True Food Kitchen, the innovative restaurant brand founded by hospitality visionary Sam Fox and integrative medicine expert physician Dr. Andrew Weil, has hired James Liakakos as Vice President of Operations and Allison Schulder as Chief Financial Officer. Both executives have been hired to help grow the brand’s leadership team to support its expansion and transition into a stand-alone company under Centerbridge Partners’ majority ownership over the next year. James and Allison will be based out of Fox Restaurant Concepts home office in Phoenix.
“We’re adding top-level talent to our leadership team in order to take True Food Kitchen to the next level, and James and Allison will be instrumental in supporting our growth strategy,” says recently appointed True Food Kitchen CEO, Christine Barone. “Both James and Allison are well-positioned to execute the True Food vision while ensuring quality of operations and financial performance.”
James brings an extensive hospitality background and experience overseeing restaurant operations for Jean-Georges Management. As the former V.P. of Operations, he helped lead the growth of the Jean-George collection and its 30 restaurants. James worked directly with owner and 3-Michelin star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten to open 16 restaurants in 12 cities with a keen focus on the ongoing advancement of restaurant operations and the strengthening of each restaurant brand. Over the past 13 years, James has fulfilled many leadership roles throughout New York City from General Manager to multi-unit Director of Operations. He graduated from the Cornell School of Hotel Administration in 1999 and went to work with Chef Daniel Boulud before joining the Jean-Georges collection in 2003.
Allison, former V.P. of Finance at P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, has more than 20 years of finance experience including her 10 year career at Chang’s where she lead numerous financial functions including strategic planning, forecasting and analysis and investor relations. Prior to that, Allison held leadership roles at American Express Company, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Ernst & Young. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from SUNY Albany and is a Certified Public Accountant.
“James and Christine, with their incredible restaurant experience, are an excellent complement to Christine in her new role as CEO and to the team she is building as part of the transition of True Food Kitchen into a stand-alone company,” says Sam Fox, founder of Fox Restaurant Concepts and True Food Kitchen.
True Food Kitchen has already seen considerable growth in 2016 with new restaurants in Austin, Texas, Pasadena, California, Palo Alto, California, and Walnut Creek, California. The brand will open its first Midwest location in Chicago on November 22. Additional locations are set to open in 2017 including Naples, Florida, Boca Raton, Florida, Bethesda, Maryland, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, San Diego, Plano, Texas, and Nashville.