WHO WE ARE
Russ Bendel - Owner & Partner
Russ was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he grew up with a ton of close family and friends. He relocated with his mother, father, and sister to California when he was a child. Russ grew up in the restaurant industry and always knew it was in his blood at an early age. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree from The Collins College at Cal Poly Pomona with an emphasis on Restaurant and Business Management. During that time, Russ had worked with Bloomin Brands Restaurant Group for 15 years, six years with Outback Steakhouse, and nine years with Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. He was promoted to partner of the flagship Newport Beach location at the age of 25. During his time as a partner with Fleming's, he was proud to accomplish his Court of Master Sommeliers Certification, level five Wines of the World Certification, make the cut in OC Metro's 40 Under 40 Annual Issue in 2012, and end his tenure with Fleming's as a Partner of the Year in 2010, 2011, and 2012. Russ decided to leave his role as the Operating Partner for Fleming's in Newport Beach to peruse his own venture in February of 2013 with longtime friends and family. Russ spends his free time with his immediate family in Orange County, including his niece and two God Daughters, cheering for the Philadelphia Eagles, and experiencing other great restaurants with his wife, Sarah. Russ is involved in the hospitality industry as the Vice President of the California Restaurant Association Orange County Chapter and a board member for The Collin's College Alumni Association at Cal Poly. He enjoys donating his time to help support the growth of the industry and for future generations to come.
Jared Cook - Executive Chef & Partner
Jared was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. After graduating from Western Culinary Institute in Portland Oregon, he relocated to Southern California. Since then Jared worked in restaurants such as French 75 in Laguna Beach, Chat Noir in Costa Mesa, and was promoted to Executive Chef at the Crow Bar and Kitchen, in addition to working at Vine Restaurant & Bar for the third time as a Cook, Sous Chef, and now Executive Chef. He got into the industry because of a passion for food and horticulture. Jared knew he was going to be a chef from the young age of 14. Julia Child and Great Chefs of the World are his favorite shows during his teenage years. Jared started cooking with his mom as soon as he could reach the stove. Jared not only is great in the kitchen but brings a new level of farm to table to his cooking style. Jared has a passion in the garden and uses organic heirloom herbs, fruits, and vegetables for Vine Restaurant & Bar. He has created his own garden onsite and there is nothing more local or sustainable than that he quotes. Various accolades and awards from magazines and periodicals along the way continue to drive Jared to creating unique, out of the ordinary cuisine, blended with flavors people crave each and every day. Jared Cook is being recognized as an up and coming young chef in Orange County and is excited to elevate Vine Restaurant & Bar to a new level of culinary success! This proud father enjoys spending his time off with his wife, Kacie, and daughter Audrey. With a last name of Cook, it sure is fitting for him.
Kyle Simpson - Vice President & Partner
This Orange County native earned two Bachelor of Science degrees in Business Management and Operations Management from California State University Long Beach. For the past 14 years, Kyle Simpson is no stranger to restaurants as he has held numerous positions with his lengthy tenure with Bloomin Brands Restaurant Group, including five years with Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant. He successfully opened the Roy's in Pasadena in 2008 and later transferred to the Anaheim location to be closer to friends and family. In his free time, this proud father of two daughters Kylie & Mila, and husband to wife, Allison, enjoys spending time with his family and friends, golfing, relaxing at the beach, dining out, comedy shows and sporting events, including watching his favorite sports team, The Chargers. Kyle has a passion for hospitality and is currently the Orange County Chapter President for the California Restaurant Association as well as on the board of advisories for the Cal State Long Beach Hospitality Management Program. He is excited to continue implementing and elevating the friendly service at Ironwood Restaurant & Bar for years to come.
Gabe Whorley - Beverage Director & Partner
Gabe Whorley is a San Clemente native. He first entered the restaurant industry while he was still a student at San Clemente High, and quickly worked his way up to tending bar. As his experience grew, so did his passion for craft cocktails and culinary exploration. After opening Blue Coral Seafood and Spirits and Pelican Hill Resort, Gabe finally ended up working alongside one of Orange County's most renowned mixologists, Gabrielle Dion, at Charlie Palmer's in South Coast Plaza. It was here, for four years, that he truly honed his craft. He developed his signature style of cocktails- renovating old classics with seasonal fruits and herbs, all while honoring the integrity of each individual ingredient. In 2013, Gabe partnered with life-long friends Russ Bendel and Kyle Simpson to bring his unique and innovative cocktail program to Vine Restaurant & Bar and now will continue to deliver at Ironwood Restaurant & Bar. Gabe brings a new level of energy to the table as he entertains guests with his own signature style and service!
Kevin Franke - Operating Partner
Kevin was born Kansas City, Missouri and immediately following his birth, he and his family moved to La Quinta, California. Kevin relocated to Orange County after graduating high school to continue his education which where he found his passion in the hospitality industry. Kevin began his professional career with the Bloomin Brands Restaurant Group where he took part in the expansion and growth of Flemings Steakhouse in Newport Beach. He successfully aided in the training and operating of several other Flemings Steakhouse locations. In his 7 years with Flemings, Kevin worked meticulously to perfect each front of house position, from host to esteemed wine manager, which was the position and title he proudly held for his final 5 years with Blooming Brands Restaurant Group. As a certified sommelier, Kevin has a strong passion for the food and wine industry. In Kevin's free time, he enjoys spending time with his beautiful fiance, Kyanna, friends and family, walking his dog, perfecting his swing on the golf course, going to the beach, snowboarding, experiencing new restaurants, traveling, exploring new places, and most certainly makes time to enjoy nice Napa Cabernet!
Paul Villa - Chef de Cuisine
Paul grew up in Whittier California where he found pleasure cooking for his family. Paul pursued his passion for cooking by attending Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena California.
While attending school he staged at Tre Venezie in Pasadena. After graduating Paul worked his way up to lead line cook at Balboa Bay Club and Resort in Newport Beach. Paul then was offered a position as sous chef at an upscale trendy restaurant in Santa Monica. Paul quickly showcased his talent and became the Chef de Cuisine. Paul was offered the position of Chef at a private golf club in San Clemente as Executive chef where he revitalized both the menu and food and beverage program for luxurious weddings and events. Paul is a long time season ticket holder for the Los Angeles Dodgers and enjoys attending the games with his daughter Rachel.