Entertain You test kitchen assisting in menu development for new concepts and existing brands including for Wow Bao, Aba and more. In 2018, Chef Osaka opened Lettuce Entertain You’s first wine bar, Bar Ramone.

Read full bio for Janet Kirker

Janet Kirker

Chef/Partner of Beatrix Market

Janet Kirker grew up in Champaign, Illinois and developed a passion for food at a young age while spending time in the kitchen with her mother and grandmothers. Preparing food for holidays and celebrations year after year sparked not only her interest in cooking, but enticed Janet to learn more about the culinary arts.

Janet’s first job in a professional kitchen was as a dishwasher at a local catering company. She eagerly worked up to a cook position and continued growing with the company throughout high school and college, where she received a B.S. in Restaurant Management from the University of Illinois in 1993, and her Culinary Arts degree from The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1995.

After school, Janet joined the team at Chicago’s iconic restaurant, Charlie Trotter’s. She spent most of her time in the pastry department, which led her to be the Assistant Pastry Chef at Danny Meyer’s Contemporary Indian Cuisine restaurant, Tabla, in New York City three years later. From there, Janet broadened her experience in other various positions including the Sous Chef at Café Lucy in Napa, Sous Chef and Executive Chef at Charlie Trotter’s, Trotter’s To-Go, and the Culinary Director at The Chopping Block in Chicago.

In July of 2012, Janet joined Lettuce Entertain You as the Executive Chef at Foodease in Water Tower Place, where she helped expand the concept through menu creation and operations. Three years later, Janet was influential in the opening of Beatrix Market in Streeterville, where as the Executive Chef she brought delicious, healthful and homemade food to the restaurant. Today, Janet is a Partner of all Beatrix Market locations and Beatrix.

In her free time, Janet is passionate about all things wine, vacationing, visiting local farmers markets, cooking at home for friends, and spending time with her husband.

Read full bio for Jason Hollembeak

Jason Hollembeak

Creative Director and Associate Partner

Jason C is the Creative Director and an Associate Partner at Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants. Jason leads the in-house design team who are responsible for creating the branding and visual communications from menu design and merchandise to signage and more on behalf of the restaurants as well as the Lettuce corporate brand.

Jason has always had a passion for art and design, attending school at Columbia College in Chicago, IL.

In addition to his love of art and design, Jason also has a passion for restaurants and hospitality. He started his career with Lettuce more than 20 year ago as a bartender and host at Scoozi in 1997. He eventually moved into management at Scoozi and Antico Posto. He briefly left Lettuce to start a freelance graphic design career and re-joined Lettuce at foodlife, Chicago’s first food hall, in 2000. Over the next few years, he assisted with other Lettuce concepts including Tucci Benucch, Big Bowl, Wow Bao, Mon Ami Gabi, Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! and more.

It was during the opening of Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! in Las Vegas that Jason began to develop a relationship with Lettuce founder, Rich Melman. He collaborated with Rich on menu design and branding and in 2004, Jason moved to the Lettuce corporate office to begin working on graphic design for all Lettuce restaurant brands as well as the corporate brand.

From there, the graphic design team at Lettuce was born and in 2011, Jason was named Creative Director, where he and his designers oversee all facets of visual communications in-house. Today, Jason and his team work closely with partners, chefs and operators to create the branding, menus, signage, packaging, merchandise, marketing and social media campaigns and website design.

In addition to restaurant design, Jason is also a partner in the award-winning barbecue and country music festival, Windy City Smokeout that started in 2013. Jason and his team handle all the branding for the festival, execute on-site graphics, merchandise, promotions, and more.

Jason lives in Chicago with his wife Eileen. In his free time, he loves to travel and eat abroad, as well as play the drums.

Read full bio for Jeff Mahin

Jeff Mahin

Chef / Partner of Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar, Summer House Santa Monica and Do-Rite Donuts

Jeff Mahin is the co-founder of consumable nutrition brand Split Nutrition, as well as a chef / partner of Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar (Santa Monica, Hollywood, Chicago, Bethesda), Summer House Santa Monica (Chicago, Bethesda) and Do-Rite Donuts (Chicago).

Mahin has accumulated several industry accolades including Zagat “30 under 30” list in 2012, Forbes “30-under-30” list of hospitality industry up-and-comers in 2012 and Restaurant Hospitality’s “13 to watch in 2013,”; as well as been a contestant on the first season of ABC’s “The Taste.” Chef Mahin is also the host of Cooking Channel’s newest cooking competition, Farmer’s Market Flip which debuted in April 2017.

Mahin spent much of his teen years using his natural talent and instinct to construct and deconstruct whatever foods he touched in his family’s kitchen. At age 17, Mahin began his professional training at the California Culinary Academy and later studied science and mathematics at University of California, Berkley. Mahin has had experience working in prestigious kitchens around the country from Nobu in New York City to San Francisco’s Millennium, Blackhawk Grill and Patrick David’s. In 2006, he became a laboratory assistant at the three-star Michelin rated restaurant, The Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire, England under chef/owner Heston Blumenthal.

In 2007, Mahin headed back to the U.S. where he assisted famed chef Laurent Gras in opening L2O in Chicago, LEYE’s Michelin-starred, modern seafood restaurant. He then started as a corporate chef within LEYE, collaborating closely with the hospitality group’s partners including Lettuce founder Rich Melman to develop new recipes for the group’s more than 100 restaurants.

Mahin opened his first LEYE concept, artisanal pizzeria Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar, in Santa Monica in 2011 with LEYE managing partners R.J. and Jerrod Melman. There he experimented with more than 30 different variations to create restaurant’s signature pizza crust, using locally-milled flour and farmer’s market ingredients to make up the ever-changing menu. His California concepts also include M Street Kitchen in Santa Monica and the second location of Stella Barra in Hollywood.

In 2012, Mahin expanded to Chicago, partnering with Chef Francis Brennan to open artisanal doughnut shop Do-Rite Donuts and in summer 2014, Mahin and Brennan opened the second Do-Rite location in downtown Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. Do-Rite’s doughnuts are prepared daily in small batches and utilize seasonal ingredients like Meyer lemon in the winter and fraise des bois in the spring.

In addition to Do-Rite, Mahin increased his Chicago presence in fall 2013 with two new Lincoln Park restaurants: his third iteration of Stella Barra, as well as a new concept, Summer House Santa Monica, bringing laid-back California-style cuisine to the Windy City. Designed to evoke a laidback, friendly vibe reminiscent of the Golden State, Summer House serves an ever-changing menu that spotlights locally-sourced produce and ingredients whenever possible and also boasts Mahin’s signature artisanal bread program.

In early 2015, Mahin expanded to the Washington, DC market, opening the fourth location of Stella Barra and the second location of Summer House Santa Monica in North Bethesda, MD.

Mahin is also an ambassador for Chefs Cycle, a fundraising endurance event featuring award-winning chefs fighting childhood hunger outside the kitchen. Last year, Jeff and over 100 other chefs from around the country raised over 1 million dollars to battle childhood hunger in the U.S. Next year, Jeff plans to ride across the U.S. with fellow chefs to raise money and awareness for No Kid Hungry and Chefs Cycle.

When Mahin isn’t cooking or riding his bike, he can be seen on a variety of cooking shows including Sugar Showdown on Cooking Channel. He also has a passion for health and nutrition, and enjoys discussing food and with some of the country’s leading nutritionists.

Read full bio for Jeffrey Hubbeling

Jeffrey Hubbeling

Partner and Director of Operations for Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood

Jeffrey Hubbeling is Partner and Director of Operations for Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood, all located at 317 N. Clark Street along the Chicago River in downtown Chicago.

After receiving a Bachelor of Arts in history from American University, Jeffrey opted to forgo graduate school and instead head to Colorado to ski. There, he took a job with the Chart House restaurant so he could ski during the day and work at night. This is where he found his passion for the restaurant business. The Chart House soon offered him the opportunity to go into management, so in 1992 he joined their team. In 1994, he moved to New York to become the General Manager of Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Manhattan where he enjoyed great success. After more than a decade there, Jeffrey was promoted to Midwest Regional Vice President, covering eleven locations, and relocated to Chicago in 2006.

Having moved to the Chicago area with his wife – who was expecting their first child at the time – the couple landed in Naperville. The job of RVP required a great deal of travel, which Jeffrey grew tired of, so he applied to work for Lettuce Entertain You. In March 2010, he was hired as the General Manager of Shaw’s Crab House. In 2015, Jeffrey moved to the role of General Manager at RPM Italian where he thrived on the excitement of the industry and focused on personal and professional development for both himself and his team and was later named Associate Partner.

Jeffrey spent four years as General Manager of RPM Italian before moving over in 2019 to the RPM brand’s latest development – a multi-level project located right on the Chicago River – where he serves as both Partner and Director of Operations. The space houses three different concepts: the casual riverfront restaurant, Pizzeria Portofino; a private event and wedding space, RPM Events; and the fish and seafood-focused restaurant, RPM Seafood.

When asked what he’s most proud of, Jeffrey says it’s having worked for LEYE brands that have had sales growth year after year, and he is looking forward to working with his partners in developing RPM into one of the best restaurant brands in the country.

Jeffrey resides in Naperville and enjoys spending time with his lovely wife, Jana, and their daughter, Abigail, who is a competitive figure skater. He also enjoys playing golf, running, rock climbing and reading in his free time.

Read full bio for John Chiakulas

John Chiakulas

Chef/ Partner of Aba, Antico Posto, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ēma, Rotisserie Ema, Foodease Market, L. Woods and The Dalcy


John Chiakulas is Corporate Chef of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Chef/ Partner of Aba, Antico Posto, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ēma, Rotisserie Ema, Foodease Market, L. Woods and The Dalcy.

His journey with LEYE began at Ambria in 1981, rising through the ranks from fish butcher to becoming Executive Chef of Scoozi! when it opened a decade later. His experiences traveling through Italy awakened his imagination and enthusiasm for Italian cooking; these skills translated well to his extensive experience at more than three dozen LEYE restaurants, including Tru, L. Woods and Wildfire.

John was instrumental in the redesign of Foodlife in Water Tower Place and pushed the envelope in developing Foodease into what he now considers a “chef’s playground” because of its diverse offerings. In 2011, he teamed up with the Lettuce Consulting Group to bring his creativity to clients nationwide.

As Chef Partner, John is constantly testing new dishes, updating and perfecting existing items and using his creativity and skill to push the envelope with healthful, yet tasty ingredients. He is always “hungry for more” in his leadership role, and is always thinking how he can bring his current concepts and other projects to the next level.

Read full bio for John Economos

John Economos

Partner at Beatrix

John Economos first began his restaurant career with Lettuce Entertain You in 2006 at Di Pescara in Northbrook, IL. Since then, he has gained experience at a number of restaurants within Lettuce Entertain You’s portfolio, including Petterinos, Foodlife, Foodease, Beatrix, Beatrix Market and Bar Ramone.

In 2013, John joined the opening management team at Beatrix River North. He was instrumental in the development of the restaurant’s coffee and music programs and also worked with mixologists to create the fresh-squeezed juice cocktail menu.

In 2015, John was promoted to General Manager and led the opening team of Beatrix Streeterville. He helped create the first Beatrix Market, a quick grab and go experience, while also continuing to drive the beverage culture for the Beatrix brand. John also assisted with the opening of Lettuce Entertain You’s first wine bar, Bar Ramone in 2018.

When John is not in the restaurants, he enjoys going to concerts and spending time with his wife, Jenny and their son, George.

Read full bio for Justin Diglia

Justin Diglia

Associate Chef Partner at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab

Justin Diglia is the Associate Chef Partner at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab. Growing up in a small Midwestern town of only 1,800, Justin Diglia’s interest in hospitality didn’t stem from dining at splashy restaurants or eating the food of award-winning chefs. Rather, it was the time he spent in the kitchens of his Italian family members, learning first-hand, the art of heartfelt, soulful cooking, that initially inspired his culinary ambitions.

Recognizing that food and hospitality had become his passion, Diglia decided to attend Sullivan University where he graduated with a double major in Culinary Arts and Business Administration. Following graduation, he took a position as Executive Sous Chef at Vincenzo’s, an old world Italian restaurant located in Louisville, Kentucky. It was here that Justin honed his skills, fine-tuning his craft and mastering classic Italian and French techniques.

Eager to spread his wings in a bigger culinary city, Justin moved to Chicago in 2011. While he will admittedly say that the proximity to his Ohio hometown was an added bonus, it was the opportunity to join one of the most highly regarded restaurant groups in the country, Lettuce Entertain You, that really sold him. Justin joined the team at Joe’s in 2011 as a Sous Chef, where his effusive goodwill and killer work ethic allowed him to quickly rise the ranks. Justin was named Executive Chef of Joe’s Chicago in the fall of 2016, and in 2021, was named an Associate Chef Partner. He is responsible for overseeing the culinary teams and operations in each of Joe’s markets including Chicago, Washington D.C. and Las Vegas

Justin is constantly inspired by his teams’ passion for excellence and credits the high standards of service and quality of product as reasons that set Joe’s apart from its competition.

Justin currently resides in Chicago with his wife and two daughters. When he is not in the kitchen, he enjoys spending time with his two Shibu Inu’s, working out and watching Ohio State football.

Read full bio for Kaela Young

Kaela Young

Partner at KremeWorks

Kaela Young is the Partner at KremeWorks. She joined the Krispy Kreme team in February 2004 as a Guest Service Representative. She quickly fell in love with the culture of the company and the opportunities for growth. After six months, Kaela transitioned to a leadership position as Shift Supervisor. After learning more about business operations, she developed her finance skills and advanced to an Office Manager.

In 2007, she briefly left Krispy Kreme to teach English in Harbin, China. Although it was a great experience, she returned to Krispy Kreme as the Assistant General Manager in Delta and a year later was promoted to General Manager. In 2010, the Multi-Unit Manager position was created and she was asked to oversee operations in Delta, British Columbia as well as Maui, HI. She was promoted to Director of Operations in 2012 and took on the additional responsibility of the 10 Krispy Kreme locations in the Pacific Northwest.

Kaela moved to the U.S. in 2015 and in her free time, she enjoys traveling, photography, baking, playing board games, and reading.

Read full bio for Kaze Chan

Kaze Chan

Master Sushi Chef & Partner | Sushi-San

Master sushi chef Kaze Chan began his culinary career at the age of 20 while simultaneously pursuing his degree in architecture. He apprenticed at Restaurant Suntory in Boston as Assistant Sushi Chef, and from there he continued his culinary training under official Japanese Sushi Master, Shozu Iwamoto.

Upon graduation, Chan moved to Chicago where he was exposed to cuisines from around the world. New flavors and styles inspired him to incorporate global ingredients into his Japanese dishes. He furthered his career at premier establishments, including Sai Café, Mirai, Heat, Sushi Samba and Executive Chef / Partner of Kaze Sushi, where he refined his craft and continued to break the mold of Japanese cuisine.

In 2009, Chan was named Executive Sushi Chef / Partner at Macku Sushi. During this time, his innovative take on Japanese cuisine garnered high praise, being named one of the country’s best sushi restaurants by Travel + Leisure magazine and recommended by the Michelin Guide. From there, Chan joined Boka Restaurant Group’s Momotaro as Head Sushi Chef in 2014, where his passion for Japanese cuisine accompanied by his architectural background transformed each dish into a unique work of art.

With more than 20 years of experience in all facets of traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine, Chan made the move to the renowned Chicago-based restaurant group, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE). In December 2017, Chan and his LEYE partners opened up Sushi-san in the heart of Chicago’s River North – a “not-your-typical sushi joint” that serves up crispy hand rolls, bincho-tan roasted meats and ice-cold Asahi beer in a raw industrial atmosphere. Guests can see Chan and his sushi chefs in action at the sushi counter for a 45-minute-for-$45 omakase experience spotlighting the day’s most unique and interesting ingredients.

Chan and the Sushi-san team of partners have a number of projects in the works, including the opening of a second Sushi-san in Chicago’s iconic Willis Tower this spring. The team is also working on a dedicated upscale omakase room above Sushi-san River North where Chan will showcase a 16-course menu with luxury ingredients.

Read full bio for Kevin Trojanowski

Kevin Trojanowski

Partner Beatrix Market in Streeterville, The Loop and DePaul

Kevin’s passion for food began when he was a child, where he would cook and bake with his grandparents using fresh produce from their home garden. Kevin worked in a high-volume bakery throughout high school, and it is here that his love for the business was cemented. After college, Kevin managed a small taqueria, which taught him the importance of attention to detail, cherishing the guest and watching every penny.

Kevin joined Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises in 2005 as a manager of Foodlife, Chicago’s Original Food Hall, at Water Tower Place. With more than 25 years in the restaurant industry, Kevin has spent more than half his career at Lettuce. He has grown tremendously within the organization during that time; working his way up from a floor manager to General Manager, to now a Partner.

He has brought structure to multiple management teams in which he oversees, has implemented efficient operating systems for more than ten restaurants, focuses on improving profitability and continues to drive food culture daily. Kevin helped develop the Foodease Market concept in Water Tower Place and has been instrumental in the creation of Beatrix Market located in Fulton Market, Streeterville, Chicago’s Loop, and at DePaul University’s downtown campus.

Most recently, Kevin spearheaded the creation of a sustainability initiative for Lettuce. He executed the company-wide goal to remove plastics and is currently working with scientists to find certified, biodegradable solutions to eliminate waste and landfill production from the restaurants.

When he is not in the restaurants, Kevin enjoys spending time with his wife, Christine and his two daughters, Haley and Peyton. He also enjoys cooking for his family, gardening and fishing.

Read full bio for Mark Sotelino

Mark Sotelino

Partner, Mon Ami Gabi and Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!

Mark Sotelino is a Partner at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and is responsible for supervising concepts including Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! and four Mon Ami Gabi locations. Sotelino was born and raised in Chicago and grew up in the various restaurants that his father Chef Gabino Sotelino helped create and grow with Lettuce Entertain You. Mark started his career in hospitality at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! as a host while he was a journalism student at DePaul University.

His passion for food, wine and service was unlocked immediately and at just 21 years old, Mark started to train as a manager at Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!.His tenure with Lettuce took him to both front-of-house and back-of-house at several restaurants including Mon Ami Gabi, Ambria, Shaw’s Crab House, Vong’s Thai Kitchen and RJ Grunts.

In 2000, Mark was on the opening team of the Mon Ami Gabi-Oakbrook as a manager and two years later, he relocated to Washington D.C. to open Mon Ami Gabi-Bethesda. Mark returned to Chicago and in 2004 and worked as a manager at Scoozi, becoming the general manager just one year later.

In 2008, Mark was offered the role of general manager of Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, a role he excelled in for about nine years, before transitioning into a divisional supervisor role in 2017.

Mark has been with LEYE for more than 20 years and today he oversees training and developing for four Mon Ami Gabi locations including Lincoln Park, Oakbrook, Reston and Bethesda.

While his number one passion is food and beverage, Mark is an avid basketball fan who loves to write from time-to-time, especially when he is traveling.

Read full bio for Matt Mulvihill

Matt Mulvihill

Partner of Saranello’s

Matt Mulvihill is a partner of Saranello’s, a restaurant by Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE).

A native of Glenview, IL, Matt graduated from the University of Illinois-Champaign with a degree in restaurant management in 1987. He spent the following six years working for S & A Restaurant Corporation, and in 1993, he was hired by LEYE to serve in management at Maggiano’s Little Italy. In 1996, Maggiano’s was sold to Brinker International where Matt continued his services as a Managing Partner. He went to Washington D.C. to open up restaurants and lived there for three years. In 2000 he became the Midwest Director for Maggiano’s and opened up four restaurants in the region. Matt then rejoined LEYE in May 2007 as the general manager and partner of Reel Club in Oakbrook, IL, which he opened with Mark Tormey and Mychael Bonner. He was at Reel Club until 2016 before taking over at Saranello’s.

Matt ultimately decided to rejoin LEYE because of the challenge and excitement of opening a new restaurant. “LEYE has a quality reputation for the food, service, and overall operation of their restaurants,” he comments. “I knew people within the company whom I trust and believe in.”

In 2016, Matt took his expertise to Saranello’s, while also continuing to work with other restaurants within the Di Pescara Division.

As a general manager, Matt says no day is the same and enjoys taking care of people and improving operational efficiency on a daily basis. He loves being surrounded by employees who truly make the restaurant work at an optimum level.

While restaurants are an important part of Matt’s life, his family is integral to his success. Matt has been married to his wife Frances for 22 years and they have three children: Mitchell, Maria, and Nicholas. Matt and Frances also keep busy attending many baseball, basketball and lacrosse games, and other sporting events that their three children are involved in. Matt and his family currently reside in Hinsdale, IL.

Matt cherishes being a part of LEYE family, which he calls a “wonderful group of people to grow with personally and professionally.”

Read full bio for Maureen Larson

Maureen Larson

Partner of Aba, The Dalcy and The Ivy Room

Maureen Larson is a Lettuce Entertain You Partner with Aba & The Dalcy as well as The Ivy Room.

Maureen’s passion for the hospitality industry was sparked between her Freshman & Sophomore year of college during a summer job at The Drake Hotel. She immediately loved meeting people from around the world and making their stay unforgettable. Switching colleges she headed off to the University of Wisconsin Stout majoring in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

After several years in the hotel industry, she joined Lettuce Entertain You in 1991 pursuing a career in sales and catering. Maureen worked at many Lettuce restaurants including Brasserie Jo, Papagus and Bub City as a Sales and Catering Manager and then the Divisional Director of Sales. In the early 2000’s Maureen moved to the LEYE corporate office eventually becoming the Vice President of Parties and Special Events. In 2015 she became a Partner in Lettuce Entertain You’s first event venue The Ivy Room followed by The Dalcy Event Hall in the Summer of 2018.

Maureen has two children who she says she learns so much from each and every day. She has a passion for helping develop young women leaders, is a sports enthusiast (Go Bears and Cubs!), and loves serving on several boards in the city of Chicago.

Read full bio for Michael Bellovich

Michael Bellovich

Chef/Partner of HUB 51, R.J. Grunts, RPM Italian and Bub City in Chicago, and all Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar and Summer House Santa Monica

Michael Bellovich is a chef partner of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, overseeing restaurants HUB 51, R.J. Grunts, RPM Italian and Bub City in Chicago, and all Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar and Summer House Santa Monica locations nationwide.

Born and raised in Chicago, Mike became interested in the origins of food and wine at a young age, thanks to his two grandmothers (hailing from Sicily and Czechoslovakia) always preparing hand-made meals. Wanting to emulate the food he always enjoyed growing up eventually led him to the Washburne Culinary Institute in Chicago where he expanded his passion to the restaurant industry. Upon graduating, Mike dove in and after working for LaBelle Gourmet Catering in LaGrange, Ill., for a few months, he took a position as sous chef at Carlucci’s in Chicago.

It wasn’t long before Mike’s love for cooking led him to Italy where he worked at various restaurants and took in the rich culture, history and of course, food. After returning to the States in 1998, he joined the Lettuce Entertain You family and was part of the team behind the kitchen doors at the casual Asian concept, Big Bowl. He went on to help assist in opening and operating numerous Big Bowl restaurants across the country before heading off to Las Vegas and joining renowned Chef Gabino Sotelino at Spanish tapas restaurant Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! where he used his culinary expertise as the executive chef.

After a brief stint at Devito’s in Miami, Mike returned to the Windy City where he assisted in the conception and opening of River North dining destination HUB 51. A 13-year Lettuce Entertain You veteran, Mike works closely with restaurateurs R.J. and Jerrod Melman and plays an important role at each of their restaurants overseeing the kitchen, operations, teaching, and training on a daily basis.

One of his biggest achievements has been starting new restaurant concepts, from the kitchen blueprints to the menu, and seeing the end result – customers enjoying the food. He aspires to continue opening new restaurants and enjoying the wild and crazy journey that often follows.

Today, Mike resides in the River North neighborhood of Chicago and when he’s not in the kitchen, can be found biking along the lakeshore in the summertime and taking in the occasional baseball game. While catching a good flick is on the top of his list, collecting cookbooks also ranks as a hobby – the “Fat Duck Cookbook” being his most recent addition.

Read full bio for Michael Cunningham

Michael Cunningham

Partner of Cafe Ba Ba-Reeba!, Mon Ami Gabi, Summer House Santa Monica and Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar

Michael Cunningham was named a Partner of Mon Ami Gabi & Café Ba Ba Reeba!, Lettuce Entertain You, Enterprises (LEYE) in 2008.

Born the 3rd of eight children, the Cunningham house was always filled with visitors. Conversation and activities were an integral part of the mix. His parents often entertained guests at their large house and were known for their cocktail and dinner parties. He believes that this background set him up for success in the restaurant business because a restaurateur’s job is to entertain on a larger scale but with the same care as if it were your own party. His father often visited Chicago and St. Louis, and at a very young age he accompanied him on these trips and was educated on the proper manners and etiquette of dining out at restaurants. That was back in the days when the doorman at the Drake hotel was responsible to make sure a child didn’t leave the building while the Doctor was attending meetings!

After high school, Cunningham proudly served an 18-month tour of duty in Vietnam and then set off for college at Eastern Illinois University. While in college he managed a popular college bar and a liquor store. After graduation, he became general manager of a full-service restaurant. After a few years of success there he set his sites on going to California to work for Bob Morris, owner of a beach restaurant that was then the busiest restaurant in California and the 7th busiest in the US. Bob’s forte was menu innovation and marketing. Cunningham enjoyed the assertive marketing style. He became Vice President of Operations for the five restaurants in that company & in charge of the catering division, which often involved the beachfront, clambakes & celebrities. Cunningham is most proud of raising sales from $6 million to $14.5 million in sales during his tenure. “This experience enforced my belief that marketing and special events are an important part of a successful store.”

In 1992, Cunningham moved back to Illinois to be closer to his family. He took the year off to travel & dine through much of Europe & the United States. In 1993 he began his career with LEYE as General Manager of The Pump Room. In 1998, he moved from tuxedos to tapas and became General Manager of Café Ba Ba Reeba! He was excited about working with a top chef, Gabino Sotelino, and has enjoyed growing the business to new heights. Cunningham said, “I enjoy the restaurant business and the challenges that it offers. I appreciate LEYE’s depth of systems and the backup that is available for the management, from its marketing department to the human resources and accounting arms. The hands-on approach by members of the executive committee makes it a comfortable company to be a member of.”

Michael was Project Coordinator for the building of Summer House Santa Monica & Stella Barra Pizzeria & Wine Bar in Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL (opened November 2014) and North Bethesda, MD. (opened January 2015) as well as RPM Italian in Washington D.C. (opened June 2016).

Michael oversees the Mon Ami Gabi wine list for the five locations and was awarded the Chevalier of the Odre des Coteaux de Champagne in 2010. Additionally, Michael is one of the partners that directs the annual, highly popular and successful Windy City Smokeout.

Michael lives in Chicago with his wife and their daughter who is attending college. He enjoys yearly backpacking trips to the mountains with his youngest brother, his family’s get-togethers, kayaking, biking, and reading history. His family is sure that if he weren’t in the restaurant business he would be a history professor.

Read full bio for Michael Haley

Michael Haley

Chief Information Officer

Michael Haley is the Chief Information Officer and Associate Partner at Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, overseeing the Information Technology Department at the corporate office. Throughout his more than 18 years with Lettuce, Michael’s primary goals are to remove obstacles and streamline the IT footprint throughout the organization from products and services that support all employees, the restaurant and the corporate office. In his role, Michael has the pleasure of assessing the current position of IT throughout the company and strategizing for the future to grow the organization.

Michael graduated from Central Michigan University in 1985 with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Industrial Engineering and a double minor in Computer Science and Military Science. He then went on to join the Military, achieving the rank of Major in the Army National Guard.

Prior to joining Lettuce, Michael worked in several different industries in the Engineering and IT fields including the automotive industry, healthcare, insurance, wine and spirits, and more. Michael attributes his success to his experiences and passion for Engineering, IT and the Military. He enjoys working with the next generation of IT leaders and learning from them their strengths and areas of opportunities in order to position them to succeed thus making the department grow stronger.

Originally from Midland, Michigan, Michael now resides in Grayslake, IL with his wife of more than 31 years, Kristie. During his free time, Michael loves spending time with his three children Caleb (wife Courtney), Conor and Chloe. He enjoys outdoor activities and traveling with his family. Michael is an avid trout fisherman, enjoys duck hunting and boating.

Read full bio for Michel Briand

Michel Briand

Partner of Tru

IN LOVING MEMORY 1960 – 2012

Read full bio for Mychael Bonner

Mychael Bonner

Chef Partner of Di Pescara, Saranello's, Petterino's and The Ivy Room

Mychael Bonner returned to Lettuce Entertain You in 2005 after acting as the Vice President of Culinary Operations of Maggiano’s for 13 years.

A veteran of the restaurant industry for over 30 years, Bonner’s experience started when he was a young child watching his mother and grandmother in the kitchen at The Peabody in Memphis. As a high school student in Muncie, IN, Bonner began cooking at The Flamingo. He took such a liking to his job that he went on to attend the Culinary Institute of Chicago. After graduating, Bonner began working as a Sous Chef at The 95th. Bonner next went on to travel around the world, experiencing cooking in places such as France, Italy, New York and San Francisco.

In 1992, Bonner joined Maggiano’s. As a part of the Maggiano’s team, Chef Bonner opened 36 Maggiano’s restaurants across the United States. In 2005, Bonner returned to Lettuce as Executive Chef and culinary talent behind a new concept called Di Pescara. In 2011, Bonner worked with partner Mark Tormey on the Italian restaurant, Saranello’s, in Wheeling.

Bonner prides himself on taking a clean and fresh approach to food but still likes to keep pushing the boundaries. Fresh ingredients and culinary innovation pepper his every dish. He considers his role as chef paramount to the success of a restaurant, as his ability to work with the team at all times. As a team player, Bonner feels it is important for him and others to give back to the profession.

In his free time, Bonner enjoys bicycling, spending time with his family and cooking Sunday dinner.

Read full bio for Naoki Nakashima

Naoki Nakashima

Chef Partner

Born and raised in Fukuoka, Japan, Naoki’s interest in the culinary arts began early. By age 16, he had his first job working in a noodle shop. At 19, he was working in a local fish market, laying the groundwork for a lifelong love of seafood. At 21, he traveled to America through an overseas study program, landing in California at a busy Japanese restaurant. Starting as a dishwasher, he worked his way up through the ranks to the sushi counter. His teacher there, Mr. Masa, soon left to open his own sushi restaurant and took Naoki along with him. His work with Masa-san taught him that classic proportion and attention to detail are crucial to elegant sushi presentations.

When Naoki was 25, a Malaysian friend from America returned home to Kuala Lumpur to find that Japanese cuisine was all the rage there. Opening a restaurant, he coaxed Naoki to join him as chef. One-and-a-half years later, Naoki moved to Hong Kong to open a Japanese Izakaya with another friend. There he executed the sushi menu as well as traditional Japanese small plates, similar to tapas.

He eventually landed in Chicago, at NoMI in the Park Hyatt. There his sushi maintained its classical roots, but the rest of the menu opened his imagination to American and European ingredients. Three years later, Naoki was discovered by Lettuce Entertain You’s CEO Kevin Brown, who asked him to join the Shaw’s Crab House family. He has since elevated Shaw’s sushi program with solid execution and innovative flavor combinations.

In 2016, Chef Naoki opened his namesake sushi den in Lincoln Park’s iconic Belden Stratford which was named one of the best sushi restaurants in Chicago by Time Out Chicago. In 2018, Chef Naoki also launched a virtual concept, Naoki Fried Chicken, available for carryout and delivery only.

In addition to making his mark with Shaw’s, Naoki has also developed sushi programs at several other Lettuce restaurants, including Schaumburg’s Tokio Pub. In 2020, Naoki Sushi re-launched as a pop-up carryout and delivery only restaurant in Chicago’s River North.

Today, Chef Naoki continues to assist in developing and refining sushi programs throughout Lettuce restaurants.

Read full bio for Osvaldo Ocegueda

Osvaldo Ocegueda

Partner of Lettuce Fly

Chef Osvaldo (Ozzie) Ocegueda was born in Jalisco Mexico and moved to Chicago at the age of 2. His passion for cooking began when he would help his grandmother and mother cook at home. He later went onto work in fast-casual restaurants starting at age 15.

Ozzie joined Lettuce Entertain You in 1997 with the Big Bowl Division. He worked his way up from handling carry out to working nearly every kitchen position, trainer, sous chef, and executive chef. His career with Big Bowl spanned five different states and when Big Bowl was purchased by Brinker in 2000, Ozzie continued working with the brand. He has been a part of the opening for every new location to date.

He re-joined Lettuce in 2005 and continued to grow the Big Bowl brand along with Big Bowl Chinese Express locations in MN and MO. Ozzie worked with the Big Bowl team for 13 years and in January 2013, he joined Lettuce Fly, a division within Lettuce Entertain You that oversees the development of restaurants in airports.

His first project with Lettuce Fly was to open Big Bowl at O’Hare International Terminal 5 in 2013.

Ozzie is full time with the Lettuce Fly and has created more than 11 different airport restaurants in three cities including Big Bowl, Wow Bao, Magic Pan, Hub 51, Summer House Santa Monica, Urban Olive, and RJ Grunts Burger & Fries with more to come.

Ozzie also works with Lettuce Fly on Lettuce Entertain You’s growth at Navy Pier, specifically developing back-of-house systems for the restaurants at the pier. He collaborated with the team on developing a menu for Big Bowl, Frankie’s Pizza by the Slice and Big City Chicken which opened in June 2015.

In 2018, Ozzie and his team opened a small kiosk Ozzie Pops & Pretzels that specializes in seasonal popsicles and hand-twisted pretzels at Navy Pier.

In his free time, Ozzie gives back to philanthropic causes, especially Misericordia. He and his wife Norma have five children and live in Chicago, they love to take annual vacations to different parts of Mexico to learn and enjoy the culture.

Read full bio for Raul Gutierrez

Raul Gutierrez

Partner / Executive Chef, Big Bowl

Raul Gutierrez is the Executive Chef of Big Bowl and is responsible for all kitchen operations, as well as food development, for the seven locations Illinois, Virginia and Minnesota.

Raul was born in Michoacan, Mexico and at the age of 16 he moved to Chicago and joined Lettuce Entertain You, working as a busboy and line cook at RJ Grunts. From there, he joined the team at Shaw’s Crab House where he continued to take on more kitchen responsibilities. After succeeding at Shaw’s, Raul was selected as the Kitchen Manager for Big Bowl. It was at Big Bowl that Raul excelled and quickly became the Chef. When LEYE sold Big Bowl to Brinker International, Raul’s skills were recognized and he was immediately promoted to Executive Chef, a promotion that included a move to Texas. While in Texas, he and his team opened eighteen Big Bowl locations under Brinker International.

When Big Bowl was sold back to Lettuce, Raul was thrilled to return to his adopted hometown of Chicago and continue to lead the concepts. Raul’s passion is working in kitchens and his career trajectory with Big Bowl and leadership from Divisional Partner, Howard Katz, showed him that loyalty, hard work and perseverance really pay off.

Today, alongside his partners, Raul oversees kitchen operations and menu development for seven Big Bowl locations across three states.

Raul enjoys spending time with his wife, Maria, 3 children and 3 grandchildren. Raul shares his passion for food at home as he loves to entertain his friends and family with his exploration of varied cuisines.

Read full bio for Richard Hanauer

Richard Hanauer

Partner and Wine Director

Richard Hanauer is a Partner and Wine Director of RPM Italian in Chicago and Washington, DC, RPM Steak, Pizzeria Portofino, RPM Events and RPM Seafood.

Hanauer began his wine studies around the family dinner table before eventually making it his career. He studied Hospitality at Syracuse University, and went on to work in restaurants in Chicago’s West Loop. In 2008 he joined Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises as a sommelier, and in 2013, Hanauer became RPM Restaurants’ Wine Director.

Having started his wine career working as the sommelier at 160Blue and as a fine wine expert for Levy Restaurants, Hanauer’s career in wine truly came to fruition in 2008 when he was named sommelier of Tru Restaurant in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood at the age of 25—the youngest person to ever hold that title at Tru. After working there for three years and obtaining his Advanced Certificate from the Court of Master Sommeliers, Hanauer joined L2O restaurant as Wine Director. There, he began crafting one of the world’s finest white wine and champagne menus. In 2013, he joined the RPM Italian team, and soon after began planning the cellars of forthcoming sister restaurant, RPM Steak, which opened in 2014. RPM Italian in Washington, DC soon followed in 2016.

In August 2018, along with his partners, Richard opened Bar Ramone – Lettuce Entertain You’s first wine bar – in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. In July 2019, Richard and his RPM Restaurant partners opened Pizzeria Portofino, a casual restaurant reminiscent of the Italian Riviera. In September 2019, Hanauer and the team introduced private events and wedding space, RPM Events, and in January 2020, they opened RPM Seafood.

During his time at Tru, the restaurant received a James Beard Foundation Award for best service in the country and a Grand Cru Award for its wine list, which is the highest attainable distinction from Wine Spectator magazine. While at L2O, the restaurant received its prestigious third Michelin star; simultaneously Zagat named Hanauer a “30 under 30”. After opening RPM Steak, Hanauer was named “Sommelier of the Year” by Food & Wine magazine in 2015. Since then, all three RPM restaurants have received Wine Spectator’s “Best of” Awards of Excellence as well as three out of three stars from the World of Fine Wine magazine’s awards. In 2019, he was named by Wine Enthusiast magazine as one of their 40 Under 40 Tastemakers.

Hanauer currently lives in Chicago (and has no plans of changing that) with his wife, Kristen, their daughter, Madison, and pup, Porcini. His greatest pride is the sommeliers with whom he gets to work alongside as well as the fact that he can be at the RPM Restaurants in Chicago while studying for his Master Sommelier diploma.

Read full bio for Rita Dever

Rita Dever

Chef Partner of Beatrix, Do-Rite, Ema and Corporate Chef of LEYE

Rita Dever is a Chef Partner of Lettuce Entertain You and Chef Partner of Beatrix. A native to the Northwest, Rita grew up surrounded by an abundance of natural food and beauty. Her early years as a chef had her traveling all over the world.

Rita completed culinary school in Paris, trained with her mentor, Madeleine Kamman in New Hampshire and opened restaurants in Los Angeles, Maui, New York and Seattle as a Sous Chef at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts.

In 2004, she came to Chicago and joined Lettuce as Corporate Chef. Working closely with Rich Melman in the test kitchen, the two collaborate daily on creating new dishes and innovating existing menus for all Lettuce restaurants. It was Rita’s creations in the “Lab” that sparked the fire for Beatrix.

Now, as Chef Partner, her culinary experience has come full circle. Her Pacific Northwest whole-foods mentality drives each dish at Beatrix, bringing a “taste over trend” philosophy and healthful twist to each dish.

Read full bio for Ron Thompson

Ron Thompson

Partner of Wildfire and Big Bowl

It was at the age of 15 when Ron began washing dishes at a neighborhood breakfast joint when his passion for the industry began. Gaining experience while fulfilling his interests, Ron worked in restaurants throughout high school and college and soon became part of Lettuce Entertain You and Wildfire restaurants.

After washing dishes at a young age, Ron was ready to experience different aspects of restaurants. He moved on to work at a malt shop in high school and served at a St. Paul restaurant which focused on daily menus and specials. It was there that he developed his palate and appreciation for a wide variety of tastes. The restaurant opened its second location in Minneapolis and Ron was promoted to manager and then to general manager. Executing at high levels in both food and service, Ron perfected his managerial skills and maintained high standards for himself and his staff.

After college, Ron was looking for a restaurant company that was also known for high standards in service and food with an opportunity to learn and grow. After working with smaller restaurants, he was interested in a company involved with larger restaurants with an array of concepts. In 2001, Ron joined the Wildfire team for the opening of the Eden Prairie location and in 2008 became a managing partner of Wildfire Eden Prairie. In 2012, Ron became partner at Twin City Grill. Ron is also now a partner of Big Bowl.

Over the years, Ron has especially enjoyed teaching and working with people on a daily basis. The fast pace of the restaurant world and the interaction with customers is what Ron loves about his job. Now as partner he prides on giving advice to those he has worked with and making sure his staff and customers enjoy every moment of their experience at Wildfire. When Ron is away from Wildfire and Big Bowl he enjoys spending time with his wife and their three children.

Read full bio for Rosalyn Gibbs Dawson

Rosalyn Gibbs Dawson

Partner of Big Bowl Chinese Express

When Rosalyn Gibbs Dawson began considering a career, advice given to her when she was about 5 years old resurfaced and resonated when a friend of the family told her to find something you love to do and then find someone to pay you for it.

She loved learning about business and marketing but was not particularly intrigued by the kitchen. Always up for a challenge and wanting to challenge herself outside of her natural ability, Rosalyn surprised her family and friends and enrolled in culinary school at the Art Institutes International Minnesota.

Rosalyn learned about Rich Melman and the passion driving the success of his restaurants on the first day of classes. Before long, she fell hard for the energy, excitement, and creativity of the hospitality industry. It was an ideal fit for someone whose strong work ethic was instilled at 14 while working for an interior design company in her hometown of Rogers, Minnesota.

After graduation, Rosalyn worked as a kitchen manager before becoming a part of the original team behind LEYE’s Shanghai Circus in 2004. She began as a Fast Casual General manager for Shanghai Circus in the original Edina location. She then played an integral role in the transition and re-branding of Shanghai Circus to Big Bowl Chinese Express. Rosalyn has been managing the growing group of Big Bowl Chinese Express locations in Minnesota since 2010. In early 2014 Rosalyn opened Tucci Italian, a quick service version of LEYE’s Tucci Benucch opened in Minnesota serving fresh hand-stretched pizzas and pastas. These concept’s food and operation culture continue to evolve under Rosalyn’s leadership.

“The secret to my success has been hiring passionate people,” says Rosalyn about becoming a Partner at Lettuce. “I’m always looking for individuals who want to challenge themselves and reach beyond their natural ability. I love developing, teaching and coaching people as well as learning from them. Our team inspires me to foster an environment that creates new opportunities for everyone.”

When away from Big Bowl Chinese Express, Rosalyn can be found entertaining in her Chaska, Minnesota home with her husband, Justin, step-daughter Laila and her many pets. She enjoys music, cooking, watching the Minnesota Vikings and is an active member of her community.

Read full bio for Rosemary Waldmeier

Rosemary Waldmeier

Associate Partner and General Manager of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab - Chicago

Rosemary is the Associate Partner and General Manager of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab - Chicago.

She was born and raised in downtown Chicago and her father, Leo Waldmeier was the Executive Chef at the Drake Hotel for 35 years. He instilled a love of cooking and eating in her starting from a very young age. Her first job in restaurants was as a hostess at Gibson’s Chicago in 2007. In 2008, she had a PR internship at the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago and also continued to host at Gibson’s. It was during this time that she felt herself gravitating towards the action of being in the lively restaurant.

The following summer, she started her career with Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants as an intern at Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago. After graduating with a Bachelor’s of Commerce in 2010 from Queen’s University in Ontario, Rosemary returned to Shaw’s as a host and carryout attendant. She grew from host to catering assistant to catering manager within her first year. She then moved into a floor manager role and learned the ins and outs of more formal service.

In 2015, Shaw’s Executive Partner Bill Nevruz offered Rosemary the opportunity to be a part of the opening team of Quality Crab & Oyster Bah in Lincoln Park. Since opening, Rosemary and her team opened Seaside’s To Go, Lettuce’s first virtual restaurant in 2017, as well as Crab Cellar, an unlimited Alaskan King Crab and Prime Burger dining experience, in 2018.

Today, Rosemary is the General Manager of Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago. You can find Rosemary interacting with guests at the restaurant in addition to working on growing the team, training, menu development and more.

During her time with Lettuce, she has learned the value of surrounding yourself with people that have a different perspective and skill set than you do, in order to build a successful, and well rounded team.

When Rosemary is away from the restaurants, she enjoys spending time cooking or dining out with her husband Darryl and her two daughters Cecelia and Louisa. She and Darryl hope to pass on their appreciation and passion for food and dining to their daughters.

Read full bio for Stephen Munasinghe

Stephen Munasinghe

Partner for Twin City Grill and Wildfire Eden Prairie

Stephen Munasinghe is the Partner with Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises overseeing operations in Minneapolis for Twin City Grill and Wildfire Eden Prairie.

Stephen grew up in the hospitality industry. His family owned an Italian restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis called Totino’s Italian Kitchen, which started in 1951 when his Great Grandma made her “locally famous” pizza for a banker to taste before he signed off on a loan to start her pizza restaurant. This restaurant thrived for 60 years in the same location and eventually grew into a frozen pizza empire, Totino’s frozen pizzas. It was at his family’s restaurant that Stephen learned that cooking at its simplest form is an art and eating should be a pleasure.
He attended the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a double major of Political Science and Sociology, Stephen’s original career goal was to become an attorney. At this time he was also a host at Bellisio’s Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar in Duluth. While going to school, he worked his way up from the host stand to a management position. Stephen graduated in May 2007, and although he was accepted into law school at Hamline University, he decided he wanted to learn more about business and the restaurant industry.

Stephen began working at Lettuce Entertain You at the age of 22 as a Manager at Twin City Grill and in 2010, he was promoted to General Manager of Tucci Benucch and Magic Pan at the age of 25. In 2015, he was promoted to Divisional Supervisor, overseeing Tucci Benucch, Twin City Grill, Magic Pan, and Wildfire – Eden Prairie.

Today, he and his partners are not only for growing Lettuce’s presence in Minneapolis but also for developing a talented team in Minneapolis.

Stephen and his wife Christy have two beautiful daughters named Leyla and Quinn. In his free time, they love cooking together playing outside and having kitchen dance parties.

Read full bio for Susan Weaver

Susan Weaver

Chef Partner of Mon Ami Gabi Division and Beatrix

Susan Weaver is the Chef Partner for Mon Ami Gabi, Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!, and Stripburger Division. Since joining Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc (LEYE) in 2003, Weaver has contributed her outstanding talents to the development of the menus and the strength of the culinary teams at Mon Ami Gabi (with locations in Chicago, Oak Brook, Las Vegas, Bethesda, and Reston), Beatrix (Chicago’s Streeterville, River North & Fulton Market neighborhoods), Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! (Chicago & Las Vegas), Stripburger, and Community Canteen.

Her energy and enthusiasm have helped propel these restaurants to the financial success and culinary acclaim they enjoy today. She was instrumental in creating and opening Stripburger Las Vegas in 2007 and is a vital contributor to the creation of her division’s new café concept, Community Canteen, opening in Reston, VA September 2008.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Weaver’s passion for food and travel developed early in life. At the young age of 18, her appetite for travel led her on a two-month voyage through Europe. This turned into a two-year stay where she worked various jobs like picking grapes and oranges, peeling potatoes, and washing dishes at a quaint fish restaurant on the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean. These experiences taught her that “working was not just something you did to allow yourself pleasure after work and credits this as the turning point for “setting her career on the right path.”

Weaver apprenticed with world-renowned chefs at the Le Lancaster Hotel in Paris. In addition to her cooking career in Europe, she has spent time in Boston, Houston, Chicago, Toronto, and New York. From 1983 to 2001, Weaver worked for the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. She experienced many highlights during her tenure with the Four Seasons, including the first woman named the Executive Chef, and successfully reopening two of the Four Seasons’ restaurants in Canada. In 1994 she moved to New York City and lived there for another 9 years leading Manhattan’s Four Seasons as Executive Chef, where she earned three stars in the New York Times.

With a wealth of experience under her belt and her continuous appetite for creativity, Weaver decided it was time to explore another challenge. In 2003 she met Rich Melman, founder of LEYE and he asked her to cook for him. After her tasting with Rich, she was immediately hired as the LEYE Culinary Director for the Mon Ami Gabi and Café Ba-Ba-Reeba! Division of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Inc (LEYE). Adding dimension to her skill set, Weaver was announced partner of LEYE in July of 2008. She continues to work closely with Rich, CEO Kevin Brown, and Divisional President and Partner, Christopher Meers in expanding and growing restaurant concepts.

Weaver values most her relationship with Christopher Meers as they closely work together on the expansion and development of new Mon Ami Gabi & Beatrix stores and fresh culinary concepts. Weaver is committed to Rich Melman and the LEYE Partners to deliver innovative, authentic dining experiences with a personal touch…and great food, too!

Read full bio for Terry Lawler

Terry Lawler

Divisional Supervisor of L.Woods, Antico Posto and Beatrix – Oak Brook

Terry Lawler grew up in the south side of Chicago and attended Purdue University with a Naval ROTC scholarship to pursue a degree in nursing. During summer break, Terry began working in restaurants as a busser, server and bartender and quickly learned of his passion for the industry. Upon returning to school in the Fall, he switched his education focus and graduated in 1999 with a degree in hospitality.

In 2000, Terry joined the Lettuce Entertain You family as a Manager at L.Woods Tap & Pine Lodge in Lincolnwood, IL. Four years later, he became the General Manager at Tucci Benucch in downtown Chicago where he spent three years overseeing the operations, hiring, staff development and more. In 2008, Terry returned to L.Woods as the General Manager.

In 2019, Terry was part of the opening team to bring Beatrix to Oak Brook where he and his team helped bring the popular neighborhood restaurant and coffeehouse concept from the city to the Chicago suburbs. Today, Terry is the Divisional Supervisor of L.Woods, Antico Posto and Beatrix – Oak Brook.
Terry’s favorite part of the job is being a part of the growth of not only the restaurants, but also the staff he works with. He strongly values Lettuce’s culture of caring and enjoys applying it with his team as well as the guest experience on a daily basis.

When Terry is not in the restaurant, he enjoys spending time with his wife Geralyn and his five children; Maddie, Tommy, Brendan, Scarlett and Emmett as well as vacationing in Michigan.

Read full bio for Thierry Tritsch

Thierry Tritsch

Chef Partner

Chef Thierry Tritsch has been with Lettuce Entertain You for over 25 years, but his love of hospitality began decades earlier in his native France. Working alongside his father and grandmother in the family’s restaurant-hotel gave way to formal training at Lycée Technique D’Hôtellerie et de Tourisme in Strasbourg. He went on to hone his skills at an array of establishments throughout Europe.

Chef Tritsch began his Chicago culinary career with legendary restaurateur Jovan Trboyevic in the vaunted kitchens of Le Perroquet and Les Nomades. He joined Lettuce Entertain You as a member of the opening team of Brasserie JO, named the James Beard Foundation’s Best New Restaurant in 1996, and continued his work with Chef J. Joho as executive chef at Everest Restaurant for 25 years. His innovative approach to classic French cuisine has earned a Michelin star and an array of accolades from Relais & Chateaux, Mobil 5-Star, and AAA Five Diamond.

Thierry believes a great meal is the result of thoughtful collaboration with both farmers, fishermen, purveyors and his culinary team. He prides himself on building relationships with suppliers, using only the finest ingredients and mentoring aspiring chefs. He enjoys working with event hosts to create distinctive menus that bring celebrations to life.

When not exploring new food and wine, Thierry enjoys gardening, bicycling and spending time with his wife Elaine and their daughter, Josephine.

Read full bio for Tim Hockett

Tim Hockett

Chef Partner of M Burger, Tallboy Taco, Wow Bao and Big City Chicken Navy Pier

Tim’s culinary education began when he took a summer job as a food runner at Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises’ Maggiano’s and got his first glimpse into a professional kitchen. For the first time in his life, he saw sauces being made from scratch, whole fish being filleted and a kitchen team serving thousands of people a night and was instantly hooked. Inspired, he decided to attend Washburne Culinary School in Chicago.

Since then, Tim has worked his way up the culinary ladder for various restaurants within and outside of Lettuce, including positions as varied as an ice sculptor for Nadeau’s Ice House in Forest Park, IL and a cook for Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen in Arlington Heights, IL. He joined the Lettuce team in 1997 as banquet sous chef for Maggiano’s before moving on to sous chef and executive sous chef for Vong and Vong’s Thai Kitchen in Chicago, under chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

Tim later joined the kitchen staff at Tru as a sous chef. In 2004 he moved to Charlottesville, VA, where he spent two years as executive chef/partner for FUEL Co. Bistro & Café and Kluge Estate Farm Shop. Returning to Chicago, he rejoined the Lettuce family as a corporate chef, working directly with Rich Melman creating dishes for many of the newest Lettuce restaurants.

He left the corporate chef world and teamed up with partners Scott Barton and Randy Brand. Since then they have opened 12 restaurants together, including M Burger, Chicago’s favorite fast-casual burger joint; Tallboy Taco a taqueria in Streeterville and Big City Chicken, a quick-service fried chicken restaurant on Navy Pier.

Tim’s food philosophy is concise: Keep it simple, make sure it has clear direction and always cook from the heart.

Tim has been married 20 years and lives with his wife and two children, Mason and Harley, in Evanston, IL. The family enjoys spending time together over great food—whether at home or any of their favorite restaurants—and going to Disney World whenever possible.

Read full bio for Willie Neal

Willie Neal

Partner of Mon Ami Gabi Bethesda & Reston

Willie Neal became a Lettuce Entertain You partner in the spring of 2008. Traveling the country earning his hotel and restaurant management degree and working with hospitality companies, Willie was ready to find a company that was passionate about hospitality paired with strong family values.

Willie began his journey in Northfield, Vermont where he was raised. Then it was off to James Madison University in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. After graduation, he returned to his native Vermont before setting in Charlotte, North Carolina to begin an eleven-year career with Levy Restaurants. From North Carolina, Willie moved to Chicago to be with his future wife, Kelly, while continuing his career with Levy. Upon moving to Chicago, he realized the overwhelming presence of Lettuce Entertain You. Lettuce Entertain You presented Willie with the opportunity to not only to grow personally but to help others to grow as well. He was given the chance to represent Lettuce outside of Chicago and re-locate to enhance his career.

Today, Willie oversees the operations of Mon Ami Gabi in Bethesda, Maryland and Reston, Virginia. Willie strives to strengthen the reputation of Mon Ami Gabi and enjoys working in their unique locations.

With his strong family values, when Willie is away from the restaurants he is spending time with his wife Kelly and two beautiful daughters Hannah Jane and Harper Rose. He also enjoys golfing, gardening and the Boston Red Sox. Willie and his wife especially love eating out and trying new restaurants together.

Read full bio for Yasmin Gutierrez

Yasmin Gutierrez

Partner of Beatrix and Beatrix Market

Yasmin studied Culinary Arts at the Illinois Institute of Art, and quickly realized her passion was in pastry. Looking to gain more experience, she became an intern at the Bittersweet Bakery on the north side of Chicago where she perfected her cookie decorating techniques and learned about traditional, American pastries.

In 2005, Yasmin joined Lettuce Entertain You as a pastry cook at Foodlife in Water Tower Place while also finishing school. Just two years later, Yasmin was promoted to pastry chef, where she also oversaw the pastry programs at both Mity Nice Bar & Grill and Foodease. In 2010, Yasmin furthered her education and pastry knowledge by attending The French Pastry School.

Three years later, Yasmin led the pastry team in the opening of Beatrix River North. She was instrumental in developing the bakery program and menu. In 2015, she was promoted to Executive Pastry Chef and three years later was named Partner. Yasmin now oversees the pastry program at all four Beatrix locations, Beatrix Market and is instrumental with the dessert program at Aba and Ema.

Her specialties include cupcake and cookie creation and design, coffee cakes and birthday cakes. Outside of the bakery, Yasmin enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and playing soccer.

gift card holiday bonus card