Skip navigation
Lettuce Entertain You Home page
Mon Ami Gabi Las Vegas back of house team

Women in Hospitality: Ladies of Lettuce

Meet these fearless female leaders

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re pleased to introduce you to some of the incredible women who bring Lettuce Entertain You’s special brand of hospitality to life! Get ready for some inspiration from the vibrant, creative and fearless female minds who make Lettuce shine, from keeping every wine glass full and sweet tooth satisfied, to ensuring every dining experience is a memorable one.

Menu Mavens

Janet Kirker, Executive Chef & Managing Partner, Beatrix Market

Janet Kirker

Chef 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 her interest in cooking and enticed her to pursue a career in hospitality. Kirker earned a B.S. in Restaurant Management at the University of Illinois, and then a Culinary Arts degree from The Culinary Institute of America in New York. Since joining Lettuce in 2012, Kirker has been instrumental in opening multiple concepts, chief among them Beatrix Market in Streeterville, where she helped to create a delicious, healthful, and homemade menu for the restaurant, which now has four locations in Chicago. Kirker is also entrusted with overseeing kitchen operations at R.J. Grunts, Lettuce Entertain You’s original restaurant concept. 

Visit a Beatrix Market location nearest you | Make a reservation at R.J. Grunts 

Yasmin Gutierrez, Executive Pastry Chef & Partner, Beatrix

Chef Yasmin making a cake at Beatrix

Calling all women in STEM: If you have a knack for math, a career as a pastry chef might be for you! Born in Mexico City, Chef Yasmin Gutierrez moved to the U.S. with her family as a child to pursue an education. Spending hours in the kitchen with her grandmother and mother making traditional Mexican dishes and desserts like buñuelos and flan sparked her passion for sweets, but she also loved math and planned to be an accountant. After working at her mom’s office, however, she realized the cubicle life was not for her. “I knew my career needed to incorporate numbers somehow and pastry is surprisingly technical,” she says. “To have success as a pastry chef, you must demonstrate immense attention to detail in measurements, presentation and flavor.” She breezed through culinary school and today, if you live in the Chicagoland area, chances are you’ve indulged in one of her incredible desserts and pastries at Beatrix (Common and Emmy Rossum are fans!). 

Make a reservation at the Beatrix location nearest you | Order carryout or delivery from the Beatrix location nearest you

Click here to go behind-the-scenes with Chef Yasmin in her Lettuce Life profile.

Whip up a batch of Chef Yasmin’s family recipe for Spicy Mexican Chocolate Cookies.

Suset Sanchez, Executive Sous Chef, Miru and Tre Dita at The St. Regis Chicago

Suset Sanchez, Executive Sous Chef, Miru & Tre DitaSuset Sanchez says one of the most important parts of her career over the last six years at Lettuce has been building solid and trustworthy relationships.  “I’m always advocating for my team and they know they can come to me with any questions or needs and I will do my very best to help them be successful,” she shares. Her best advice: “Stay true to yourself.  Work hard and follow your passion, and you will be successful – but always be authentic, and stand by your beliefs and values.”

Make a reservation at Miru | Make a reservation at Bar Tre Dita

Andrea Coté, Executive Pastry Chef, RPM Restaurants

Pastry Chef Andrea Coté

Chef Andrea Coté is proof positive that you should never be afraid to try new things. A painter at heart, the Massachusetts native studied communications at Boston University and worked as a realtor before discovering a way to marry her personal passions with an interest in the hospitality industry. She studied pastry as the International Culinary Center in NYC and honed her artistry on the teams of Jean-Georges, Michelin-starred Per Se, and GT Prime and GT Fish & Oyster before joining Lettuce in 2017. Her creative and curious nature has led to the creation of some of RPM Restaurants’ best-selling desserts, like her personal favorite, The Banana Napoleon, comprised of layers of caramelized phyllo pastry, banana cream, whipped cream and bananas foster caramel sauce.

Make a reservation at the RPM location nearest you

Try your hand at baking like Chef Coté with the recipe for RPM Steak’s 14K Chocolate Cake.

Claire Smyth, Pastry Chef, The Oakville Grill & Cellar

Pastry Chef Claire Smyth of The Oakville Grill & Cellar

Chef Claire Smyth has been with Lettuce for two years. She loves being able to bring her creations to life and sharing the thing she is most passionate about with others. She’s especially proud of The Oakville Grill & Cellar’s Quiche Royale, as it’s a very unique dish that required an extensive amount of time and research to perfect. Her advice for other women in hospitality and young people who are interested in pursuing a career in the field: “Set clear boundaries and stick to them. Together we can shape a healthier industry for everyone!”

Make a reservation at The Oakville Grill & Cellar 

Wine & Spirits Stars

Diane Corcoran, Bar & Spirits Director, Miru and Tre Dita at The St. Regis Chicago

Diane Corcoran, bar and spirits director at Miru and Tre DitaArmed with endless energy and creativity, Corcoran has been an integral part of the beverage leadership team for more than a dozen Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, including Bub City, RPM Italian, RPM Steak, Three Dots and a Dash, Ramen-san and Summer House. along with Windy City Smokeout, Chicago’s premier BBQ and country music festival. She’s just putting the finishing touches on the menu of Bar Tre Dita (she recommends the Senza Nome!) and has curated a huge selection of notable Japanese whisky for The St. Regis Chicago’s modern Japanese restaurant, Miru

Make a reservation at Miru | Make a reservation at Bar Tre Dita

Kathleen “Kat” Hawkins, Wine Director, Miru and Tre Dita at The St. Regis Chicago

Kat Hawkins, wine director of The St. Regis Chicago

Kat Hawkins began her career with Lettuce at the iconic Shaw’s Crab House in River North, then moved to RPM Steak, where she oversaw the renowned steakhouse’s list of more than 1300 rare and sought-after wines. Her latest project was to curate the wine program for Lettuce’s two-restaurant project at The St  Regis Chicago, Miru and Tre Dita. For Hawkins, the world of wine offers endless opportunities for learning and growth. While personally fond of the wines of Champagne, Alsace, and the Northern Rhône, she credits a trip to Oregon’s Willamette Valley as particularly inspiring, where she witnessed first-hand local growers’ dedication to promoting their region and inspiring each other. She carries this through many parts of her professional life, but finds it especially important on the restaurant floor and working with her team. Her advice to other women in hospitality? Focus on building strong relationships and uplifting one another. 

Make a reservation at Miru | Make a reservation at Bar Tre Dita

Katie Wilkinson, Sommelier, The Oakville Grill & Cellar & 167 Events

Katie Wilkinson, Sommelier at The Oakville Grill & Cellar

The intellectual challenge and growth opportunities inherent to the restaurant industry drew Katie Wilkinson to become a sommelier. Before joining the team at California-inspired Fulton Market favorite The Oakville Grill & Cellar, Katie was a sommelier at RPM Seafood, which she described as a “see it to be it” moment. Being surrounded by the other women in leadership roles within Lettuce allowed her to visualize what was possible and how to achieve it. Her words of wisdom for women in hospitality? Surround yourself with other inspiring women in your chosen profession. 

Make a reservation at The Oakville Grill & Cellar | Contact 167 Events 

Are you interested in learning more about wine? Book The Cellar Door Experience at The Oakville.

Lettuce Leaders

Molly Melman, Executive Partner & Director of Divisional Training, Lettuce Entertain You

Molly Melman headshot

With hospitality in her genes (her father, Rich Melman, is the co-founder of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants), Molly Melman has opened more than two dozen Lettuce restaurants including RPM Italian, RPM Steak, RPM Seafood, Pizzeria Portofino, Ramen-san, Sushi-san, The Omakase Room, il Porcellino, Bub City, Three Dots and A Dash and more. She and her partners also execute Windy City Smokeout, an award-winning country music, BBQ and beer festival in Chicago. She brings a background in teaching to her role as divisional training director, responsible for interviewing and hiring candidates for all positions, overseeing training for new restaurant openings and working with a team of trainers who oversee employee development ongoing. Molly’s advice to women is hospitality is, “Never stop evolving, reflecting, analyzing and growing. One of my least favorite phrases is, ‘that’s how we’ve always done it.’ Come in with fresh eyes, new perspectives and constantly think of ways to make things better. Even if it is small changes each day.”

As a creator and founding member of the Rowe Club, which launched in 2017 to empower women in the restaurant industry around three main focuses–education, networking and philanthropy–Molly finds value in connecting with other women in the industry to run through thoughts and ideas on a daily basis. She also relies on mentors for advice, guidance and reflection and says it’s important as you grow to pay it forward: “Be a mentor and be available to your team and others who are looking to grow in the industry.”

Click here to learn more about the Rowe Club.

Kiran Pinto, Managing Partner, The Ivy Room, Gem Catering & Events, Lettuce Parties & Special Events, The St. Regis Chicago

Kiran Pinto, Managing Partner

For as long as she can remember, Kiran Pinto has been passionate about food, with cultural influences from her Irish-German mother and Indian father while growing up in Peoria, Ill. After attending Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration and going on to front-of-the-house operations at various restaurants in Boston, she studied abroad in London and Sydney to experience hospitality firsthand from a global perspective. After returning to Chicago, she joined Lettuce and over the past two decades, has been an integral part of numerous notable openings, from RPM Italian, Ramen-san and RPM Steak, to Miru and Tre Dita, the latest two-restaurant partnership with The St. Regis Chicago. She has four bits of advice for women in hospitality: 1. You’re never done learning. 2. You’re not prepared to manage people until you’re prepared to work alongside them. 3. Listen to what people have to say. 4. You’re never too far along in your career to bus a table. 

Click here to go behind-the-scenes with Kiran in her Lettuce Life profile.

Hosts with the Most

JoAnn Ciccone, Host, Wildfire – SchaumburgJoAnn Ciccone, host at Wildfire in Schaumburg

JoAnn Ciccone has been a fixture at Wildfire – Schaumburg for nearly 20 years as the daytime host. Always ready with a smile and a positive attitude, she multitasks with ease, seamlessly arranging seating, managing busy phone lines, and kindly helping guests and colleagues, all while ensuring everyone who comes through the door receives the warmest welcome possible. Management’s confidence in her flawless ability to run the show Monday through Friday allows for them to focus efforts on improving the overall guest experience every day. “Women in hospitality is a recipe for success,” Ciccone says. “Use your passionate and nurturing nature to excel. Be caring to both guests and staff.”

Make a reservation at the Wildfire location nearest you.

Linda Djancovic, Host & Carryout, Shift Leader, Wildfire – Glenview

Linda Djancovic, host at Wildfire - GlenviewLinda has been working at Wildfire since they opened in 2004, where she started as a server.  She has the ability to talk and is able to form meaningful connections with guests thanks to her phenomenal memory, whether it’s where a regular likes to sit or their favorite carryout order.  She gets to know people and is always following-up and asking about their families. She is a true asset to Wildfire – Glenview, and not just because of her boisterous laugh! She advises women in hospitality: “Expect to work very hard.  And always remember, tomorrow is a new day with a whole new set of customers.”

Make a reservation at the Wildfire location nearest you.

Women of Windy City Smokeout

Kacey Musgraves performing at Windy City Smokeout

For 11 years, Windy City Smokeout, Chicago’s annual celebration of music and BBQ, has included a wealth of influential female voices, like Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, and the 2024 headliner, eight-time GRAMMY award winner Carrie Underwood. Also in attendance are the hundreds of women involved in producing Windy City Smokeout, all there doing what they love – ensuring attendees have the weekend of a lifetime!

Buy tickets to Windy City Smokeout in Chicago, July 11-14, 2024.

Are you interested in bringing your own talents to the team at Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants? Search job listings and apply now to join our culture of caring!

Keep Reading

drawn wine glass drawn wine glass green stars