Executive Partner and Divisional President
Marc Jacobs is the President and Partner of Aba, Antico Posto, Bar Ramone, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ēma, Rotisserie Ēma, Foodease, Foodlife, L. Woods, Mity Nice Bar & Grill and The Dalcy.
Marc began his career with Lettuce Entertain You (LEYE) in the fall of 1991, as a banquet server and busser at Bones (now L. Woods) in Lincolnwood, Illinois. 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, LEYE’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 14 years as Partner at LEYE, he has led the creation, design and re-concept of more than 16 restaurants across Chicagoland including 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, Ēma; a Mediterranean and California-inspired restaurant with Top Chef CJ Jacobson, Aba; the sister restaurant to Ēma, featuring a 400-seat restaurant and rooftop patio, The Dalcy; LEYE’s private event hall in Fulton Market, and Bar Ramone; a wine bar featuring Spanish tapas.
Marc’s passion lies in restaurant design, menu development, and team building. His restaurants and chefs have earned many accolades including a Michelin Bib Gourmand recognition as well as a spot on Chicago’s top restaurant lists from Zagat, Eater and the Chicago Tribune.
Marc sits on Lettuce Entertain You’s Executive Board, is an Advisory Council member and the Executive in Residence at DePaul’s School of Hospitality Leadership, often speaks on restaurant panels and seminars, and enjoys giving back to the restaurant and hospitality industry in Chicago.
Marc enjoys spending time with his wife Vanessa and their three children, Samantha, Alexandra and Gabriel, visiting new restaurants, and traveling.
Michael Giles is a 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.
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, Foodlife, Mity Nice Grill, 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.
Partner and Executive Pastry Chef
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 most recently was named Associate Partner. Yasmin now oversees the pastry program at all four Beatrix locations, Beatrix Market, Foodlife, Foodease and Mity Nice Bar & Grill.
Her specialties include cupcake creation and design, coffee cakes and birthday cakes. Outside of the bakery, Yasmin enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and playing soccer.
Rita Dever is Corporate Chef of LEYE 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 2008, she came to Chicago and joined LEYE 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 LEYE 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.
Susan is the Chef Partner of Beatrix, Mon Ami Gabi, Café Ba-Ba-Reeba, Stripburger and Community Canteen. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, her passion for food and travel developed early in life when she spent two years traveling in Europe and working at quaint restaurants in the Mediterranean.
After her travels, she spent time working in kitchens in Boston, Houston, Chicago, Toronto and New York. She joined LEYE in 2003 as the Culinary Director for Mon Ami Gabi and Café Ba-Ba-Reeba!
In 2012, she partnered with Marc Jacobs to build LEYE’s newest restaurant, Beatrix. Together, they created Beatrix’s breakfast, lunch and dinner menus with unique ingredients and profiles with many dishes influenced by her past travels.
James Woodfork was born and raised in the south side of Chicago, and started in restaurants at a young age. His first job out of high school in 1985 was a dishwasher in Hyde Park, and within two short months he began his chef training; one that would launch his now 34-year career in restaurants.
While attending Robert Morris College, James continued to gain experience in the kitchen as the Assistant Kitchen Manager at Hard Rock Café in Chicago. In 1991, he joined the Lettuce Entertain You team as a Line Cook and Expeditor with Maggiano’s. After five years he was promoted to the Executive Chef and relocated to Southern California to help grow the brand. In 2001, James went on to explore other opportunities in The Golden State and worked for various restaurant concepts including Clubhouse, Nordstrom, Lou & Mickey’s Steakhouse and Seasons 52.
In 2014, James returned to Chicago to be with his family and found himself back at LEYE. Since then, he has spent time at Saranello’s, Di Pescara, Reel Club and five years later is now is proud to be the Executive Chef at Beatrix Oak Brook, the neighborhood coffeehouse, restaurant and meeting place. This is Beatrix’s first suburban location, and fourth of its kind in Illinois. His favorite part of the job is the energy, creating new dishes, and mentoring young and aspiring chefs.
When James is not in the restaurant, he enjoys spending his time with his wife Emaly, and their children Leonardo and Davina. They look forward to welcoming a new addition to their family in September!
Terry Lawler was born and raised in Chicago, and attended college at nearby Purdue University in Indiana. He first started in restaurants as a busser at a small family restaurant in the south suburbs, which would ultimately launch his career in the hospitality industry.
In 2000, Terry joined the Lettuce Entertain You family as a manager at L.Woods Tap & Pine Lodge in Lincolnwood, Illinois. After gaining experience in the restaurant, Terry was promoted to General Manager at Tucci Benucch, and returned back to L.Woods as the General Manager. In 2018, Terry was promoted to the Divisional Supervisor of L.Woods and Antico Posto and now also oversees Beatrix Oak Brook. His favorite part of the job is working with his team and continuously growing and developing those around him.
When Terry is not in the restaurants, he enjoys spending time with his wife and five kids – Maddie, Tommy, Brendan, Scarlett and Emmett. In the summer, he spends his time in Michigan golfing, grilling and relaxing on the lake.
Elemuel Haro was born and raised in Jalisco, Mexico, and got his first job in the restaurant business in 1986 where he was a dishwasher. In 1988, Elemuel moved to Chicago looking for more opportunity and growth.
In 2000, Elemuel joined the Lettuce Entertain You team, and has been a Sous Chef with the company for more than 19 years. Most recently, he joined the opening team at Beatrix Oak Brook, the fourth location of the neighborhood coffeehouse and restaurant. His favorite part of the job is cooking – he has always had a passion for it, and is grateful that he gets to do what he loves everyday.
When he’s not in the kitchen, he loves to play soccer.
A Chicago native, Mike was born in the west suburbs of Chicago before his family settled in Dallas, TX, where he discovered his appreciation for the restaurant industry. At just 15 years old, Mike spent a year working as a cashier at McDonald’s and enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the kitchen. Three years later, he returned to restaurants where he was a server at TGI Fridays. He quickly transitioned to being a bartender, and improved his skills behind the bar for the next two years before taking a bartending job at The Cheesecake Factory. There, Mike became a pivotal member of the team by assisting as the lead bartender at new store openings. After eight years at The Cheesecake Factory and looking for a new challenge, Mike went on to manage at various restaurants throughout Chicago including Martini Park, Rockit Bar & Grill, and Front Burner Restaurant Group.
Looking to become part of the Lettuce Entertain You family, Mike joined the Hub 51 team in 2015 and was quickly promoted to General Manager, before coming to Beatrix in 2019. Mike’s favorite part of being the General Manager at Beatrix is how every day is different, and he loves working with the team to constantly improve processes throughout the restaurant.
In his free time, Mike loves to practice Krav Maga and spend time with his wife, three daughters, and 2 rescue dogs.
Assistant General Manager
Melissa Santiago grew up in Berwyn, Illinois and spent a lot of time with her family dining out and trying new restaurants together. She attended University of Illinois at Chicago and graduated in 2000 with a degree in Business Management. Over time, Melissa found interest in different types of cuisine and restaurant operations, which led her to working as a server at Bar Louie in 2003. After 11 years at Bar Louie and Primebar, she went on to experience other restaurants including Prasino and Weber Grill.
Looking for more growth, Melissa joined the Lettuce Entertain You team in January 2018 as a Manager at Antico Posto in Oak Brook. Most recently, she joined the opening team at Beatrix Oak Brook where she is the Assistant General Manager. She enjoys working with her team and making sure each guest has an excellent experience.
In her free time, Melissa enjoys going to the movies and spending time with her friends and family. She also likes dining out and exploring different cuisines.
Ismael Morales was born and raised in the Chicago area. He was first introduced to the restaurant industry when he was 16-years-old when he joined the Lettuce Entertain You team as a host at Big Bowl, located in Schaumburg. During his time at Big Bowl, he worked many different positions including Host, Food Runner, Server and Bartender. In 2015, Ismael had the opportunity to participate in Lettuce Entertain You’s internship program at Wildfire in Oak Brook and was promoted to Manager shortly after he completed the internship.
In October of 2018, Ismael joined the Beatrix River North team as a Manager. After learning about the Beatrix brand, he joined the opening team at Beatrix Oak Brook and has been there since. Ismael is excited about working with a great team and enjoys learning from the other managers, employees and partners.
In Ismael’s free time, he enjoys playing soccer, camping, hiking and playing pool.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Growing up in Long Grove, Illinois, Cara has always had a passion for food, writing, and technology, and knew she wanted to pursue a career one day that would entail all of those elements. Graduating in 2012 from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN., with a degree in Journalism and Business, she began her PR and marketing journey at a Chicago public relations agency focusing on restaurants and local businesses.
Realizing that her true passion and excitement was in restaurants, while also ready for more growth and opportunity, Cara joined the Lettuce Entertain You family in the summer of 2015. Since then, Cara has been a part of eight restaurant openings, and proudly oversees the marketing and public relations for Aba, Antico Posto, Bar Ramone, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ēma, Rotisserie Ēma, Foodlife, Foodease, L. Woods, Mity Nice Bar & Grill, and The Dalcy. Her favorite part of the job is how every day is different, as well as having the opportunity to express her creativity across multiple different brands that she truly believes in.
In her free time, Cara loves checking out new restaurants around the city, traveling, going to concerts, and spending time with family and friends.
Divisional Training Director
Sharlene Hobbs grew up in southern California, and went to school in both Santa Barbara and San Diego with a focus on becoming a teacher. Upon graduation, Sharlene realized her true passion was in the restaurant industry, and joined the team at Rock Bottom Brewery in 2000. Seven years later, Sharlene moved to Chicago to be the Assistant Manager at Rock Bottom in the Windy City.
In 2009, Sharlene joined the Lettuce Entertain You Family as a server at RJ Grunts in Lincoln Park. Just one year later, she was promoted to a divisional trainer for various concepts including Foodlife, Mity Nice Bar & Grill, Foodease, Scoozi, Beatrix and Ema. Now, Sharlene is the Divisional Training Director for more than ten restaurant concepts and is vital in new restaurant openings, staff seminars and outings, and the on-going development of current employees. With a true love for building the training department as the division continues to grow, her favorite part of the job is working with new team members, and being the first impression of a company she is so proud to be a part of.
When Sharlene is not in the restaurant, she enjoys reading, trying new restaurants, traveling, visiting her family, and spending time with friends.
Divisional Office Manager Trainer
Knowing that her passion was in restaurants and the hospitality industry, Esmeralda attended The National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City and graduated with a hospitality management degree. She first got her start in 1993, where she worked in Westin Hotels, and then moved to San Francisco two years later to continue her experience in the industry. In 1999, Esmeralda returned to Chicago and began her journey at Lettuce Entertain You where she held various positions like kiosk cook at Foodlife in Water Tower Place and cashier in Foodease Market.
After a few years, Esmeralda was promoted to Office Assistant, and quickly moved on to Office Manager where she handled cash receipts, employee paperwork, invoicing and accounting for Foodease, Foodlife and Mity Nice Bar & Grill. Now, Esmeralda is the Divisional Office Manager Trainer where she oversees the offices in more than ten restaurants within LEYE. Her favorite part of the job is being challenged everyday with new situations, working with the employees, the guests and her team. Caring for the employees is a fundamental core value of LEYE, and it is something that Esmeralda believes is the greatest reason for not only the success of the restaurant, but also her loyalty to the company for the last 19 years.
When she’s not in the restaurants, she enjoys spending time with her family, and going to see plays and musicals.
Sales & Catering Manager
Originally from Burr Ridge, Illinois, Tricia started in the restaurant industry at a young age. When she was just 10 years old, Tricia worked at her grandparent’s event hall and quickly developed her passion for the hospitality industry by watching her grandmother create events for guests. In 2008, Tricia attended Colombia College to pursue an Illustration degree. While at school, Tricia gained experience in restaurants as a hostess at Antico Posto, an Italian restaurant in Oak Brook, and also as a freelance menu designer for neighborhood bars and restaurants.
After working with Lettuce Entertain You for nine years, Tricia decided to explore other opportunities and joined the Doughboy Restaurant Group as a Marketing and Events Manager. In 2019, Tricia returned to LEYE and is now the Parties and Special Events Manager at Beatrix Oak Brook. Her favorite part about the job is watching someone’s vision come to life and loves learning about different traditions that are important to each guest.
During her free time, Tricia enjoys making art, vintage shopping, listening to live music, traveling, visiting new restaurants and spending time with her friends and family.
Rachel Espada grew up in Berwyn, Illinois and started in the restaurant industry in 2010. Looking to gain experience in restaurants and hospitality, Rachel took her love for Italian food and joined Lettuce Entertain You as a Host at Antico Posto, an Italian restaurant and café in Oak Brook. In 2010, she attended Northeastern Illinois University to pursue a degree in English, while continuing to work at Antico Posto as a server.
Rachel graduated college in 2016 and returned to LEYE as an Office Assistant at Ema in River North. Two years later, Rachel assisted with the opening of Bar Ramone, LEYE’s first wine bar, and was quickly promoted to the Office Manager of Beatrix’s most recent opening in Oak Brook. Rachel looks forward to Beatrix’s growth and enjoys keeping everything organized for the restaurant and her team.
In her free time, Rachel enjoys reading and writing every day. She also likes to spend time with her family, visit new restaurants and spoil her dog, Ivy.