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.

Chris H.

Chris Hutten

A native of Seal Beach, California, Chris Hutten grew up surrounded by his family's love of food. After graduating high school, he attended a local community college, but his passion for cuisine motivated him to enroll in the prestigious California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. Following that, he applied and was offered an externship in London at the two stars Michelin-rated restaurant, La Gavroche, apprenticing under critically acclaimed chef Michel Roux, Jr.

Returning to California, Chris landed a job at the flagship Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Newport Beach, quickly working his way up to chef partner. It was at Fleming's where he met and worked with then operating partner Russ Bendel. After opening a new concept for Fleming's parent company and spending seven years as executive chef partner with The Capital Grille at South Coast Plaza, he was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Russ Bendel again at the newly acquired Sapphire, Cellar. Craft. Cook in Laguna Beach, in the role of managing partner.

In his leisure, Chris enjoys surfing and deep-sea fishing excursions.

Brent H

Brent Hauck

Brent Hauck grew up in San Clemente, where he first dabbled in home cooking with his mother and grandparents. While in high school, Brent worked in hospitality and decided to follow his passion with a career in the culinary arts. He enrolled in the Laguna Beach Culinary Institute where he was awarded an Associate of Science degree.

After a stint at the critically acclaimed Taboo in Laguna Beach, Brent opened the Riders Club in San Clemente where he remained for six years as kitchen manager of the popular local spot, a family-run operation. In 2017 he initially came aboard at Vine Restaurant & Bar as sous chef and was subsequently promoted to chef de cuisine.

In his spare time, Brent enjoys fishing, camping, reef aquariums and barbecuing. His signature dish is a whole smoked chicken inspired by his grandfather's recipe. Brent and Jasmine have two little boys, Travis and Bennett

Joshua Nelson

Joshua Nelson

Born and raised in Redlands Southern California, when Joshua graduated high school he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area to attend San Francisco State University. San Francisco is where Joshua fell in love with the food and beverage industry.

After graduating college with a Bachelors in Business Administration Joshua was fortunate enough to land a job with an up and coming restaurant group CHOW. While working for CHOW Joshua was mentored by a gentleman by the name of Jack Moore who had worked for chef Thomas Keller prior to working for CHOW. Jack taught true hospitality and introduced Joshua to the wine world and stoked his fire that he had to be a restauranteur, including challenging him to acquire his level one from the Court of Master Sommeliers.

When he moved back to the OC in 2010 he had since worked at several well known OC gems including The Crow Bar and Kitchen where he met Chef Jared Cook, Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales where he met Gabe Whorley and Capital Grille where he worked as the wine director and met Chef Chris Hutten. It all came full circle when he was fortunate enough to land a position at Sapphire in Laguna Beach where he is able to work with Chris, Gabe and Chef Jared again.
In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, taking his dog to the park and of course cooking in the kitchen and enjoying a nice bottle of Sonoma Pinot Noir.

Coty Carrico

Coty Carrico

Coty was born and raised in the San Gabriel Valley. While attending Cal Poly Pomona her career path included front of the house and culinary experience and she later graduated with a bachelor's degree in Hospitality Management. After finishing college, paths crossed and Coty was introduced to Russ Bendel . In 2019 Coty made the move from LA county to the OC. She started at Vine as a hostess and quickly worked her way up in every role of the front of the house and is now the newest addition to the Sapphire management team.
In her free time, Coty enjoys hiking, kickboxing and spending time with family and friends.

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 Bermuda Dunes, California. From an early age he always had a strong passion for food and cooking and found himself wanting to be a chef early on in life. In 2011 Patrick made the move to Orange County where he began working at AnQi with the An family, it was there he discovered his calling in the hospitality industry. He spent the next 6 years there refining his craft and finding his love for food and wine. Patrick enjoys spending his time off finding new hot spots to eat, attending local sporting events, and spending with his wife Jennifer, his dog Kobe and their daughter.