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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 and Fulton Market, 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.

 

Kevin Trojanowski

Partner

Kevin’s passion for food began while growing fruits and vegetables in his grandparent’s garden. His grandma taught him to cook and bake using the fresh produce from the garden. Kevin worked in a high volume bakery throughout high school, and it is here where his passion 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 at Water Tower Place. With more than 20 years in the restaurant industry, Kevin has spent more than half his career at Lettuce. He has grown within the organization; working his way up from a floor manager to General Manager, to now a Partner.

He has brought structure to the many management teams he oversees, implements efficient operating systems, improving profitability and continuing to drive the food culture. 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, the Loop, and at DePaul Unviersity’s downtown campus.

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

Janet Kirker

Associate Partner and Executive 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 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. Now, Janet is a Partner of Beatrix Market and its four locations throughout Chicago, as well as Foodease.

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.

 

Yasmin Gutierrez

Associate 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 three 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.

Carrie Bradley

Chef

Growing up in Alabama, Carrie has always had a passion for food. She attended The University of Alabama and after graduating with a business degree in 2000, Carrie moved to Chicago to pursue her culinary career. She attended Kendall College and upon graduating joined the opening team at Big Jones restaurant while also teaching classes at The Chopping Block. After nine years at The Chopping Block, Carrie moved to Florida to join her cousin in opening Black Bear Bread Co., an artisanal bakery and café.

Carrie’s opportunity to work with Lettuce Entertain You is what brought her back to Chicago in February o4 2018. Now, as the Chef at the Beatrix Market DePaul Loop location, Carrie’s favorite part of the job is using fresh ingredients to produce quality food that people are excited to eat.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, baking sourdough bread and playing seasonal recreational sports.

Thalia Krick

General Manager

Thalia Krick grew up on a lake in small town Minnesota. With a significant influence from her parents and grandparents, Thalia’s love for cooking and exploring in the kitchen blossomed at a very young age.

Thalia studied Biology and Agronomy at Iowa State University before following her deep passion by attending Kendall College for her culinary degree. She began her journey at Lettuce Entertain You in 2008 where she was a cook at Foodlife, to then revamp the catering program at Water Tower Place. Three years later, Thalia was promoted to Manager at Foodease, and also assisted in the opening of Beatrix River North and Beatrix Streeterville.

Now, Thalia is excited to be the General Manager of Beatrix Market at DePaul University’s downtown campus. There, she thrives on discovering new retail products, seeking what the latest trends in cooking are, and learning from those that she meets and works with.

In her free time, Thalia loves to travel, visit family, ski, volunteer, check out new markets, restaurants, and bars.

 

Dave Vaala

Manager

Growing up in western New York, Dave’s first culinary experience was in wine. He worked for a small family winery in the Finger Lakes region of New York and learned about the wine making process, pairings and the culture. Wanting to apply his knowledge in a new setting, Dave joined the team at a local cheese shop, Cheesetique, in Alexandria, VA.

Seeking more growth, Dave made the move to Chicago where he joined the management team at Beatrix in River North where he oversaw daily processes, supply ordering, and staff management. Dave went on to join the team at Beatrix’s sister restaurant, Ema, the Mediterranean and California inspired restaurant led by Top Chef Duels winner, CJ Jacobson. Now, he is proud to be on the opening team of Beatrix Market’s second standalone location in Chicago’s Loop.

Dave’s favorite part of  the job is the team he works alongside with and the people he meets on a daily basis. In his free time, Dave enjoys watching old movies, visiting art galleries, trying out new craft cocktails and craft beer, traveling, and exploring this new city he loves to call home.

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 eight 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

Divisional Marketing & PR Manager

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.

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.

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.