Russ Bendel

Russ Bendel

Russell J. Bendel, known as Russ, was born in Pennsylvania and raised in California. Influenced by his father, a veteran restaurant industry executive, Russ grew up in the business and developed a passion for food and hospitality. He set his sights on a career in the industry and earned his bachelor's degree from The Collins College at Cal Poly Pomona with an emphasis on Restaurants and Business Management. Russ worked with Bloomin' Brands Restaurant Group for an impressive span of 15 years: first with Outback Steakhouse and later with Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, where he was promoted to partner of the flagship Newport Beach location at 25, the youngest in company history. 

Russ also earned his Court of Master Sommeliers Certification and Level 5 Wines of the World Certification. He was honored in OC Metro's annual issue of "40 Under 40" in 2012 and ended his tenure with Fleming's as Partner of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Armed with knowledge, experience and recognition, Russ began his own venture in February 2013 by assuming ownership of Vine Restaurant in San Clemente, bringing longtime friends and family along for the ride. Their efforts have resulted in the opening of four successful restaurants along the Orange County coast. 

In his personal life, Russ relishes time with family and friends. His wife Sarah, daughter Brooklynn and son Russell are a constant source of support and inspiration. Russ is also an active member of the California Restaurant Association, Orange County Chapter and on the board for The Collins College Alumni Association at Cal Poly, where he supports the growth of the industry for future generations. 

Russ loves a good game of golf with his management team and is a big fan of his hometown Philadelphia Eagles

Jared Cook

Jared Cook

Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Jared Cook Jared spent his childhood cooking alongside his mom, with Julia Child and Great Chefs of the World playing on background TV. He decided to pursue a career in food and graduated from the Western Culinary Institute in Portland before moving to Southern California. He honed his cooking chops at well-regarded restaurants including French 75 in Laguna Beach, Chat Noir in Costa Mesa, Crow Bar & Kitchen in Corona del Mar and Vine Restaurant & Bar in San Clemente, where Jared worked his way up to executive chef and perfected his Wine Country cuisine approach—a focus on the freshest, seasonal ingredients imaginatively used for simple but beautiful dishes. 

Jared's fascination with food and passion for horticulture serve as nonstop inspiration and his green thumb plays an important role in his cooking style. He uses his gardening skills to harvest organic vegetables, herbs, citrus and more at both Vine and his home garden at Casa Cook, which he shares with wife Kacie and daughters Audrey and Julia.

Various accolades and awards from media along the way continue to drive Jared to create unique, out-of-the-ordinary cuisine. Jared Cook is recognized as one of OC's top chefs. With the last name Cook, he surely found his calling.

kyle simpson

Kyle Simpson

An Orange County native, Kyle Simpson earned a double bachelor's degree in Business Management and Operations Management from California State University, Long Beach. At a young age Kyle was already a veteran of the restaurant industry with numerous positions and lengthy tenure with Bloomin' Brands Restaurant Group, starting in Outback Steakhouse before spending five years in management with Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Restaurant. Kyle successfully opened the Roy's in Pasadena in 2008 and later transferred to the busy Anaheim location. When opportunity knocked, Kyle joined the venture of his high school friend, Russ Bendel. 

Kyle has earned a seat on the board of his alma mater's Hospitality Management Program and is chapter president of the California Restaurant Association, Orange County Chapter.

In his free time, Kyle enjoys spending time with family and friends, as well as golfing, relaxing at the beach and of course, dining out.

Gabe Whorley

Gabe Whorley

Gabe Whorley entered the restaurant industry while he was still a student at San Clemente High School. He met Russ Bendel when the two teens worked together at Outback Steakhouse. Gabe soon advanced to tending bar where he developed a passion for craft cocktails and culinary exploration. His foray into relaxed fine dining began when he joined the bar team of Pelican Grill, at The Resort at Pelican Hill, a five-star hotel and golf club in Newport Beach. He subsequently opened the bar and lounge at Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza in 2008, one of the most popular upscale bars in Orange County at the time. 

Over the years, Gabe developed his signature style of cocktails—renovating old classics with seasonal fruits and herbs, while honoring the integrity of each individual ingredient. In 2013, Gabe partnered with life-long friends to bring his unique and innovative beverage program to Vine Restaurant & Bar, followed by Ironwood in Laguna Hills, Olea in Newport Beach and Sapphire in Laguna Beach. Gabe selects and oversees the restaurants' impressive wine lists, carefully curated for each location. His knowledge, creativity and service standard along with unique signature cocktails, are an intrinsic part of the restaurants' success. 

On his days off, you can find Gabe in search of the best waves while indulging in his lifelong love of surfing.

Kevin Franke

Kevin Franke

Although originally born in Kansas City, Missouri, Kevin grew up in La Quinta, California. He later made the move to Orange County, where he discovered his passion for hospitality. His employment at Fleming's Steakhouse & Wine Bar led to meeting Russ Bendel. Recognized for his enthusiasm and guest service, Kevin contributed to Fleming's national expansion as part of the opening team, traveling to numerous openings throughout the U.S. to establish the company's renowned levels of service. 

Kevin subsequently joined Russ and his partners at Vine Restaurant & Bar in San Clemente in 2014. As a team, they designed, built, and opened Ironwood Cellar. Craft. Cook in Laguna Hills in 2016. Olea, the group's third restaurant, opened in Newport Beach the following year. 

Besides Kevin's love of food and wine, he is a certified sommelier. In his leisure, he enjoys spending time with his wife Kyanna and daughter Kennedy, and perfecting his swing on the golf course.

Patrick Fanning

Patrick Fanning

Patrick Fanning grew up in the desert community of Bermuda Dunes, California, where a childhood friend was Olea's Kevin Franke. Following his interest in hospitality, Patrick moved to Orange County in 2011 to work with the legendary An family at AnQi Bistro, located at South Coast Plaza. There he spent six years refining his knowledge of front of the house, absorbing the rigorous standards of service and quality for which House of AN is known. 

Ready for new challenges and growth, Patrick joined friend Kevin Franke, the operating managing partner at Olea in Newport Beach, as assistant general manager. Recognized for his efforts in establishing high service standards and remarkable guest relations at Olea, Patrick was promoted to managing partner at Ironwood in Laguna Hills in 2019. 

In his spare time, Patrick enjoys professional sports, discovering local dining spots and cooking for his wife Jennifer and daughter Everly. Kobe, the family's boxer, is a fortunate recipient of Patrick's pampering.

Robert J. Barth

Robert J. Barth

Growing up in Laguna Niguel with a large Italian family, Robert's earliest memories revolve around close-knit gatherings and an abundance of food. His love of hospitality was ingrained in him from an early age.

Robert's high school cooking classes served as more inspiration to pursue a career in the culinary arts. He studied at the Art Institute of California–Santa Ana and after graduating, built an impressive resume with experience at the Rooftop Lounge, K'ya Bistro and La Casa Del Camino Hotel in Laguna Beach.

Eager to explore and learn, Robert traveled to Europe in 2016 and took various cooking classes throughout Italy, shopping and preparing traditional dishes from local regions. His instructors instilled in him an appreciation for cooking simple recipes using the best local, seasonal ingredients. Back in the States, Robert secured a position at Ironwood in Laguna Hills, where he works closely with local purveyors, sourcing the freshest produce, fish and meats to showcase his passion for farm-to-table cuisine. 

Outside of work, Robert enjoys jaunts to local breweries, spending time with family and dining out and traveling with his wife, Taylor.

Our Location

Ironwood Laguna Hills

25250 La Paz Road Suite 100
Laguna Hills, CA 92653

(949) 446-8772


Monday: 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Tuesday - Thursday: 5:00 pm - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday: 4:30 pm - 10:00 pm
Sunday: 5:00 pm - 9:00 pm