Orange County-born, Chef C.J. Jacobson is best known for his ‘rustic-refined’ way of cooking. His craft revolves around hyper-seasonal, local California ingredients, where foraging plays a main part in the flavor profiles that he creates in his kitchen.
Jacobson has always been one for a good competition, even before starring on two seasons of Bravo’s Top Chef, and most recently, winning Top Chef Duels in 2014, he attended Pepperdine University in Malibu on a volleyball scholarship, and made the U.S. National Volleyball Team.
His professional volleyball career took him to Belgium, Israel, and the Netherlands, where he discovered food could be exciting and inspiring. Jacobson then returned to LA where he ultimately decided that restaurants would be his next career path. He enrolled at the Le Cordon Bleu-affiliated College of Culinary Arts in Pasadena, graduating in 2004 and his first professional job was cooking at Axe, a highly regarded restaurant with an ingredient-driven California menu.
He went on to work throughout California at Campanile under Mark Peel and Nancy Silverton and as a private chef for VIPs such as Arianna Huffington and Guess clothing’s Marciano family.
After his first appearance on Top Chef in 2007, Jacobson accepted a position as executive chef at The Yard, a gastropub in Santa Monica, CA. The following year, Jacobson participated in the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour and in 2012, he staged at the world-renowned Copenhagen restaurant Noma, working closely with acclaimed Chef René Redzepi. It was there he honed his skills and appreciation for every single ingredient—foraging for it, exploring it, and researching it. In July 2013, he become the executive chef at Girasol restaurant in Studio City, CA, and a year later was brought in as the first chef-in-residence at Intro in Chicago, IL which garnered three stars from the Chicago Tribune.
Jacobson is now the Chef Partner at Aba and Ēma, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant concepts focused on light, Mediterranean-style cooking. Jacobson has curated menus that pay homage to his roots in California, incorporating healthful and unique spices and ingredients.
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 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.
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.
Rita Dever is Corporate Chef of LEYE and Chef Partner of Ēma. 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.
Executive Pastry Chef of Beatrix, Foodease, and Ēma
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.
Born and raised in Chicago, Adam grew up two blocks away from the first Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, RJ Grunts, beginning his lifelong relationship with LEYE. At age 16, Adam began his career in the food & beverage industry as a bagger at Treasure Island Grocery in Lincoln Park, before working at Zambrana’s Deli at the deli counter during high school. Following his sibling’s lead, Adam attended the University of Wisconsin- Madison, where he continued to learn about the restaurant industry as a busser at Antonio’s. After graduating with a degree in Political Science, Adam traveled throughout Europe and found work as a bartender at a pub in London.
Adam took the opportunity to join the Lettuce Entertain You corporate office with a job in customer service in 1993, where he assisted the Gift Card and Frequent Diner Club departments. Looking to re-join the restaurant scene, Adam joined the team at Papagus Greek Taverna in 1994, where he began as a Host and later became a Maître D’, then Manager. After managing RJ Grunts and Bub City briefly, Adam became the Assistant General Manager at Petterino’s in 2002, where he later became General Manager & helped to open Do-Rite Donuts.
In 2019, Adam joined the Aba team as a Manager, and was quickly promoted to General Manager of Ema just a year later. Adam’s favorite part of the job is meeting and forming relationships with guests, helping teach LEYE employees, and embodying LEYE’s culture of caring.
In his free time, Adam loves spending time with his wife and two sons and following Chicago and Wisconsin sports teams.
Originally from Sylvania, Ohio, Michael found his love for service through his Grandmother who always made sure everyone was fed before ever sitting down. That kind of love resonates with you.
While attending Michigan State he spent his summers working as a busser and server at various restaurants in his hometown. Upon graduating in 2011 with a degree Hospitality Business, he participated in the Lettuce Entertain You Internship Program at Scoozi! and joined the team there full-time as a server in the fall of that same year. He eventually joined the Foodease and Foodlife teams working both behind the wine bar and later as an Office Assistant. Michael most recently opened Eataly in 2013 and moved on to become an Assistant General Manager before returning to LEYE as a manager here at Ema.
Michael is excited to be part of the Ema team and to also work closely with the wine and spirits program. Of the wine list, he is most passionate about the unique and more obscure varietals that are not yet well represented in Chicago.
When Michael is not at the restaurant, he spends his time checking out new restaurants, listening to new music, and spending time with his family.
Growing up just outside of Madison, WI, Claire fell in love with the culinary and hospitality world when she was just 14 years old. In high school, she competed in National Restaurant Association led ProStart competitions. While participating in these competitions, she gained experience in cooking and managing while meeting great chef mentors along the way. Wanting to pursue her new found passions, Claire attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY for an Associate’s Degree in Baking and Pastry and a Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Food Studies. Throughout college and upon graduating in 2015, she worked at Relais & Châteaux restaurants in both Rhode Island and Wisconsin where she held various roles to then making her way up to Pastry Chef and Dining Room Manager.
Three years later and seeking a way to get into a large food-saturated city, Claire moved to Chicago to join the Lettuce Entertain You family as a Manager on Aba’s opening team. In Summer 2020, Claire joined Aba’s sister restaurant, Ema in River North. Her favorite part of working in the restaurant is being able to continue the education for staff and being a mentor.
In her free time, Claire enjoys hosting friends and family at her house, testing new recipes and freelance food writing!
Jenna Greco was born and raised in Chicago, where she started working in restaurants at just 16-years-old. She attended Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration studying Hospitality and completed a dual-degree program with The Culinary Institute of America where she received her Associates Degree in Culinary Arts. It was this passion and dedication that has led her to work nearly almost every position in both the front and back of house at various restaurants over ten years.
In June 2016, Jenna joined the Lettuce Entertain You family where she was a part of the internship program and interned with Ema, a Mediterranean restaurant with a California influence in River North. Two years later, Jenna joined the opening team at Ema’s sister restaurant, Aba, in Fulton Market, where she was a manager for 2.5 years. In 2021, Jenna excitingly returned to the Ema team as a manager, focusing on the beverage program and cocktail curation.
When Jenna is not in the restaurant, she loves to try new restaurants and bar, go golfing and cook at home.
Born in Evanston and raised in Chicago, Daniel was introduced to the culinary world at age seven when his parents opened a Thai restaurant in the west suburbs of the city. At fourteen, Daniel’s father began to teach him how to cook and work the line in the restaurant kitchen, which sparked his passion for the restaurant industry. In 2012, Daniel graduated from Kendall College with a degree in culinary arts and jumped into working at Arun’s, where he learned the art of fine dining for two years before being hired as Sous Chef for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant in 2014. Daniel continued to hone his culinary skills at establishments such as Sable Kitchen and Bar, Vero Beach Hotel and Spa in Florida, where he became Executive Chef, and at Cobalt Restaurant and Heaton’s Reef Bar and Grill. In 2016, Daniel was honored to join a team of Kimpton executive chefs who cooked for the James Beard House, then took the opportunity to try a new experience and worked as Executive Chef at Elms Hotel and Spa in Kansas City.
After running kitchens across the country, Daniel was thrilled to return to Chicago to join Lettuce Entertain You as a Chef at Ema in January 2019, and assumed the role of Executive Chef by the summer of 2019. His favorite part of the job is working with his team and creating comradery that reminds him of working in his family’s restaurant, and loves continuing to learn and teach about food.
Outside of the restaurant, Daniel can be found enjoying a good movie, eating a great meal, or spending time with his family, friends and dog.
Born and raised in Zion, a city just north of Chicago and shy of Wisconsin, Quentin discovered his appreciation for culinary arts through a simple Home Economics course. Creating something new from simple ingredients ignited a passion within Quentin, which led him to the Culinary Institute of Michigan, where he continued to learn and grow as a chef. After earning an Associate’s of Applied Science for Culinary Arts in 2014, Quentin returned to Zion to work at a country club, but knew his calling was in Chicago, where he could be part of the ever-evolving restaurant scene. In 2015, Quentin’s dreams came true when he was given the opportunity to move to Chicago to work at Eataly Chicago.
After working at Eataly for one year, Quentin joined Lettuce Entertain You when he was hired as a Line Cook at Tru. Quentin was thrilled to be part of the Tru team through the restaurant’s final service in 2017, after which he joined Naoki Sushi and Stratford on the Park, working as Lead Line Cook for both restaurants. In 2018, Quentin assumed the role of Sous Chef at Booth One for one year, then seized the opportunity to work at Ema to further expand his culinary knowledge alongside a wonderful team.
Quentin is proud to be the Sous Chef at Ema, and looks forward to interacting with the guests every chance he gets. He loves to create dishes that make guests smile, and aims to make every meal a memorable one. Quentin embraces the opportunity to help and motivate his team whenever he can, and likes to elevate the people around him so they feel they can succeed.
In his free time, Quentin spends time with his wife, and can be found cooking or with his nose buried in a book.
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.