COLUMBUS, Ohio--(BUSINESS WIRE)--FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc., the owners of polished upscale casual dining brands BRIO Tuscan GrilleTM and BRAVO Cucina ItalianaTM, today announced it has assembled a world-class culinary team dedicated to offering the Italian Mediterranean Way of Dining. The company will significantly improve the quality and sustainability of its ingredients; the simplicity and authenticity of its Italian recipes; the freshness and amazing taste of its food; and in so doing, also provide food that is better-for-you and better-for-the-environment. This is consistent with FoodFirst Global’s mission of providing Good Food for the PlanetTM.
The company has named John Imbriolo, a dynamic and innovative Italian Chef and accomplished Restaurant Executive, to lead the culinary team as Chief Culinary Officer. Imbriolo will work closely with Owner-Partner, Chairman and CEO, Brad Blum as well as Chief Operations Officer, Bob Mock, who will also head up Training. Together, this team will make it their priority to provide high quality Italian Mediterranean food that is consistent and tastes amazing each time a guest visits one of the company’s 110 restaurants.
“We are on a mission,” said Brad Blum, owner-partner, Chairman & CEO of FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc. “FoodFirst is the name of our new company for a reason. Our entire organization, including importantly our partners at GP Investments, is aligned and passionate about having the best food in all of Italian casual dining. What I truly love is helping people do things they didn’t believe were possible— and doing it as a team to delight our guests,” Blum emphasized.
“To accomplish this lofty goal, GP and Brad are investing significant resources into our restaurant business,” said Antonio Bonchristiano, Vice Chairman of FoodFirst Global Restaurants and CEO of GP Investments. “As a new private company, we are extremely excited that our actions suddenly put the company in a strong financial position with significantly lower debt and an infusion of equity capital to invest properly in our food, our people and our brands.”
The culinary team at FoodFirst Global Restaurants will include a roster of seasoned restaurant executives and virtuosos in the kitchen who are passionate about providing Good Food for the Planet. The team includes:
- John Imbriolo, who will serve as Chief Culinary Officer. The son of an Italian immigrant chef, Imbriolo began his career at age 13 in his father’s kitchen, the fourth generation in his family to study Italian cuisine. After earning a degree in Restaurant Management, Imbriolo honed his skills at hotels and restaurants across New York City including Naples 45 and the famed ‘21’ Club. He has been a featured chef at the James Beard Foundation and his creations have graced many prominent magazines and newspapers including La Cucina Italiana, New York Magazine and the New York Times. Chef ‘Johnny I.’, who often makes trips to Italy for inspiration, is certified in the preparation of classic Neapolitan pizza by the Associazione Margherita Regina in Naples, Italy. In 2004, he joined Romano’s Macaroni Grill bringing his talents to a national stage. A few years later, Imbriolo met Blum, who in 2010 led Romano’s Macaroni Grill to earn the coveted Menu Masters Innovator of the Year Award. Going forward, Imbriolo will lead the creation of much better tasting Italian Mediterranean food at BRIO and BRAVO that is fresher and better for you. “This is a dream come true for me to join such a great organization and to partner with this team,” said Imbriolo. “My culinary experiences along the Italian Mediterranean coast have inspired me. I am passionate to deliver a similar experience to our many guests at BRIO and BRAVO.”
- Debbie Allison will serve as SVP of Global Supply Chain. Also joining the new team, Allison will work closely with Blum and Imbriolo on FoodFirst’s culinary strategy of sourcing the best ingredients for its chefs and restaurants. She has been a long-time executive in purchasing, previously sourcing high quality and sustainable ingredients for the specialty brands of Darden Restaurants including Season’s 52 and Capital Grille. She has served as the Director of Supply Chain for Red Lobster, specializing in sustainable seafood. Allison, who is also familiar with suppliers in Italy, will source the best stone-pressed extra Virgin olive oil and the best Italian pastas, along with her skill and passion of sourcing high-quality Italian wines. In the United States, she will focus on sourcing the freshest plant-based ingredients and highest quality seafood, which are critical to the Italian Mediterranean Way of Cooking.
- Angelo Landi will serve as VP of Culinary Operations. Also joining the new team, Landi’s main area of focus will be upgrading the open kitchens for each restaurant and working closely with both the culinary team at the Restaurant Support Center and with each Executive Chef at the company’s 110 BRIO and BRAVO restaurants. Landi, is first and foremost a chef, who created, owned and operated his own restaurant for many years, so he knows what it is like to be ‘close to the action’. He also has meaningful experience with multi-unit operations, having held high-level culinary positions at Maggiano’s, Ruth’s Chris and most recently, at True Foods. Landi will set the BRIO and BRAVO restaurant teams up for success with well-designed and well-run kitchens.
- Brian Harvey will serve as Director of Culinary Innovation at BRAVO. Chef Brian has degrees in both the culinary arts and the pastry arts and has been creating innovative Italian food for the company over the past twenty years. His key priority going forward is to bring more freshness and simplicity to the BRAVO menu.
- Alison Peters will serve as Director of Culinary Innovation at BRIO. Chef Alison has held key culinary roles in New York and New Orleans before joining BRIO where she has been an integral part of developing various menus. Her key priority going forward is to make BRIO’s menu higher quality and more upscale.
- The Amalfi Coast will serve as Authentic Inspiration for BRIO and BRAVO. The Italian Mediterranean lifestyle is exemplified in no better place than the Amalfi Coast of Italy. Antonio Bonchristiano and his wife Patricia have a house on the Isle of Capri which has been in Patricia’s family for over 200 years. However, during that time, the Mediterranean Diet has never changed. Blum, Imbriolo and Allison, who visit Italy regularly, as well as the entire culinary team who each plan to visit there, will benefit from increased access to local ingredient suppliers, local Italian chefs and local restaurateurs along the Amalfi Coast. This will help BRIO and BRAVO deliver a guest experience in their restaurants that more closely mirrors the authentic culinary tradition from this beautiful region of Italy.
- Pam Smith will serve as a key nutrition, wellness and menu advisor. Smith, an internationally recognized nutrition expert, has reconnected with Blum and passionately supports his vision at FoodFirst Global Restaurants. She is the author of several best-selling books including Eat Well, Live Well, a popular TV and radio host and is a wellness and menu coach to legendary professional athletes. Her work with executive culinary teams for hospitality and restaurant brands includes Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, the Walt Disney Company and Darden Restaurants, where she was the co-creator of Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52. She has hosted all 22 years of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and co-chairs The Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menu R&D Collaborative. Smith will advise the FoodFirst Executive Team, and the Culinary Teams at BRIO and BRAVO, respectively.
Blum summarized, “This expanded culinary team is highly-energized to bring about major positive change to both the BRIO and BRAVO brands for FoodFirst Global Restaurants. I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working hard with this talented group of innovators to provide much better tasting food as well as a much more enjoyable overall guest experience.”
For more information, please visit us at www.foodfirst.com.
About FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc.
FoodFirst Global Restaurants, Inc.™ is a collaboration between restaurateur/owner-partner Brad Blum and GP Investments, Ltd. At FoodFirst Global Restaurants, we are building a platform to own a variety of brands and businesses. The mission for each of these brands and businesses is to provide Good Food for the Planet. We are passionate about good food, know good food, enjoy good food, and are dedicated to always improving upon and consistently providing good food. For more information, visit www.foodfirst.com.
About Good Food for the Planet
Good Food for the PlanetTM is a philosophy created by Brad Blum with five defining pillars for the way restaurant food should be: 1. Exceptionally GOOD tasting; 2. Remarkably GOOD for you; 3. You feel GOOD afterwards; 4. A GOOD everyday value; 5. GOOD for the environment.
About BRIO and BRAVO
BRIO Tuscan Grille™ and BRAVO! Cucina Italiana™ have been positioned as multifaceted culinary destinations that deliver the food quality, service, ambiance and design elements reminiscent of fine dining restaurants, but at a value typically offered by casual dining establishments. Fresh flavorful ingredients and authentic Italian cooking methods are combined with attentive service in an attractive, open and lively atmosphere. The group strives to be the best Italian restaurant company in America by focusing on providing its guests with a consistently excellent dining experience.
About GP Investments, Ltd.
GP Investments, Ltd. is a leading alternative investment firm. Since its founding in 1993, GP Investments has raised $5 billion from investors worldwide and has completed investments in more than 50 companies and has executed over 20 equity capital market transactions. GP Investments has a consistent and disciplined investment strategy targeting established companies that have the potential to grow and be more efficient and profitable by becoming leaders in their industries. Since 2006, GP Investments has been listed on the Brazilian Stock Exchange (B3 S.A. – Brasil, Bolsa, Balcão) under the ticker symbol GPIV33 and on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange. The firm currently has offices in São Paulo, London, New York, and Bermuda. For more information, visit www.gp-investments.com.