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Our Team

Juan Ramirez (Divisional Sous Chef)

Born in Arandas, Jalisco (Mexico), Juan came from quite modest means.  That being said, he learned from his Mom’s entrepreneurial spirit, who ran a small business in the center of town.  She taught him the importance of a strong work ethic and sheer perseverance to make ends meet every day.

Moving to U.S. when he was 15, his first job was at Chili’s.  He was hungry to work and would do any job asked of him.  Juan had never worked in a kitchen, but that sheer perseverance his Mom taught him came in handy.  Within a short time, he had worked all back-of-house positions and found that he enjoyed keeping every day different for himself.  He continues to work and mentor all positions to ensure that cooks are learning from his experience. He enjoys teaching others and helping them understand how to maintaining the quality of work expected of them for the food they prepare for our guests.

His Lettuce Entertain You career started at RPM Italian as a line cook, which then progressed to a lead line cook position.  He also worked at Paris Club and in 2015 moved divisions to work at Oyster Bah.

Working second jobs on many occasions  Juan is also quite familiar around a body shop.  His ever-growing passion for cars is one of the ways he spends his free time, with a current favorite being a ’57 Sacra Vochos.

Time with his kids is most important.  It doesn’t matter what they do as long as they can be together.

 

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Christina Smith
Manager (Cocktails)

Christina Smith hardly remembers a time when she wasn’t a part of the restaurant industry. Born and raised in Valparaiso, Indiana, she worked a series of restaurant jobs both before and after her big move to Chicago in 2000. However, it was in 2004 during her eight year bartender stint at a Lincoln Park bar where she really cut her teeth before joining Lettuce Entertain You. In 2012 she joined the team as a manager, leading cocktail programs at Shaw’s and Tokio Pub, two of Schaumburg’s local favorites.

Christina returns to her Lincoln Park roots with the Oyster Bah team where she will oversee the restaurant’s cocktail programs. You can expect “iconic east coast classics with their own twist.” The downstairs bar cocktails will be a bit more unique and playful showcasing her creativity and boisterous personality. A self-ascribed “bartender at heart,” Christina loves creating recipes with simple, fresh ingredients, In contrast, her own drink of choice is a whiskey neat with a couple of ice cubes.

She is also responsible for the amazing Airbnb condo space (Pearl in the Park) above the restaurant where guests can spend a night in luxury after enjoying a delicious dinner downstairs.

When she’s not at Oyster Bah, she’s spending the day with her daughter enjoying all that this wonderful city of Chicago has to offer.. She is very excited to offer you a cocktail list which will perfectly compliment the menu offerings.

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Nate Redner
Manager (Wine)

Some kids love soccer. Other kids love karate. For Nate Redner, it’s always been about food (and wine upon his 21st birthday). By the age of 14, he was working summers in a small Italian restaurant in northern Michigan making salads and desserts. He later worked as a line cook at the exclusive Bay Harbor Yacht Club. His passion for the industry was solidified during his studies at Michigan State University’s Hospitality Business program where he secured an internship with Lettuce Entertain You. Based mainly out of Shaw’s Crab House, he also assisted in opening Tokio Pub in Schaumburg. He was then offered a position at Shaw’s as a manager in June 2012.

Nate will be overseeing the wine program at Oyster Bah where all 30 selections will be offered by the glass. This petite list of delicious, funky wines will constantly rotate, inviting guests to explore and pair different varieties with oysters and other menu items while also enjoying their old standby selections. While he is excited about the entire wine list, Nate cannot wait to serve a few standout varietals such as semillon, gamay and dry rieslings from around the world including the Finger Lakes. He is also looking forward to presenting some off-menu large format selections when the team becomes intrigued by something new.

So what does a guy who loves wine drink on his day off? More wine, of course. Lately, Nate has been going through a champagne phase, which pairs perfectly with oysters. He’s thrilled to be on the team and looks forward to finding the perfect selection for you.

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Pete Balodimas
Divisional Chef

Pete Balodimas began his culinary career after graduating from Chicago’s Kendall College as sous chef at 120 Ocean Place in Wheaton, IL. Next came a position as chef de cuisine at Tin Fish in Tinley Park, IL and a sous chef position at the world-renowned Spiaggia in Chicago. Balodimas was the chef/owner of Fahrenheit in St. Charles, IL, which was nominated as a top 10 new restaurant by Chicago magazine. He then served as executive chef of several of celebrated chef Jose Garces’ restaurants in Philadelphia, Arizona and California.

Bringing a technique-driven culinary style to Oyster Bah, Balodimas also cooks with an attention to seasonality and using the best possible ingredients and, as he puts it, “treating them with respect.” He now brings all of the Shaw’s quality and innovation from his past positions to create a menu which maintains the integrity of the product with some unique preparations and old standby East Coast classic seafood dishes.

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Donny Farrell
Sous Chef

While he attended Kendall College in 2006 after going to DePaul here in Chicago, Donny’s first job was at Leopold as a linecook.  This experience was his introduction to making everything “from scratch” and taking his craft seriously.  He learned the value of local sourcing, quality of product and that a great menu can’t be created from mediocre ingredients.  Loving the camaraderie of his high school sports like lacrosse, football and hockey, working in a kitchen was a natural progression.  Donny is a natural teacher with a desire to always improve and make things better than the day before.  He is also our resident hot sauce chef, making four different kinds every week for our guests to enjoy.

 

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Rosemary Waldmeier
General Manager

Rosemary Waldmeier has always had a love affair with food. As the daughter of the Drake Hotel’s former executive chef, she grew up with an immense appreciation for the complete dining experience. She even entertained the idea of becoming a chef before her father sat her down and told her to get an education first– cooking would always be there. After working at the famous Gibson’s Steak House in the Gold Coast, Rosemary was bit with the restaurant bug again and later became a summer intern with Lettuce Entertain You in 2009. Upon finishing her undergraduate degree at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, she returned to Chicago, set on finding a job at Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago. Rosemary was hired, starting as a carryout attendant and host before moving up to floor manager, and has been with Shaw’s Chicago until now.

Rosemary is a perfect fit for this thoughtful person who loves the balance of interacting both directly with guests and with the restaurant team. She is especially excited to open the restaurant in the more intimate neighborhood setting of Lincoln Park where the laidback and inviting environment will encourage guests to to be adventurous and try new things from the menu.

Rosemary is a big fan of east coast oysters, especially those from Gooseberry Bay in Prince Edward Island. Clean and briny, this particular oyster is a great selection for a guest who is perhaps an oyster novice or longtime enthusiasts. She also loves crisp glass of rosé, a gin/tonic in the summer and a boulevardier to warm things up in the winter.

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Bill Nevruz
Managing Partner

Bill Nevruz is a managing partner for Shaw’s Crab House, Tokio Pub and Oyster Bah. With his gregarious and charismatic personality, it is no wonder Bill ended up in the restaurant industry. The industry was too much fun not to be a part of, he claims – which only exemplifies the kind of attitude he puts into his work and team. His knack for being both a natural and creative manager has been a perfect mix for this longstanding and successful division.

After a long management run on the East Coast, Bill began to look for opportunities in a larger city known for its restaurant scene. A position in Chicago at Shaw’s Crab House as a number three manager presented itself in 2000 and he accepted. Due to his passion and drive to learn quickly he moved up to the number two manager position before his training was completed. Bill then became GM at Mity Nice Grill, followed by GM at Shaw’s Crab House in Schaumburg in 1999 and finally, in 2005, he became the GM for Shaw’s Chicago. As a general manager he concentrated on generating sales, helping to develop new programs for Shaw’s like the (now) renowned Sunday brunch buffet and well-respected sushi menu. Pushing Shaw’s growth led Bill to be recognized as a company leader, and in 2010, Bill was promoted to Shaw’s Divisional Supervisor. In this position he was able to contribute to the company by developing young management teams and exploring and developing new concept ideas. In 2011, his entrepreneurial spirit eventually led him to the creation of Lettuce’s hip concept, Tokio Pub. Shortly after Tokio Pub’s opening, Bill became Partner of both this original concept and Shaw’s.

Bill treasures his time with his wife, Paula and their children, A.J., Molly and Brooke. He looks forward to his future at Lettuce, creating new concepts while continuing the long success of Shaw’s Crab House. Bill lives by a theme his father taught him, “Aces in their places.” He leads by this example, putting his team in a position were they will always find the most success.

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