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 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 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 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, Foodlife, Foodease, Mity Nice Bar & Grill 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.
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.
Joe Krauss is originally from Oak Lawn, a suburb of Chicago. Growing up alongside a large family, Joe developed his love for food and hospitality at a young age as he was often found in the kitchen cooking. When he was 18-years-old, Joe took on his first kitchen job, and went on to join the Navy as a cook in 2007. After four years, Joe left the Navy to work in retail, but quickly realized his passion was in the kitchen.
Joe started with Lettuce Entertain You when he joined Ema’s opening team in Summer 2016. He has worked various positions in the kitchen including Prep Cook, Line Cook, Lead Line, and is now Kitchen Manager.
While Joe loves the fast pace of the kitchen and working alongside the team at Ema, his favorite part of the job is the food. Creating something he knows people are going to enjoy is what he looks forward to most.
In his free time, Joe loves to read, play video games, and spending time with his two dogs.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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, 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.
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.
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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