Mark Braver brings over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry to The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group. Mark began in his hometown of State College, Pennsylvania as a bar back and is proud of the fact that he has remained close with the guys he cut his teeth with in the business all those years ago. He has risen to hold positions ranging from Restaurant Manager to Chief Operating Officer. His management portfolio includes major hospitality groups in Chicago, Philadelphia and New York City.
Mark has directed dozens of restaurant openings from concept development through profitable operation. He is an expert in all areas of restaurant and bar operations including financial forecasting, formulating business plans and establishing proven operational systems with sustainability and profitability as cornerstones. He has extensive major market experience developing and implementing food and beverage programs, training programs, operations and human resources guidelines, cloud-based electronic technologies, and design/construction.
Mark holds a Bachelors of Arts from Penn State University and resides in the Roscoe Village neighborhood in Chicago. When he is not in a restaurant he’s probably on a new adventure with his son Hank.
Weiner — a Northbrook, IL, native — traces his love and passion for the restaurant business back to taking his first job as a server at Johnny Rockets as a teenager. Working at a variety of other restaurants in the North Shore, Scott focused his career towards the hospitality industry at an early age.
After graduating high school from Glenbrook North, Scott spent four years in various capacities with China Grill Management in Las Vegas while simultaneously earning his bachelor’s degree in hospitality administration with a major in beverage management from the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
While in college, Scott also earned his sommelier license through the Court of Master Sommeliers, and used his talents to develop the wine and spirits program at one of the China Grill properties in Las Vegas.
Prior to opening The Fifty/50 with business partner Greg Mohr in March 2008, Scott was the assistant general manager at Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab in Chicago where he focused on food purchasing and menu development.
Today, Scott is mainly on the day-to-day operations of the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group with a focus on developing the group’s infrastructure, systems, and marketing program. Scott also sits on the executive board for the Illinois Restaurant Association and actively oversees all legal, bank, and financial areas of the business.
John Aldape started in the restaurant business in 1994 as a line cook at a Chicago style pizzeria at the age of 16 in his hometown, South Bend, IN. He was taught the importance of food quality. His manager told him “Guests are willing to pay more for the best, so it has to be great.” He progressed through each position in the back of the house to shift supervisor.
In 1996, John attended Indiana University Bloomington. In 1997, John became a line cook at a local restaurant, Malibu Grill, to help pay his way through school. He quickly learned every position in the kitchen and became a shift supervisor. In 1999, John began serving and bartending and learned that he truly enjoyed interacting with guests.
John moved to Chicago in the fall of 2001, and began working at R.J. Grunts as a server and bartender. During training he realized that this was a different kind of company, learning Rich Melman’s story and his philosophy of making guests and staff happy. In 2003, John took his first managerial job at Papagus in Oak Brook. In 2004, he transferred to Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Chicago.
John credits the late Michael Waugh for influencing his management style. Michael’s hospitable nature was evident and on display in every person who worked at Joe’s and lives on today. John was promoted to General Manager at Joe’s in the fall of 2007. In that role he focused on generating sales and maintaining growth and consistency in “best in class” food and service and developing his management team and continuing to support the Joe’s service staff. In 2013, John was promoted to Partner with Joe’s and Lettuce Entertain You. At that point the focus shifted to opening Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab in Washington, D.C., which opened at the beginning of 2014.
John left Joe’s and LEYE at the beginning of 2017 to join The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group as a Partner. He currently oversees multiple properties and mentors the management teams acrosst the group.
In his free time John enjoys spending time with his wife, Lindsay, and daughter, Lily.
The foundation of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group since 2008, Martin Arellano is a partner in Roots Handmade Pizza as well as the original Fifty/50. Joining the Fifty/50 as a prep cook in 2008, Martin quickly became a sous chef, executive chef, and finally a partner in the group. His hard work and determination, as well as attention to systems and operations, has made Martin an integral reason behind the success of Roots Handmade Pizza.
Embracing his talents in the kitchen, Martin immersed himself fully in the food and beverage industry, working at restaurants his entire life such as Spiaggia, Joe’s Stone Crab, and other Lettuce Entertain You concepts. His talents were recognized very early on at the Fifty/50 and his warm and endearing personality helped formed the foundation of the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group and is a key component behind their fast growth.
Martin is also married with two children and a third on the way to his dearest “Amoonda”. He looks forward to working on the 3rd Roots Handmade Pizza in 2018 while continuing to oversee and support the current Roots and original Fifty/50.
Coated in flour for as long as he can remember, The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group’s Executive Pastry Chef & Partner, Chris Teixeira, infuses simplicity with intricacy in his delicious pastry programs at West Town Bakery, Homestead on the Roof, and Steadfast – opening spring 2016. Creating innovative desserts made with classic flavors, Teixeira excels at designing items complementing each venue’s tone and atmosphere. Overseeing the growth and development of the restaurant group’s program, Teixeira pairs exceptional food with sincere service.
Prior to his professional career, Teixeira received his degree in Baking and Pastry Arts from the Culinary Institute of America in 2007. Three years later, he earned a degree from the Culinary Institute of America in New York with a concentration in Hospitality Management and spent two years there as a fellow/teaching assistant, focusing on pastries and breads. Moving into the professional world, Teixeira was the Pastry Chef de Partie at the four-star dining landmark Sixteen at Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago.
The son of Portuguese immigrants, Teixeira’s first memories of baking were of his mother, who worked in the same bakery for 25 years and sparked his interest in pastry creation. Named one of five “Under-the-radar pastry chefs whose names you ought to know” by Chicago Tribune’s Phil Vettel in 2013 and included on Zagat’s “30 under 30” list in 2014, Teixeira created major successes at The Fifty/50 Group such as West Town Bakery’s “Doughssant” and reworked versions of Chicago’s iconic Baby Ruth candy.
A James Beard Award semifinalist in the “Rising Star Chef of the Year” category for his work at Homestead On The Roof in 2015, Teixeira believes in keeping it simple and local, letting nature tell him what ingredient is best. Focusing on simple variations without muddling dishes with excess ingredients, Teixeira presents menu items in a new and exciting way, using technology only to enhance natural flavors.
With professional inspirations including Chef Curtis Duffy, Chef Carrie Nahabedian, and his former pasty chefs, Teixeira respects their understanding that overnight success stories are usually years in the making and their dedication to growing with the times to ensure relevancy. Foreseeing more shared concepts in restaurants and a gravitation towards luxe breads, Teixeira sees that in today’s world, people are more interested in where their food is originating. When not mixing up masterpieces for The Fifty/50 Group, Teixeira can be found traveling somewhere new, reading cookbooks, or watching PBS history documentaries.
Sarah took her first hospitality job when she was 16 while growing up in Cleveland, and has worked in the food industry ever since, including steadily during her time earning her Public Relations & Marketing Communications degree at Columbia College of Chicago.
Sarah has fostered the group’s marketing department from a one-person department into a well-organized entity. Designing eye-catching social campaigns and websites; photographing the restaurants and new menu items; reviewing ad buying decisions and analyzing data; organizing charitable and social justice initiatives; and designing and executing pop-up bars are just a few of the many hats she wears within the company.
Her proudest accomplishments include working on the group’s COVID relief program that gave out over 80,000 meals to those in need during the shut-down, successfully designing and executing a well-received “Princess Bride” pop-up bar, and mentoring her employees. She loves her job and gets up every day excited to be creative, think critically, and get things done.
In her free time, Sarah likes to spend time with her family back in Cleveland, learn about history through documentaries and articles, and make all kinds of art, including digital work, painting, print-making, and whatever DIY medium she discovers on Reddit that day.
Nate Henssler recalls finding a love of the kitchen as a child from watching Julia Child on PBS when he was 6 years old. He eventually got his start in hospitality at a bed & breakfast in southern New Hampshire prior to attending New England Culinary Institute in Montpeller, Vermont. Upon graduation, Nate worked for James Beard winner Christopher Gross in Phoenix before spending time traveling, eating, and cooking his way through India.
Serving as a sous chef for Michael Mina in Las Vegas at Aqua, Nate continued to develop his culinary instinct and taste profiles spending time at Mina’s other restaurants in Las Vegas and the San Fransisco area. In 2004, Nate left Micahel Mina to open Sensi Restaurant with chef Martin Heierling in Las Vegas which afforded him the opportunity to travel to New Zealand during his employment. In 2010, Nate began working as the Executive Chef at Tao Asian Bistro in Las Vegas leaving there in 2012 to become a corporate executive chef for Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak, and Stone Crab. During his time with Lettuce Entertain You & Joe’s, Nate oversaw the locations in Las Vegas, Chicago, and Washington DC. Nate joined the Fifty/50 Restaurant Group in 2016 to become the executive chef and partner in Portsmith where he is currently working towards the opening.
Nate believes in bold flavors with simple plating technique, showing precision and restraint in his cooking often quoting a stern warning he received once from Mark LoRusso, “The best ingredient is often the one you left out”.
When not working, Nate enjoys time with his wife and two kids, enjoys experimenting at home with fermented beverages, and can be found at the park with his dog Obi throwing a frisbee.
Lynn began working in the restaurant industry in high school. She worked as a hostess and server part-time before college. In addition, throughout college, when she was not in school, she helped manage the family restaurant in Chicago’s Northwest suburb.
Lynn graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign with a degree in accounting. Upon graduation, she first became an intern at an accounting firm, where she gained an understanding of tax preparation and payroll, and worked with several restaurant clients. Upon completing her internship, she became an accountant at a jewelry wholesale/import company. There, she obtained professional experiences about cost accounting, inventory tracking, and maintaining an ERP system, etc.
In summer of 2013, Lynn had the opportunity to join The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group as an office manager, performing the company’s various accounting functions, such as financial reporting and tax filing. Since then, she has been developing, enhancing, and formalizing the accounting department’s operations and scope, further improving the accounting infrastructure and value provided to the internal and external external stakeholders. Along the way, as Fifty/50 continues to expand and grow, she has assisted with opening 4 entities, including providing accounting training and guidance to new restaurant’s office mangers. Currently, she is overseeing the department’s daily operations while ensuring that deadlines are met and deliverables are achieved with exceptional quality.
In the future, as the corporate controller, Lynn will continue to collaborate with all Fifty/50’s various corporate and restaurant operations to further expand the department’s value provided. Under astute leadership and working with energized teammates, she is excited about the Fifty/50’s future and the opportunities available to everyone involved.
Literally born into the industry, Mohr grew up in Rock Island, Illinois watching the success of the liquor store his great grandfather founded. Becoming one of the highest grossing liquor stores in Illinois, the Mohr family expanded the concept into three bars and a deli. Working in the deli since he was eight, Mohr continued working in the “Quad Cities’” restaurant scene throughout high school and college. Kicking off his professional career, he joined Gibsons Restaurant Group as a server at Hugo’s Frog Bar & Fish House, eventually becoming an Assistant General Manager. Helping the restaurant accrue nearly $20 million in yearly sales, he then moved to the iconic Gibsons in Chicago, working directly with Owners Steve Lombardo and Hugo Ralli. In pursuit of further experience, Mohr became the AGM of Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak and Stone and eventually moving up to GM. Joe’s became one of the best steakhouses in the country, expanding its annual sales from $16 million to $22 million. After working with the group for years, Mohr saw an opportunity to launch his own restaurant with Scott Weiner, whom he met during both of their work at Joe’s. Launching The Fifty/50, the group’s namesake concept in 2008, the pair realized their combined strengths and passions and began expanding their group.
Now the owner and co-founder of The Fifty/50 Restaurant Group, Greg focuses on new concept design & development along with many other day-to-day functions in operating and expanding the restaurant group.
Morgen Klepfer, a native of Buffalo, NY, brings years of hospitality management and consumer relations experience to her role as Director of Private Events & Sales for The Fifty/50 Management Group. Voted “Most Fashionable” in high school, Morgen studied Fashion Marketing at Buffalo State University before moving to Chicago to build her career in the retail industry. Although enjoying great success working with top fashion companies, her passion was restaurants and nightclubs. In 2003, she was named Promotions Director at Hypewise Entertainment Marketing Group, where she successfully promoted over 100 events around Chicago.
In 2006, Morgen joined the ground floor for what was to be DineAmic Group, a nationally-recognized restaurant group. She was intrinsically involved in the opening of 9 unique concepts with DG, including Siena Tavern, Public House and Prime & Provisions. In 2013, she was promoted to Director of Events & Catering, overseeing company-wide event revenue of $6M+ annually. In 2018, Morgen brought her talents to Fifty/50 Group, where she continues to provide exceptional events custom-tailored to each clients’ expectations.
Growing up in Clovis, California, Kassie Barr always thought she would end up as a lawyer or a history professor. “I found comfort in the facts, regulations, and routines.” However, after a family tragedy necessitated leaving university to be a caregiver for 10 years, the carefully crafted roadmap for her life she had made when she was 16 was thrown out the window.
Kassie moved to Chicago in November of 2014. Unsure of the future, she stuck to what she knew and applied and was hired as a technology support representative for a computer company. But when training for the job was pushed back 8 weeks, Kassie had to look for a position, any position, to make ends meet. A friend of a friend said that a small bakery was looking to for a weekend host to start immediately. So, Kassie took a short walk and filled out an application not expecting to even get a call back. “When I walked into West Town Bakery on a Thursday afternoon, I never expected to walk out with an offer to start that Saturday. I was so used to second, third, and even fourth interviews that I was taken aback by the immediate acceptance to the company. I thought the hiring manager was either insane or desperate, and I imagined I would be walking into a disaster that weekend, unlikely to even make it through the shift.”
Instead, what Kassie found was a group of people who were smart, funny, and full of consideration. They worked as a team, encouraging each other, and remaining focused on their guests’ happiness even during a busy brunch service with a 45-minute wait. After that day, Kassie was hooked on the restaurant business. “The sense of family and support resonated with me and I knew I wanted to stay with that group. So, when the computer company called to set up my official start date I told then ‘Thank you, but no.’” Kassie remained with West Town Bakery moving from weekend host to Lead Host at Homestead on the Roof, a sister location. After the patio season ended, Kassie was offered the position of Wholesale Sales and eventually Wholesale Manager. “That support that was apparent on my first day existed on every rung. If I showed dedication to the job, there was someone above me who helped develop me and raise me up.” After moving to The Fifty/50 Management Group’s Accounting office, Kassie was able to connect the passion for facts and regulations from her youth to the excitement and occasional chaos of the service industry.
Kassie has returned to school but instead of focusing on 20th Century European History, she is seeking her degree in Accounting. “I want to have as many tools in my toolbox as possible so that I am able to develop others. I am beyond lucky that The Fifty/50 Management Group took a chance on a clueless transplant from California who thought that “86” was just a number. And I am going to pay that forward as much as I can.”