To transform a city's dining scene and build a national restaurant empire takes drive, discipline, creativity, passion, patience, savvy — among so many other fundamental attributes. These are at the heart of how Chicago restauranteur Richard Melman amounted such success over the course of four decades as Founder and Chairman of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises (LEYE).

The restaurant business has been Melman's life work, and the James Beard Foundation — a nonprofit dedicated to America's diverse culinary heritage and future — celebrates his accomplishments with their highest honor: the 2015 James Beard Lifetime Achievement Award.



From the establishment of his first restaurant (R.J. Grunts in Chicago in 1971), Richard Melman has grown LEYE into a national corporation of over 100 restaurants worldwide with a workforce of 7,000 employees on his team. These restaurants — ranging from four star fine dining establishments, to fast casual spots for pizza or burgers, to hip steakhouses — center around Chicago and also stretch from Vegas to D.C.

A highly-admired leader and mentor, he places great care in the development and training of others. Professional growth and collaboration are the underlying philosophy at LEYE, and at a management level, many of the 60+ working partners have come up through the organization in various roles.

Nurturing people and nurturing ideas have been the path to Richard Melman's success. It has served as an inspiring model for others in the food industry, and for restaurant guests in Chicago and beyond, it has led to decades of delightful dining experiences.

Melman will be celebrated at the James Beard Awards Ceremony and Gala on May 4, 2015. Taking place at Chicago's Civic Opera House, this marks the first time the prestigious event will be held outside of New York City, and will also be the 25th anniversary of the "Oscars of the Food Industry." Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields. Learn more at  



While in Chicago, you'll find a full range of dining options through the Lettuce Entertain You restaurant group. Here are 10 to try:

Beatrix Chicago

  1. Head to restaurant No. 1 in Lincoln Park, R.J. Grunts, for fresh salads and hunky ½ lb. burgers served with funky 70s kitsch
  2. Buy your ticket to the latest LEYE concept Intro, a unique and ever-changing experience that introduces a new chef in-residence every few months
  3. Relax at the sunny downtown eatery that has the feel of a neighborhood brunch cafe and coffee house: Beatrix
  4. Dig into the best barbeque, beer, bourbon and live country music at Bub City
  5. Dine on Chef Jean Joho creations in one of the country's premier dining rooms at Everest, located on the 40th floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange
  6. Hit up the scene at Hub 51 in the heart of the River North dining and nightlife hub for simple and satisfying favorites: sushi, fish tacos, nachos
  7. Follow the tiki lights to Three Dots and a Dash, a serious rum bar that pays homage to the colorful and cheery Tiki bars of past
  8. Rub elbows with the well-heeled crowds at RPM Steak, which compete with the beautiful cuts of beef and eye-catching platters of King Crab and lobster
  9. Settle into a tried-and-true classic, Shaw's Crab House, for fresh seafood and the mandatory slice of pie
  10. Feast on fine-dining French cuisine Tru and complement the exquisite prix-fixe menu with a selection from the award-winning wine cellar