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CJ Jacobson
Chef/Partner

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.

CJ Jacobson

Marc Jacobs
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.

 

Marc Jacobs

Steve Hofferth
Vice President and Partner

Steve joined Lettuce Entertain You in 1997 as a manager at R.J. Grunts, Lettuce’s very first establishment. Working closely with Rich Melman, Steve learned the company history, culture, and philosophy. He was quickly promoted to General Manager within two years.

In 2002, Steve became the GM at Antico Posto in Oak Brook, IL where he developed his passion for great Italian food and wine. In 2004, Steve joined the opening team of Osteria Via Stato, to further learn about concept development and the opening process.

Four years later, Steve took over operations of Foodlife and Mity Nice Bar & Grill in Water Tower Place. As a newly named LEYE partner, he led the initiative to re-concept Mity Nice Bar & Grill and mastered the art of focusing on great food and staying true to a brand. Steve later became a partner of L. Woods Tap & Pine Lodge in Lincolnwood, Beatrix in River North and Streeterville and Ēma.

When Steve is away from the restaurants, he enjoys spending time with his wife Nicole and two sons, swimming, cycling, running, and an occasional game of golf.

Steve Hofferth

Michael Giles
Partner

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.

Michael Giles

John Chiakulas
Chef/Partner

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.

John Chiakulas

Rita Dever
Chef/Partner

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.

Rita Dever

Yasmin Gutierrez
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.

Yasmin Gutierrez

Aaron Covert
Executive Chef

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.

Aaron Covert

Rigoberto Tapia
Kitchen Manager

Rigoberto Tapia was born in Mexico, and moved to Chicago when he was just 8-months-old. After being introduced to the restaurant industry at a young age as his father worked at various Lettuce Entertain You restaurants, Rigo knew he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Rigo joined Lettuce Entertain You when he was just 19-years-old where he spent six years at Scoozi! as a line cook. After working alongside many experienced chefs and mentors, his love and passion for the kitchen continued to grow. Rigo came to Beatrix in January 2014 seeking more knowledge and experience, and was promoted to Kitchen Manager at Beatrix in River North one year later. Now, Rigo has moved next door to join the team at Ema as a Kitchen Manager.

When Rigo is out of the kitchen, he can be found enjoying the outdoors, vacationing, and spending time with his wife.

Rigoberto Tapia

Andrew Morgan
General Manager

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.

Andrew Morgan

Sally Huynh
Manager

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.

Sally Huynh

Michael Siciliano
Manager

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.

Michael Siciliano

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 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.

Dave Vaala

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. Now, Cara proudly oversees the marketing and public relations for Antico Posto, Beatrix, Bea’s 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.

Cara Yaffe

Krista Rominger
Parties & Special Events

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.

Krista Rominger

Christine Cossette
Catering Manager

Christine Cossette’s first job in high school was filling cannoli in a bakery. Looking for a bustling city and more opportunity, Christine moved to Chicago and got a job at Lucky Strike Lanes in Streeterville. There, Christine quickly worked her way up from a cashier at the bowling desk, to to the administrator/sales assistant and then eventually moved into event sales.

Christine joined Lettuce in the summer of 2016 and is now the Special Events and Catering Manager for both Beatrix and Ema. Her favorite part of the job is putting clients at ease by letting them know they are in great hands, so all that they need to do is enjoy their celebration!

In her free time, she likes to make as many quick trips back to her hometown of Norwood, Massachusetts to visit her family. She also loves spending time with her boyfriend, trying new restaurants and traveling.

Christine Cossette

Elsa Jerousek
Office Manager

Originally from Oak Park, IL, Elsa graduated from DePaul University in 2011. She joined Lettuce Entertain You in 2012 at RPM Italian, working as an office assistant and host. In June of 2013, she joined the opening management team at Beatrix.

Looking to expand her experience and knowledge, Elsa was excited to join the opening team at Beatrix’s sister restaurant, Ema, where she is the office manager. Her main responsibilities include sales reporting, accounts payable and employee relations. She also assists with in-house parties and group dining.

Outside the restaurant, Elsa enjoys spending time with friends, running, and checking out new restaurants and bars in the city.

Elsa Jerousek

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