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 Executive Chef and Partner at Ēma, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises restaurant concept focused on light, Mediterranean-style cooking. Jacobson has curated a menu that pays homage to his roots in California, incorporating healthful and unique spices and ingredients.
President and Partner
Marc Jacobs is the President and Partner of Antico Posto, Beatrix, Bea’s Market, Ēma, Rotisserie Ēma, Foodease, Foodlife, L. Woods and Mity Nice Bar & Grill.
Marc began his career with Lettuce Entertain You in the fall of 1991, as a banquet server and busser at Bones (now L. Woods). After being cross-trained as a server, host and line cook, he was offered the opportunity to go through management training upon his graduation from UIC in the summer of 1995.
Two years later, Marc was transferred to R.J. Grunts, and was quickly promoted to general manager where he worked side by side with Rich Melman on the re-development of the restaurant.
From 2001 to 2015, Marc was imperative in the development and re-concepting of Antico Posto, Foodlife, Mity Nice Bar & Grill and L.Woods. He also oversaw and led the opening process from beginning to end at Di Pescara, Foodease Market, Beatrix River North and Streeterville, and Bea’s Market, a fast casual market.
Now, Marc is thrilled to be combining his passion for food and design with his vast experience in restaurants in his latest concept, Ēma, a Mediterranean restaurant featuring a light, California style of cooking.
In his free time, Marc enjoys spending time with his wife Vanessa and their three children, traveling, and visiting new restaurants.
Michael Giles is a Partner of Beatrix River North, Beatrix Streeterville and most recently, Ēma. With a strong passion for food and operations, Michael has worked for several restaurant groups in multiple cities including Minneapolis, San Diego, Portland and now in Chicago.
Michael started at Lettuce Entertain You in August 2010 where he was a part of the Scoozi team. He quickly became the General Manager, and just three years later, Michael led the opening team at Beatrix River North. Finding success in the concept, Michael was influential in the opening of its second location in Streeterville in October 2015. Just eight months later, Michael is now the Partner of said restaurants, in addition to Ēma, a Mediterranean and California-inspired restaurant in River North.
Michael oversees daily operations, food quality and 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 in all three concepts.
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 in Minnesota, and spending time with family and friends.
John Chiakulas is Corporate Chef of LEYE and Chef Partner of Beatrix, Antico Posto, Foodease Market, Foodlife, Mity Nice Grill, L. Woods and Ēma.
His journey with LEYE began at Ambria in 1981, rising through the ranks from fish butcher to become 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 many 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.
John is now the Chef Partner of Beatrix and was there for every step of its creation, as well as Lettuce’s newest Mediterranean concept, Ēma in River North. He is “hungry for more” in his leadership role, always thinking of how he can bring his 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, Foodlife, Foodease, Mity Nice Bar & Grill and Ēma
Yasmin studied Culinary Arts at the Illinois Institute of Art with an emphasis in pastry and continues to take classes at Chicago’s French Pastry School.
She began her career as an intern at Bittersweet Bakery on the north side of Chicago. A few years later, she joined Lettuce Entertain You’s Foodlife in Water Tower Place where she became the pastry chef and also oversaw Mity Nice Grill and Foodease after just two years. Now, Yasmin oversees the pastry program both at Water Tower Place, Beatrix and Ēma. Her specialties include cupcake creation and design, coffee cakes and birthday cakes.
Outside of the bakery, Yasmin plays soccer and enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.
From his early years, Aaron Covert has had a deep curiosity and interest in food. He was exposed to unique cuisines from all over the world as he grew up in Kenya, and resided in Thailand as a child. His culinary career started the summer before graduating college and has continued through this day. Aaron has held nearly every position in the kitchen and has cooked in restaurants such as Jackie’s Restaurant, Sidebar, and Grant Achatz’s Next Restaurant, to name a few.
Aaron began working for Lettuce in April 2016 and is now the Executive Chef at Ema. He loves working together with the team, and enjoys learning about everyone’s individual, unique skills.
In his free time, Aaron loves to travel. He has visited more than 14 countries worldwide and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon! He also loves to golf, snowboard and enjoys watching fútbol.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, California, Dave followed his passion for cooking and attended school at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena. After graduating in 2011, he began his career in private and banquet catering, as well as music tour catering for artists like Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. In 2015, Dave got back into restaurants where he worked alongside Top Chef Alum, CJ Jacobson at Girasol in LA.
A year later, Dave moved to Chicago to be part of the opening team at Ēma, the Mediterranean and California inspired restaurant in River North led by Chef CJ. Dave began as the lead line cook, and is now Kitchen Manager. His favorite part of the job is introducing and coaching his team to new techniques or products. He loves the process of taking an idea from the chefs cutting board and recreating it multiple times a day with the same quality and attention to detail every time.
In his free time, Dave enjoys exploring local markets and playing with new recipes and kitchen equipment at home. Dave currently is making wine from various fruits, and has also started a new batch of kimchi. After foraging every week in LA, Dave looks forward to bringing this passion to Chicago and discover new options and locations around Illinois.
Originally from Libertyville, Ill., Andrew Morgan graduated from Lake Forest College in 2003 with a degree in Politics, and continued his studies at Boston University earning a Masters in Environmental Policy and International Relations with a focus on climate change policy. After realizing that hospitality was his professional calling, Andrew and his wife returned to Chicago in 2011 where he worked as a server at the Publican. Soaking up as much knowledge as he could about food, cooking, beer, wine, service and hospitality, he moved on to his first management role at Moderno and Inovasi on the North Shore. In 2013, Andrew returned to the city as General Manager at Trenchermen in Wicker Park. Always seeking new challenges, Andrew took on the role the opening Assistant General Manager of Maple & Ash in the Gold Coast. Finally, he has now found his home as the General Manager at Ema.
Andrew relishes the daily challenge of pushing the boundaries of creativity with food and service. He loves working closely with chefs to find ways to make the food and overall experience flow together seamlessly.
In his free time, Andrew loves spending time with his wife Sarah and their two sons, Crosby and Calvin. Between watching garbage trucks, the Cubs, and seeking out delicious donuts and coffee, he also enjoys cooking for his family.
A Chicago native, James has worked in restaurants for more than 15 years in the industry so far, and has held almost every position imaginable, including host, grill cook, bartender, server, and manager. The chaos, high energy, and fast paced atmosphere, in addition to working so closely with a team in hopes to develop and grow concepts, are the most exciting elements of restaurants for James.
After joining the Lettuce Entertain You family in 2013, James was a manager at Beatrix where he assisted in the opening of its second location in Streeterville. Most recently, James joined the team at Ēma, the Mediterranean and California-inspired restaurant in River North. He is most looking forward to grow alongside the creative and passionate team and learn from their experiences and knowledge. His favorite thing about the menu are the fresh seafood options, as well as the Lamb Kefta.
In his free time, James enjoys taking his wife and son to the beach, trying out new restaurants, or stopping into a pub for a pint with friends.
Sally Huynh was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, where she began her career in restaurants as a server at the Bartolotta Group in 2011. Seeking a larger city and new opportunities, Sally moved to Chicago two years later where she worked alongside Iron Chef Jose Garces, followed by Master Chef Judge, Graham Elliott.
In 2014, Sally gained further experience at restaurants throughout the city like Morimoto, as well as Fig and Olive, and eventually joined the Lettuce Entertain You team in May 2016.
As a manager at Ema, her favorite part of the job is talking with guests to ensure they have a wonderful experience at the restaurant! In her free time, she loves to work out, explore the city, and kick box.
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 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 became part of the management team at Beatrix in River North. There, he oversaw the restaurant’s daily processes, focused on supply ordering, and staff management. Recently, Dave joined the team at Beatrix’s sister restaurant, Ema, a Mediterranean restaurant featuring Chef CJ Jacobson’s light style of California cooking.
Dave’s favorite part of working at Ema and for Lettuce Entertain You is the team he works alongside with, as well as the people he meets on a daily basis. When he’s not in the restaurant, Dave enjoys watching old movies, visiting art galleries, trying out new craft cocktails and craft beer, traveling, and exploring this new city he’s now proud to call home.
A Chicago native, Jordan has always had a strong interest in food, beverage and the restaurant industry. He attended Rollins College in Florida where he studied communications. Upon graduating, Jordan returned to Chicago, and worked in commercial real estate while also bartending in the evenings. It didn’t take him long to realize that the hospitality industry was his true calling and a passion he needed to pursue full time.
Jordan started at Lettuce Entertain You for a summer internship in 2017, where he learned the importance of caring for the food, service, guest, and employee. Immediately following the internship, Jordan joined the Ema team as a manager, where he oversees everything from food quality to guest satisfaction. Jordan enjoys the opportunity to put smiles on the faces of guests and fellow co-workers.
During Jordan’s free time, he enjoys swimming, golfing, and playing pool or darts at dive bars.
Emily grew up in the northwest suburbs of Palatine, IL, and attended school at The University of Illinois at Chicago, where she pursued a degree in Sociology. While at school, she started working as a server and bartender and found her passion for customer service. Upon graduating in 2013, Emily accepted a full-time position as the Catering and Events Coordinator for Compass Group. Three years later and looking for a change, Emily moved to Charleston, South Carolina and worked as a recruiter.
Realizing she missed both Chicago and the hospitality industry, she moved back to the Windy City in 2017 and joined the Lettuce Entertain You as an Office Manager at Ema in River North. Emily loves the opportunity to learn about the financial side of the business, while still being able to form and build relationships with staff.
In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, going to concerts at Ravinia during the summer months, cooking healthy and unique recipes, traveling and staying active.
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. Now, Cara proudly oversees the marketing and public relations for Antico Posto, Beatrix, Beatrix Market, Ēma, Foodlife, Foodease, L. Woods, Mity Nice Bar & Grill, and Rotisserie Ēma. 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.
Sales and 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, Antico Posto as well as Ēma.
Being part of the Ēma team is very exciting for Krista. She is able to focus on 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 nearby Ēma in Chicago’s River North.
Sales and Catering Manager
Angela Smurawa grew up in Appleton, WI., where her love for the restaurant industry began when she was just 15-years-old. After moving to Chicago in 2007, she managed a hair salon in Evanston for five years where she furthered her professional growth and management skills.
In August 2014, Angela knew she wanted to get back in the restaurant world where she would be surrounded by energy and excitement. After having brunch at Beatrix one morning, she found herself as their new host and then server just a few weeks later.
Now, as a Sales & Catering Manager of Beatrix and Ema, Angela loves being able to combine her passion for food while connecting and caring for people. She especially finds the positive reaction from guests, and the health conscious yet innovative menu options tremendously exciting to be part of.
When Angela isn’t at the restaurant, she loves to entertain friends and family at her home, traveling, and cooking.
Sales and Catering Manager
Originally from Oak Park, IL, Elsa Jerousek started working in the restaurants at just 15-years-old when she was a host at Avenue Ale House. 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 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 at Beatrix Streeterville, Ema and Beatrix Fulton Market in the three years that followed. Now, Elsa is the Sales and Catering Manager for Beatrix Restaurants and Ema 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 fiancé Kevin. She also enjoys working out and running, as well as checking out new bars and restaurants in the city with her girlfriends.
Divisional Wine Director
A graduate of the University of Montana, sommelier Ryan Arnold studied in both Torino and Rome during his college years and it was here that he first fell in love with food and wine.
In 2004, he began his career as a member of the opening team for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE) Chicago restaurant Osteria Via Stato, and was reintroduced to Italian wine in the States, further sparking his passion and inspiration to pursue a career in the wine business. Arnold followed his vision, and in 2006, he accepted a position with local Italian wine importer Vin Divino. He quickly moved up the ranks and was promoted to regional manager shortly thereafter.
In 2010, Arnold joined Winebow, a large New York-based import company, and opened their Chicago branch. Two years later, Arnold rejoined the LEYE team as Divisional Wine Director where he develops various wine programs at restaurants including Ema, Summer House Santa Monica, il Porcellino, Stella Barra, Hub 51 and more. In 2015, Ryan was named Wine Enthusiasts 40 under 40 and Star Chefs’ Chicago Rising Star Sommelier.He also co-founded Squire Wine Co., an internet service promoting wine events and job openings to the Chicago wine community.
Outside of the world of wine, Arnold’s passion is traveling and experiencing new cultures. In his spare time he enjoys biking, rock climbing, traveling, and cooking and resides in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago.
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