Our Team

Marc Jacobs

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

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

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 & 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.

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.

Joe Mishler

Chef

From Plymouth-Canton, Michigan, Joe moved to Chicago to attend the Cooking Hospitality Institute of Chicago – Le Cordon Bleu. He began his food career as a line cook in the Chicago suburbs, and since has explored many restaurant positions. Joe spent time in Florida working at Chef Allen’s, then at twice nominated James Beard Award Chef Chad Johnson’s SideBern’s. During his time at SidebBern’s, Joe was featured at Bern’s Winefest. Next in his career, Joe returned to Chicago to work under Chefs Chris Pandel and Joe Frillman at Balena. Joe is excited to be recently promoted to his current role as the Chef at Beatrix Streeterville, which opened in the neighborhood in 2015.

Joe comes from a long line of ‘food loving’ people. His family owns a small drive-in restaurant in Northern Michigan, Mishler’s Drive-In. He always has loved exploring the world and culture through food. He explains that through food, he can explore without having to leave the kitchen.

Outside of work, you can find Joe practicing martial arts or combat sports, exploring new restaurants with his wife, Rachel, reading books about food, and learning how to make ad hoc “at home” recipes. He believes in keeping food simple, but making it delicious.

Lisa Baldassarra

Sous Chef

Lisa grew up in Arlington Heights, IL and graduated from Buffalo Grove High School in 2005. Lisa initially attended Michigan State University for veterinary science, however, she quickly realized her passion for the culinary world and returned to Chicago in 2007 to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts at Kendall College. Lisa immediately began working in different restaurants across Chicago, including a scratch Italian restaurant located near her dorm, A Mano, which quickly hired her full time and jump-started her career.

Over the next few years, Lisa became skilled in the kitchen as she moved between two restaurants, A Mano and Bin 36, and worked in a hotel banquet kitchen, previously known as Hotel Sax. Lisa’s career continued to flourish after graduating with a B.A. in Culinary Arts in 2011, as she introduced signature dishes to Chicago favorites such as Atwood, Au Cheval, River Roast, Jake Melnick’s and Ravinia Festival in Highland Park.

In 2018, Lisa joined Lettuce Entertain You as a Sous Chef at Beatrix Streeterville. At Beatrix, Lisa loves the fast-paced nature of the restaurant and using feedback and communication from the guest to inspire new dishes for the menu.

During her free time, Lisa attends as many sporting events as she can, both as a spectator and participant, and enjoys outdoor activities with her husband, dog and rabbit.

Lisandro Ramirez

Kitchen Manager

Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Lisandro came to Chicago at the age of 7 and found his passion for visual art, music, and food right away. Looking to further his education, he went on to attend University of Illinois at Chicago and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts in 2012.

His passion for food and restaurants grew more when he joined Lettuce Entertain You when he began at Scoozi! in 2013. Among great co-workers and great chefs, he was motivated to take the next step in his career, and most recently joined the Beatrix Streeterville team as a Kitchen Manager. His favorite part of the job is helping the staff, working with chefs, and following the recipes to give the best experience to the guests.

Lisandro enjoys creating musical pieces, painting, and discovering new and exciting ingredients for food dishes.

Santiago Cortez

Kitchen Manager

Santiago grew up in Guerreo, Mexico, where as a young child he was exposed to food culture by taking care of his family’s 200 acre farm. He quickly realized his passion for it as every day he was caring for crops and livestock. When Santiago was just 17-years-old, he moved by himself to Chicago and began working for Lettuce Entertain You as a Dishwasher at Foodlife in Water Tower Place.

In 2015, Santiago transferred to Beatrix Streeterville as a Prep Cook. After hard work and following his passion, four years later Santiago is now the Kitchen Manager. Santiago’s favorite part of the job is getting to work with incredibly talented people and he loves having the ability to help wherever he can!

In Santiago’s free time, he enjoys trying other restaurants in Chicago and spending time with his wife.

Jordan Arbus

General Manager

Jordan Arbus grew up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and found his passion for restaurants and hospitality at the early age of just 16-years-old. With his first experiences as a host and in carry-out at Wildfire in Lincolnshire, Jordan went on to complete the Lettuce Entertain You internship program at Wildfire Glenview in 2012. Upon graduating from the University of Illinois with a degree in Hospitality Management, Jordan was offered a management position at Wildfire in McLean, Virginia. After four years in Virginia, Jordan returned home to Chicago in July 2017 to continue his journey with LEYE as a manager with the Beatrix brand.

In Spring 2018, Jordan was promoted to General Manager of Beatrix Streeterville. Jordan is eager to bring not only his 10 years of experience in the industry to the team at Beatrix, but to also broaden his knowledge within a new concept and management team. His favorite part of the job is ensuring a positive experience for the guests, building a strong team, and maintaining LEYE’s strong reputation in which he is so proud of.

In his free time, Jordan enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching the Blackhawks, trying new beers, and exploring which restaurants have the best chicken fingers!

Hector De Leon

Manager

Hector De Leon was born and raised in the Avondale neighborhood of Chicago. Beginning his career in the industry at 19, he managed and operated a local valet company all while attending DePaul University. After returning from Europe and post-graduation, Hector began bartending and specializing in craft cocktails in downtown restaurants.

Hector began with Lettuce Entertain You in 2015 as an Office Manager for Café BaBaReeba and Summer House Santa Monica. In 2017, Hector joined the opening team at Beatrix Fulton Market where he oversees the Beatrix Market, and now is happy to continue to grow the Market at the Streeterville location. His favorite part of the job is the fast pace environment, as well as learning about the operations of a restaurant.

In his free time he enjoys running, snowboarding, grilling and spending time with friends, family and his dog Leonardo.

Erandy Rivera

Manager

A Chicago native, Erandy’s passion for the restaurant industry was ignited at the early age of 15 as she worked in a variety of positions in fast food restaurants and cafes around the city. Erandy attended the University of Illinois to study Food Science & Human Nutrition and needed an internship to complete her degree, which led her back to Chicago, and to Lettuce Entertain You. In 2016, Erandy joined LEYE as an intern and continued to grow her culinary skills at Wildfire in Glenview, IL. After obtaining her degree, Erandy was able to stay with the company full-time as a manager, and she transferred to Wildfire Chicago given the opportunity to be downtown permanently.

Excited by the Beatrix concept and seeking a new opportunity, Erandy joined the Beatrix Streeterville team in September, 2018, as a manager. Erandy thrives off the fast-paced environment that allows her to meet and create connections with the guests, as well as with her team.

Outside of Beatrix, Erandy attends as many food and music festivals as possible with her family, fiancé and their dog, Bear.

Kristen Miknyoczki

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 a manager at Beatrix Streeterville 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.

Sarah Kim

Manager

Sarah Kim was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Many of Sarah’s childhood memories involve being immersed in her Korean culture, which included being surrounded by good company and good food. Sarah originally went to college in Cleveland to pursue medicine, but it didn’t take long for her to see that it wasn’t her calling. She changed paths and went on to receive a Master’s of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics while in Chicago. After working as a dietitian for a year she decided it was time to take the leap and enter the world she always wanted to be in, hospitality. 

Wanting to learn the ins and outs of the restaurant industry, Sarah joined Lettuce Entertain You in 2017 at Ema in River North. She helped out wherever she could whether it was hosting, bussing or running food; she simply loved being in the hustle and bustle and knew this was the job for her. After completing the Lettuce Entertain You internship program, Sarah joined the Beatrix Streeterville team as a Manager in 2018. Her favorite part of the job is getting to do what she loves- providing a space for people to come and enjoy food.

In Sarah’s free time, she enjoys exploring the city and its food scene with her friends. She also likes to hike and travel with her dog and spend time on her yoga mat!

Catherine Elsaesser

Manager

Catherine is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio where she developed a passion for food at a young age. Between spending time in the kitchen cooking with her father and grandmothers, and having her own small cake business in high school, Catherine knew she wanted to be in the hospital industry. After graduating in May 2017 from Cornell University with a degree in Hotel Administration, she realized she wanted to pursue her love for baking. Catherine went on to attend the Culinary Institute of America, where she received a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts in January 2019.

Catherine completed the Lettuce Entertain You internship program in 2016 and returned to the company after pastry school to join Beatrix Streeterville as a Manager in February 2019. Her favorite part of the job is working with her team, and creating special memories and moments for her guests. 

In her free time, Catherine enjoys spending time with her girlfriend, family and friends. She also loves to try new restaurants around the city and travel whenever she can!

Cara Yaffe

Director of Marketing & 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.

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.

Elsa Lucas

Sales and Catering Manager

Originally from Oak Park, IL, Elsa Lucas started working in the restaurants at just 15-years-old when she was a host at Avenue Ale House in Oak Park. After high school, she moved to Chicago to attend DePaul University where she studied English and Sociology. During this time, she continued to gain restaurant experience worked at Maya Del Sol, a Latin fusion restaurant in Oak Park.

Knowing that food and the restaurant industry was her passion, Elsa joined Lettuce Entertain You in 2012 as a host and office assistant at RPM Italian. In 2013, she joined the opening team at Beatrix River North as an office manager, and continued in this role as Beatrix Streeterville, Ēma and Beatrix Fulton Market opened in the three years that followed. Now, Elsa is the Sales and Catering Manager for Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Bar Ramone, Ēma and Rotisserie Ēma where she proudly executes and plans special events and catering for large groups. Her favorite part of the job is forming new relationships daily and making sure clients get exactly what they want.

In her free time, Elsa loves to spend time with her dog Quinn and husband, Kevin. She also enjoys working out and running, as well as checking out new bars and restaurants in the city with her girl friends.

 

Krista Rominger

Sales & Catering Manager

Krista joined the Lettuce Entertain You family in 2014 as an office manager in the Lettuce Parties & Special Events department. Originally from Naperville, and a graduate of Illinois State, Krista has grown up surrounded by the Chicago restaurant scene. Krista has learned so much about what it means to find the perfect space and atmosphere for a client and is excited to be sharing her expertise in special events at Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Bar Ramone, Ēma and Rotisserie Ēma.

As a sales and catering manager, Krista is able to utilize some of her strongest qualities – organization, planning, and execution of special events. Krista enjoys meeting new faces, forming relationships, and creating memorable experiences for guests.

In her free time, Krista loves to weekend brunch, attend sporting events, and spend time with her friends and family. Krista currently resides in West Town with her boyfriend.

Veronica Paredes

Office Manager

Veronica was born in Ecuador and moved to Chicago in 2002. She began her career in the restaurant business at the age of 16 waiting tables and assisting with food prep at her aunt’s café in Otavalo City.

She joined Lettuce Entertain You ten years ago as a hostess at Foodlife. After earning her degree in Business Administration and General Studies, she worked her way up to become the Office Assistant for Foodlife and Mity Nice Bar & Grill. At Beatrix, she loves combining her past experience working in restaurants with her business degree as the Office Manager.

Outside of work, Veronica enjoys cooking delicious meals for her husband and daughter, watching movies with lots of popcorn, and keeping up with the latest fashion and make-up trends.