Andy Wittman, Pizza Inn
Pizza Inn, an international pizza chain recognized for serving a variety of fresh, popular traditional and specialty pizzas, has appointed Andy Wittman as culinary operations manager. Formally a field business consultant for the company, Wittman brings more than 15 years of industry experience to the role.
“We’re extremely excited to have Andy join the culinary team,” says Charlie Morrison, president and CEO of Pizza Inn. “Ever since he began working with Pizza Inn over two years ago, his dedication to the brand was obvious and it’s a pleasure to see him grow within the company.”
Wittman recently served as Pizza Inn’s field business consultant with 39 franchised units under his care. Prior to that, he worked as a customer service manager with the company. He also served as district manager for Double Dave’s Pizzaworks and culinary lead manager of Chili’s Grill and Bar.
“I am thrilled to be a part of Pizza Inn’s 52 year-old iconic brand,” Wittman says. “It’s been an amazing experience to see this company continue to thrive and I’m looking forward to contributing to its future success.”
Wittman is a graduate of Baltimore International Culinary College with an associate of the arts degree in professional cooking and restaurant management.
Emilio Morales, The Roaring Fork
The Roaring Fork, with locations in Texas, Arizona and California, welcomes Emilio Morales as director of culinary operations to further enhance menu items and training programs at its award-winning restaurants.
As director of culinary operations, Emilio Morales will assist executive chef and partner of the Eddie V's restaurant group, John Carver. The Eddie V's group owns and operates Eddie V's Prime Seafood, Roaring Fork and Wildfish Seafood Grill.
Morales brings more than 25 years of experience to the Roaring Fork restaurants. A native of Westhampton Beach, New York, his impressive track record began working full time at the Paradise Café in Santa Barbara, California, while earning a degree in Travel and Tourism.
At just 22 years of age, Morales was promoted to executive chef at Acacia in Montecito, California. From there, he became a sous chef at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara, providing a kick start to his culinary career.
His success in Santa Barbara led to a position as sous chef at the Newport Beach Four Seasons. Morales spent six years in Denver as the executive chef and partner at P.F. Chang's before moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, where he served in a number of consulting and executive chef positions since 2001, most recently as the executive chef and co-owner of the Sunshine Moon Peking Pub.
"We're proud to welcome Emilio to our thriving group of restaurants," says Carver. "His experience and talents will be a tremendous asset to the Roaring Fork and ultimately our guests."
Edward “Zeb” Hastings, Quaker Steak & Lube
Quaker Steak & Lube, the fast-growing motorsports-themed casual dining chain, has hired Edward “Zeb” Hastings as vice president of franchise development. He is charged with identifying new franchisees and expanding the Lube.
The Lube currently owns or franchises more than 40 restaurants throughout the U.S. and Canada. It plans to open 10 units this year and has commitments for a total of more than 50 new locations.
“Zeb brings a wealth of experience coupled with significant contacts that will help us add even more momentum to our growth,” says John Longstreet, president and CEO. “He’s enthusiastic about our brand and his personality is a great fit with The Lube’s fun culture.”
Hastings’ background includes working for a number of national franchisors, most recently Steak n’ Shake where he worked with a start up team on a national franchise initiative. Hastings was also responsible for the successful franchise startups in two major restaurant chains—O’Charley’s Inc. and Friendly Ice Cream Corporation. He transitioned them from company-owned restaurant chains to franchise focused operations.
Prior to his activity in franchise development he was a senior executive in the financial services industry focused on market share growth and credit underwriting.
Hastings had this to say about his new position with Quaker Steak & Lube: “This is a tremendous brand that has all the key components of a great franchise growth company. Exceptional unit economics, available territory to grow, dedicated support systems, and a passion to have our franchisees succeed. My task is to continue to evolve our program putting these strengths to work to attract new franchisees and build a national platform for Quaker Steak & Lube.”
Matt Riordan, Saigon Sisters
Saigon Sisters is pleased to welcome Matt Riordan as its new executive chef. In this role he will oversee the culinary operations of both the French Market stand and the Vietnamese restaurant.
Riordan brings extensive executive experience to his role, most recently, as the executive chef of Pops for Champagne.
A Chicago native, Riordan already has big plans for the menu. “I want Saigon Sisters to become the go-to restaurant for unique Vietnamese flavors with a decidedly Chicago and Midwestern focus.”
Opened in November 2010 as an extension of a successful Chicago French Market stand, Saigon Sisters has received numerous industry awards, including being named one of Chicago Magazine’s Best New Restaurants, under the management of sisters Theresa Nguyen and Mary Nguyen Aregoni.
“Matt stood out because of his love of Asian flavors and interesting ideas on how we can continue to elevate traditional Vietnamese street food favorites,” says Nguyen Aregoni. “We want to keep surprising our diners and winning new fans with fresh, delicious, and high-quality Vietnamese food in an elegant casual space.”
Larry Ryback, Kona Grill
Kona Grill, Inc. has announced the promotion of Larry Ryback from senior vice president of operations to COO.
"Over the past 18 months, Larry has successfully led our operations team through various menu improvement, marketing, and operating efficiency initiatives that have enhanced the guest experience while improving the sales and profitability of our restaurants," says Mike Nahkunst, interim president and CEO of Kona Grill.
"His strong leadership abilities have been instrumental in driving strong same-store sales and profitability during 2011. We congratulate Larry on this well-deserved promotion."
Ryback has over 20 years of restaurant operations experience and has served as the senior vice president of operations since joining the company in February 2010.
Prior to joining Kona, Ryback served as the president and COO of Redstone American Grill, Inc., a $35-million privately held company with five high-volume, upscale restaurants in four states.
Before joining Redstone, Mr. Ryback spent 10 years with Champps Entertainment in various operations roles including three years as a regional vice president of operations overseeing 26 restaurants that together generated over $130 million in revenue.
Nancy Culotta, NSF International
Nancy Culotta, NSF International’s vice president for food safety product certification and consumer products, has announced plans to retire this summer, following a noteworthy 25-year career.
During her career, Culotta played a key role in globally expanding NSF’s public health services to Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. She spearheaded several new and innovative initiatives, including launching NSF’s Drinking Water Treatment Unit program, the retail food safety program, and NSF’s Home Product Certification program.
“We are extremely grateful to Nancy for her leadership and commitment to NSF International’s public health mission for more than 25 years,” says Kevan P. Lawlor, NSF president and CEO.
“Nancy has played a significant role in the evolution of NSF, including the development of new services and NSF’s global expansion, and her many contributions will be felt for a long time to come. We all join in wishing her the best for a happy retirement.”
Culotta joined NSF International in 1985 as a product certification field auditor and went on to become the general manager of NSF’s Drinking Water and Wastewater programs. She left NSF for a year to develop a local community health organization, returning in 2000 to launch NSF’s food safety auditing services. In this role, she was instrumental in the acquisition of Cook & Thurber and Fresh Check supermarket food safety businesses.
In 2004, Culotta was promoted to vice president of retail food safety and in 2007 took the assignment as vice president, food safety product certification, with responsibility for NSF’s Foodservice Equipment, Nonfood Compounds and Bottled Water Certification programs. In 2010, Culotta launched the NSF Home Product Certification program, bringing NSF’s considerable public health and safety expertise to the world of household kitchen appliances and other home products.
“It has been my honor to work with so many people who are dedicated to our mission of protecting and improving the public’s health and safety,” Culotta says. “I am proud to say that each day over my 25-year career I had an opportunity to work with others in making a very real impact on public health. I’ve had the good fortune to meet many exceptional professionals, both at NSF and throughout many industry and stakeholder organizations, and will always value the long-standing relationships I’ve developed along the way.”