Our Team

Marc Jacobs

Executive Partner and Divisional President

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 29 years with LEYE, he has been a Partner for 14 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, featuring a restaurant and patio in Chicago and Austin, TX, The Dalcy; LEYE’s private event hall in Fulton Market and Bar Ramone; a wine bar featuring Spanish tapas.

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 and a spot on Chicago’s top restaurant lists from Zagat, Eater and the Chicago Tribune.

Outside of the restaurants, Marc sits on LEYE’s Executive Board, is a member of the LEYE 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.

Michael Giles

Managing Partner

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

Chef Partner

In Loving Memory: 1963-2021

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.

 

Yasmin Gutierrez

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

Chef Partner

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 Weaver

Chef Partner

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.

Andrew Ashmore

Beatrix Corporate Chef

Andrew was born and raised in Grand Rapids, MI and at age 17,  he got his first job at a mom & pop Italian restaurant washing dishes. His love for the industry grew from there as he continued to work various positions including a Prep Cook tossing pizza dough to a Line Cook preparing the dishes. To increase his skill set and pursue his newfound passion, Andrew attended culinary school in Grand Rapids, graduating in 2007 with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and Culinary Management. To begin his career in the culinary world, Andrew moved to  Las Vegas to be the Executive Chef at Michael Mina Group. Two years later, he joined Fox Restaurant Concepts as the Brand Chef where he would go on to oversee the opening of a handful of restaurants in Arizona over the next six years.

In 2015, Andrew returned to the Midwest to raise his son closer to family. The ever-evolving restaurant scene brought him to Chicago, where he became the Director of Culinary Operations at Roti Modern Mediterranean. He then went on to join White Lodging as the Corporate Research and Development Chef, where he was responsible for the culinary innovation of new and existing concepts nationwide.

Seeking an opportunity to return to the kitchen and the service side of the industry, Andrew joined Lettuce Entertain You in 2019 and is most recently the Beatrix Corporate Chef, overseeing all four Beatrix locations. His favorite part of the job is collaborating with the Chef Partners to create new dishes and training the teams on execution.

In his free time, Andrew loves to spend time with his son by riding bikes, running out for donuts,  and picking vegetables in the neighborhood garden. Andrew also enjoys going out to eat and trying new restaurants with his wife, and of course, cooking at home for his family.

John Economos

Partner

John began his restaurant career with Lettuce Entertain You twelve years ago at Di Pescara. Since then, he has gained experience at a number of restaurants within LEYE’s portfolio, including Petterinos, Foodlife, Foodease, and more recently, 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 their 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, and continues to drive the beverage culture for the Beatrix brand.

Most recently, John assisted with the opening of LEYE’s first wine bar, Bar Ramone.

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

Kristen Miknyoczki

General Manager

Kristen Miknyoczki grew up in Easton, Pennsylvania and developed a passion for food and hospitality when she was just in high school. Working at Panera Bread, Kristen knew this was an industry she wanted to pursue, and would later go on to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Food and Service Management from Johnson and Wales in Miami. Wanting to continue her education, Kristen attended Johnson and Wales in Denver, where she received her MBA.

Ready for a new opportunity, Kristen moved to Chicago in May 2017 and joined Lettuce Entertain You just a year later. Now, Kristen is the General Manager at Beatrix River North where her favorite part of the job is working with her team and forming relationships with her guests.

In her free time, Kristen looks forward to spending time with her Boston terrier, Edward.

Jacy Jones

Manager

Jacy is originally from Chicago, and was immediately exposed to the restaurant industry as well as the Chicago dining scene as both of her parents worked in restaurants. Jacy went on to attend University of Illinois – Chicago, where she earned a degree in Political Science. After working in restaurants throughout school and upon graduation, she knew it was a career she wanted to pursue.

Jacy began at LEYE in 2010 as a host and server at DiPescara, and two years later joined the Do-Rite Donuts team. After seeking an opportunity in management in an urban setting, Jacy spent time as a Manager at Beatrix Fulton Market and Ema, and now is part of the Beatrix River North team. Her favorite part of working in the restaurant is meeting new people, the fast-paced environment, and the opportunity to help others grow.

In her free time, Jacy loves to work out, read, cook, and bake double chocolate cupcakes- her specialty!

Keith Raap

Manager

Keith grew up in Woodridge, Illinois, where he began his restaurant career at age 16 making pizzas at Dan’s Pizza, a local pizza joint in Downers Grove. By 18, Keith had already moved into a manager role and spent two years overseeing the operations of Dan’s Pizza, forming relationships with the regular guests, and building his team. Keith went on to try his hand at serving at J. Alexander’s in Oak Brook and after two years, was promoted to a manager. 

In 2013, Keith joined the Lettuce Entertain You family to assist in the opening of Summer House Santa Monica in Lincoln Park. Over the next six years, Keith helped open Stella Barra in Lincoln Park, worked at multiple LEYE concepts in California and returned to Chicago in 2017 to join the team at Bub City. Following a brief hiatus, Keith returned to LEYE in 2021 and is currently a Manager at Beatrix in River North. His favorite part of the job is assisting with the training and development of the team and helping enhance the systems and procedures around the restaurant. 

In his free time, Keith enjoys playing indoor and sand volleyball, working on home improvement projects and cooking and developing his skills in his home kitchen. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, his son Cole and their two French bulldogs.  

Omar Chavez

Chef

Omar Chavez was born in Mexico, and moved to America in 1990 where he joined Lettuce Entertain You as a dishwasher and line cook at Tucci Benucch. Nine years later, Omar was promoted to Sous Chef, and quickly after to Chef at Wildfire in Chicago and Lincolnshire. Finding his way back to the city in 2011, Omar was Chef at Paris Club, Hub51, and was a part of the opening team at Beatrix in River North.

Omar’s favorite part of being a Chef at Beatrix is getting involved in cooking and teaching others, while also staying busy and focused. His favorite Beatrix menu items are the Skirt Steak Chimichurri and Tuna Crudo.

When Omar is out of the kitchen, he likes to spend time with his two sons, bike, and cook.

Mario Alberto Lozano

Kitchen Manager

Born in Los Angeles, and raised in Berwyn outside of Chicago, Mario learned to love cooking early on from his father, who worked at Lettuce Entertain You as a Chef at Big Bowl. Mario began his career in the restaurant industry in 2013 as a Cook at Hooters and Primetime, and continued to develop his skills in the kitchen over the next four years.

In 2017, Mario followed in his father’s footsteps, and joined the LEYE family as a Line Cook at Beatrix River North, and took the opportunity to become Kitchen Manager in 2019. His favorite part of the job is the ability to be creative in the kitchen, and learning how to work with new types of food as the menu continuously evolves.

In his free time, Mario plays soccer and enjoys attending music festivals.

Rachel Espada

Office Manager

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.

Thomas Mizuno-Moore

Senior Beverage Manager

Originally from Champaign, Illinois, Thomas Moore found his passion in restaurants in 2002 where he was a member at Jarling’s Custard Cup. Four years later, and eager to expand his knowledge, Thomas took a position at a local wine café where he learned about beer, wine, and spirits. In 2011 he moved to Los Angeles and made the transition to restaurant management, culminating with a position for Blackhouse Hospitality Management in Hermosa Beach, CA.

Five years later, Thomas moved to Chicago with his wife, and joined the Lettuce Entertain You family as a manager at Beatrix Streeterville. After adapting to the culture and concept, Thomas was asked to join the opening team for Beatrix’s third location in the Fulton Market District of the West Loop in 2017. A year later, Thomas followed his passion for spirits and became the Beverage Manager at Aba, a Mediterranean restaurant, and its private event hall, The Dalcy. Now, Thomas is the Senior Beverage Manager for more than six restaurant concepts within LEYE. His favorite part of the job is talking with guests, and educating staff about what is new and exciting in spirits and cocktails.

In his free time, Thomas enjoys reading, going to the movies, and experimenting in the kitchen with food and cocktails. He and his wife love to explore the city and check out new restaurants.

Sharlene Hobbs

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.

Cara Yaffe

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.