Russell J. Bendel Russ was born and raised in Philadelphia and 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 Restaurants and Business Management. During that time, Russ 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, youngest ever in company history.
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, included 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 to peruse his own venture in February of 2013 with longtime friends and family. Russ acquired Vine Restaurant in San Clemente and has brought new life to a local's favorite, while doubling annual sales at Vine and capturing a handful of awards like OC Registers Top 10 Restaurants in OC in 2015. In 2016, Russ opened his second restaurant named Ironwood in Laguna Hills, designing the concept from scratch. Shortly after opening, Ironwood was named the Best New Restaurant in Orange County by the Golden Foodies in 2016 and business partner Gabe Whorley also was named Best Bartender of 2016 in Orange County. Both Vine Restaurant and Ironwood have also made it onto Brad Johnsons Top 75 places to eat in 2017. Russ and his partners opened a third concept called Olea in Newport Beach in 2017, another wine country inspired restaurant with a new look and design.
Russ enjoys spending time with his family and friends, especially with his wife Sarah and their first daughter Brooklynn who was born in September of 2017. Russ is involved in the hospitality industry's 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.