As an award-winning Food & Beverage leader, brand architect, and product innovator, I bring extensive success and expertise in creating and executing industry-leading restaurant concepts. My background encompasses a diverse spectrum of industry experience, from early stage companies to some of the world’s leading restaurant and hospitality brands—to date, I’ve worked to open 55 hotels and 132 restaurants around the world. I excel at creating innovative concepts and consumer experiences, transforming struggling business units into portfolio leaders, and successfully delivering large-scale expansion initiatives on time and within budget. Throughout my career, I have been actively committed to the organic and sustainable food & beverage movement, and have passionately supported immigrant farmers and their causes. Beyond expertise, my hands on approach and lead from the front management style are a key component in the consistent success achieved by my top performing teams.
Skills & Expertise
F&B Concept Development
Restaurant Portfolio Expansion
Branding & Concept Identity
Turnarounds & Transformation
Luxury & Boutique Brand
Launches & Openings
Policies & Procedures
Flow, Design & Layout
Hiring & Onboarding
Coaching & Team Building
Efficiency & Optimization
PR & Media Relations
Speaking & Presentations
Principal (July 2009 – Present)
Collaborative Kitchens & Culinary Concepts – St. Paul MN.
Directly responsible for re-calibrating of the airports 23 restaurants & bars through re-defining units core competencies and fundamental identity while focusing on fresh, relevant offerings served quick and accessible.
Overall operation consisted of 23 restaurants, 16 bars, 28 Markets.
Responsible for managing Terminals LBW Program from inventory, auditing, new product implementation and quarterly LBW promotions.
Responsible for the re-mapping of F&B Storage areas based on projected $20M increase in revenue from new concept opening and re-branding.
Clients include; Wyndham Hotels, OTG, Wein Hospitality, Next Hospitality, Virgin Hotels, Halen Hospitality, Il Molino, Williams Island.
Complex Director of Food & Beverage (October 2018 – October 2019)
Faena District – Miami, FL.
Recruited to oversee the food & beverage operation at the Faena District that consisted of Faena hotel a 181 room Forbes 5 Star property, Faena House a luxury residential complex, Faena Forum a catering and social event space, Faena Bazaar a retail complex, Faena Park a parking and F&B retail space and Casa Faena a 45-room boutique hotel.
Lead overall F&B revenues of $36M annually across the district that consisted of PAO by Paul Qui an Asian inspired fine dining outlet, Los Fuegos by Francis Mallmann a wood fired Argentinian Steak House, The Living Room a nightly activated lounge featuring local entertainers, Faena Theatre a 155 seat performing arts theatre featuring choreographed shows, Saxony Bar a Speakeasy showcasing Artisan Cocktails, Sun Bar and Tree of Life an outdoor venue featuring great cocktail’s and food by Francis Mallmann and a 300 seat Pool & Beach operation.
Oversee an international JI employment program for 125 individuals that work on a yearly basis throughout the F&B Operation. Direct reports consist of 2 Restaurant GM’s, 1 Night Life Director, 1 Night Life VIP Director, 1 Beverage Director, 3 Sommeliers, 1 Pool & Beach Director, 1 Director of Banquets, 1 F&B Manager and 1 F&B Experience Manager.
Initiated “Cocktail Collective”, an artisan cocktail program with recognized Mixologist Nick Nistico, Courtney Lane and Danilo Bosevic to revitalize the property wide spirits program.
Spearheaded Summer Brainstorming to recognize revenue initiatives for the off season to drive more traffic through multiple F&B Marketing initiatives.
Initiated Faena Forum Financial workshop a collaborative initiative to increase overall revenue in the events space while enhancing the operation through creative and innovative ways to display food & beverage offerings.
Collaborated with James Garner and Gitano Grupo on a 12-month pop-up in Casa Faena.
Hosted Global Gastrology, a 3 day program recognizing world class chefs such as Jose Andres, Ferran Andria, Gaston Acurio and Maria Marte.
Directly oversee spirits partnership and activation throughout Art Basel, Winter Music Conference and SOBEWFF.
Vice President of Food & Beverage (September 2017 – August 2018)
Caesars Entertainment – Las Vegas, NV
Recruited to lead an $80M F&B capital investment, develop a range of new concepts, and ensure world class food & beverage experiences across the Caesars system. Conceptualized the new Steak House, Seafood Buffet, Food Hall, Brown Spirits Bar, Korean Fried Chicken Food Truck, Donut Shop, Beer Garden, Taco QSR, and Custard Shop.
Provide direct oversight of 12 Restaurants, 13 Bars, 5 QSR Concepts, 1 Coffee House, 3 Pool Operations and 1 Night Club. Oversee the Hospitality Pod comprised of three properties that includes The Linq, The Flamingo, and The Cromwell. Manage and develop a team of 4 Senior Leaders, 30 GMs and Managers, and 15 supervisors.
Built a high-performance leadership team and vendor portfolio to support the success of the F&B expansion. Collaborate with strategic partners that include Guy Fieri, Giada De Laurentiis, Victor Drai, and Gordon Ramsay.
Lead total Food & Beverage revenues of $126M annually across three properties with 148,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. Responsible for expanding F&B revenues by $70M and driving YoY improvements in customer satisfaction scores, product quality, and operating profitability.
Travel 10% of the time, across the United States and internationally, to support concept development for new venues, recruit top talent, and represent Caesars Entertainment at various industry events.
Director of Culinary Development (May 2015 – August 2017)
Hai Hospitality (Uchi Restaurant Group) – Austin, TX
Recruited to lead the expansion of the Uchi Restaurant Group for acclaimed Chef and Restaurateur Tyson Cole, owner of Uchi and Uchiko. Tyson Cole is a James Beard Award winner for Best Chef: Southwest 2011 and was named Food & Wine Magazine’s, Best New Chef in 2004. Former chef Paul Qui received the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2012, and was the Season 9 winner of Top Chef on Bravo.
Uchi’s food uniquely expands the Japanese palate and tradition, introducing surprising new flavors and influences from around the world. Executive Chef Tyson Cole uses the finest ingredients to create inspired combinations of flavor, texture, color, technique and style, with a menu designed to allow a different experience with each visit.
Responsible for total food and beverage revenues of $70M annually. Created a financial scorecard, which is reviewed biweekly to evaluate each property’s P&L performance and drive insights for new opportunities.
Managed 6 direct reports, including 5 Unit Chefs and 2 Concept Chefs, with overall responsibility for the training and oversight of line-level and management-level culinary personnel. Established the J1 Culinary Extern Program to expose 10 international culinary students to Japanese cuisine every year.
Formed a Leadership Development Program, a Management Operational Toolbox, and “Hai How’s” leadership tools to ensure consistent processes across the organization for leaders at all levels. Held the Sushi Summit and CDC Summit, to improve leadership collaboration, exchange ideas, and elevate the culinary product globally.
Conceptualized and opened Top Knot, an evolution of Uchi and its Japanese roots in a casual, playful and raucous environment showcasing Asian inspired simple sharable dishes along with a full bar featuring tap beer, wine, sake and Japanese whiskey. Drew recognition with 4 Stars from Dallas Morning News and D Magazine’s “Best Brunch”.
Mentored the company’s current and future culinary talent; created a clear and consistent brand for St. Philip Bakery and Loro Asian BBQ, and elevated the culinary program across the organization.
Guided the restaurant group’s major expansion initiative, with an objective to increase the existing portfolio from 7 to 30 venues, within the next decade. Developed new concepts, implemented standardized financial and administrative processes, and created a leadership bench to sustain long-term growth.
Worked closely with food vendors to negotiate pricing and ensure product specifications. Developed a procurement program that netted more than $800K in savings to the company.
Senior Vice President of Operations (April 2014 – May 2015)
Invest Hospitality – Greenwich, CT
Responsible for leading Invest Hospitality’s hotel and restaurant portfolio and future expansion efforts in the U.S. and China. Managed three direct reports, conducted P&L reviews, and established budgets and forecasts.
Led operations at Invest Hospitality Wine Country, with three existing operations and two under development.
Collaborated with Invest Hospitality Asia’s Shanghai-based Cachet Hotel Group on their future prospectus, along with current projects at the URBN Hotel and Cachet Boutique, including a Beer Garden and an Australian Pub.
Oversaw the Brookfield Project in New York, featuring L’Atelier by Joel Robuchon, Essential Steak House by Christophe Ballanca. Led various initiatives that involved space planning; operating supplies and equipment; furniture, fixtures, and equipment; staffing; budgets; and performance evaluations.
Created a clear consumer brand identity for three units in Santa Rosa, California, including a brew pub and a quick serve coffee and crepe concept. Successfully transformed unit losses of $200K annually into a $100K YoY profit.
Executed the successful opening of an American Brew Pub in Shanghai, China, restoring profitability and consumer confidence by replacing the previous concept.
Supported strategic partnerships that included: Torc by Sean O’Toole, a contemporary chef driven concept in Napa; Empire Diner by Andrew Glassberg in New York City; Due Forni, a casual pizzeria in Las Vegas and Austin; and Claudette’s, the sister restaurant to Rosemary’s in New York City.
Repositioned properties by defining core competencies through product identification, concept identity, menu development, tasting symposiums, detailing a critical path for training, implementation and execution of new menus, vetting customer feedback, and developing the operational flow, design, and layout.
Director of Culinary, Lab 475 (July 2009 – April 2014)
Concept Kitchen – Morgans Hotel Group – New York, NY
Responsible for setting the strategic Food & Beverage direction for Ian Schrager’s iconic lifestyle brand with a portfolio of boutique properties that include Delano, Mondrian, Hudson, Clift, Sanderson, St. Martins Lane, Royalton, and Morgans. Oversaw and developed total company-wide F&B revenues exceeding $150M annually.
Served as a partner in Concept Kitchen, an internal restaurant group focusing on in-house concept development, brand marketing, and collaboration with strategic partners. The organization’s mission was to create accomplished, yet casual, authentic restaurants and venues across the Morgans Hotel Group.
Conceived Lab 475 to establish the culinary identity for Concept Kitchen and to act as a culinary incubus for menu development, concept creation, efficient back of house planning and design, and talent cultivation.
Conceptualized and executed a full range of venues that included: Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar, a Coastal Italian Restaurant at Mondrian SoHo; Enoteca Isola, a Mediterranean Wine & Crudo Bar at Mondrian SoHo; Tequila Park Taqueria, an Outdoor Tequila Bar & Taco Shack at Hudson New York; Hudson Common, a Gastro Pub & Beer Garden at Hudson New York; Hudson Lodge, an Urban Ski Lodge at Hudson New York; Reserve Bar, a Brown Spirits Artisan Cocktail Bar at Morgans New York; Soaked, a Rooftop Cocktail Bar & Lounge at Mondrian SoHo; Hudson Express an outside-the-box approach to in-room dining; and “Dinner Party”, a collaborative pop-up event featuring internationally recognized Chefs, Restaurateurs, and Mixologists.
Carried out concept development for Henry, a Cocktail Bar by Ryan Chetiyawardana at Hudson New York; Brasserie BOHO Raw Bar & Grill, a Mediterranean Brasserie and Seafood Restaurant at Mondrian South Beach; and an “ad hoc” banquet concept for Mondrian South Beach.
Developed storyboards that thoroughly represented new brand concepts, defined core competencies for food and drink, defined the look and feel of a venue, and formed points of differentiation for style and service. Created marketing hooks via restaurant design branding hooks through the Chef, an identity story around the product, and press-worthy collateral to sell the brand.
Generated detailed plans around each brand launch, comprehensive schedules to keep the restaurant relevant with customers and the media, and a constant outreach through social media campaigns.
Led menu and product development by conducting an in-person analysis of the market and competitive set, creating a concept tailored to each site, delivering presentations to senior management, refining ideas through focus groups and the culinary team, conducting recipe and menu costing, holding a physical menu tasting for all items, creating the final menu layout and text, and building a training program around the finalized menu.
Worked with Culinary Union operations in San Francisco, New York, London, Morocco, and Qatar. Participated in the grievance process and resolution, negotiated contracts and renewals, and met monthly with Union Shop Stewards to vet all potential issues.
Spearheaded the development and coordination of space planning and F&B planning for international projects that included the Delano Cesme and Mondrian Istanbul Turkey, Delano Moscow Russia, Hudson London, Mondrian London, Mondrian Doha Qatar, and Mondrian Baha Mar Bahamas.
Collaborated with industry-leading strategic partners that included: Masaharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck, Steve Olson, Jesse Itsler, Steve Abrams, Michael Bonadies, Ryan Chetiyawardana, and Sam Mason.
Executive Chef (December 2002 – July 2009)
The MGM Grand Resort & Casino – Las Vegas, NV
Led the Culinary Team in the repositioning of the MGM Grand’s entire Food & Beverage Program, supporting the rebranding of the iconic MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, the world’s largest hotel with 6,800-rooms.
Responsible for creating a best-in-class experience at each venue on the property, developing a bench of talent to accommodate the massive expansion, and maximizing financial returns on the MGM’s $360M F&B investment.
Achieved a 115% increase in F&B revenue growth, from $130M to $280M; received numerous property ratings and awards during tenure, including 54 Diamonds, 10 Stars, and 5 Michelin Stars. Successfully hired, trained, and developed more than 500 department employees in just 36 months.
Directed 140 Chefs and Sous Chefs, 500 Culinarians, and maintained oversight for the Stewarding Operation, encompassing over 150 associates. Made final hiring decisions for all management-level employees, after a multi-stage vetting process. Guided the training and development program for more than 1,200 personnel.
Spearheaded the massive Food & Beverage rebranding initiative by re-acquiring all previously leased out units, developing a diverse portfolio of restaurants across the property, re-concepting each venue internally or with celebrity chef partners, leading menu development and sign-off, and allocating personnel within the department.
Developed numerous concepts, designed the layout and flow for the front and back of the house, finalized equipment specification and selection, hired management, created menu offerings, organized training for all personnel, and monitored each venue for 120 days post-opening to assess team strengths and weaknesses.
Led a full array of openings that included: The Signature at MGM Grand, an 1,800 suite hotel condominium complex; The Sky Lofts, a 5 Star and 5 Diamond award winning hotel, within the MGM Grand; Craft Steak with Tom Colicchio; Joel Robuchon at The Mansion and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon with Joel Robuchon; Nobhill Tavern and Seablue with Michal Mina; Fiamma Trattoria & Bar with Michael White; Diego Mexican Restaurant & Bar in collaboration with Rick Bayless; Shibuya Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar; and Wet Republic Ultra Pool.
Directed Culinary Operations for 14 restaurant and properties including The Mansion, voted best hotel by Travel & Leisure Magazine. Led Culinary Operations for the Convention & Exhibition Operation, encompassing 550,000 square feet of convention space that generated $55M in annual revenue.
Served in a change management role by completely restructuring the Food & Beverage Department reporting structure, administrative duties, financial responsibilities, procurement process, and perception within MGM.
Established Food & Beverage Operations and oversaw the team build-out for The MGM Grand Detroit, which included opening the Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill with Wolfgang Puck and the Bourbon Steak & Saltwater Seafood Restaurant with Michael Mina.
Hosted two James Beard Foundation Dinners, featuring “The Chefs of MGM Grand” and the restaurant Pearl.
Created the first Culinary Apprenticeship Program that was accredited by the State of Nevada. This two-year program was open to all MGM Grand employees, providing experienced mentors and 24 comprehensive modules.
Established an employee recognition program to bring about a shift in personnel mentality, creating a participatory partnership with line-level employees. Utilized development contracts to ensure an ongoing commitment and tenure for staff.
Corporate Chef (September 1999 – December 2002)
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide – Stamford, CT
Served as an initial member of the Starwood Corporate Operations Team in White Plains, New York. Responsible for directing Culinary Operations for the Westin, St. Regis, and W Brands, with food and beverage revenues exceeding $480M; managed 175 company restaurants; and supported 90 hotels in the North American Division.
Led openings for the Westin Savannah, Westin Riverwalk, Westin Grand Vancouver, Westin Detroit, Westin St. Louis, The Diplomat Hollywood, Westin Century Plaza, St. Regis Los Angeles, and The St. Regis Monarch Beach.
Managed the design and development for back of house operations on all new builds and renovations.
Created the “Westin Style”, culinary workshop focused on the rebirth of Westin Food & Beverage. Hosted a James Beard Dinner featuring “Westin Style” with Chef Josiah Citrin from Melisse Restaurant.
Collaborated with strategic partners that included Michal Mina, Doug Rodriguez, Mark Miller, Jack Penrod, Randy Gerber, Joachim Splichal, and Drew Nieporent.
Education & Professional Development
Bachelor of Arts, Culinary Arts
Century College – White Bear Lake, MN
“Unstoppable” Leadership Summit Caesars Entertainment – Las Vegas, NV (2017)
“Inspire Our Best” Culture & Leadership Seminar Caesars Entertainment – Las Vegas, NV (2017)
HAACP Training CREA (Culinary Research & Education Academy) – Alexandria, VA (2013)
Fatted Calf Charcuterie Courses Fatted Calf – Napa, CA (2011)
Sous Vide Training by Bruno Goussault Culinary Research & Education Academy – Alexandria, VA (2010)
Magic Potions & Hydrocolloids Course with David Arnold French Culinary Institute – New York, NY (2010)
MGM Grand Leadership Institute MGM Grand Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV (2004)
Select Awards & Professional Recognition
Battle of The Burger, Third Place Time Out New York Magazine – New York, NY (2013)
Tacos & Tequila, Winner Best Taco Patron Spirits Company – Brooklyn, New York (2013)
Delegation Host, Chinese New Year Food Festival MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV (2008)
“Top Four Chefs in Greater Chicago” National Chefs of America – Chicago, IL (1990)