From left: Qamara Edwards, Jill Weber, Heather Rodkey, Lucio Palazzo
JILL WEBER AND EVAN MALONE – FOUNDERS AND OWNERS
Jill Weber spent her childhood in Michigan City, IN longing to travel. This eventually led to a career in archaeology, landing in Philadelphia where she received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1992, Jill has worked in Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Oman, Iraq, and Italy. Along the way, she gained an intimate knowledge of these countries, their cultures, and native cuisines, which inspired her to open a restaurant back in Philly.
Evan Malone came to Philly from the mountains of Colorado, and met Jill. He also traveled a lot – to Cornell for a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Systems Engineering, to Fukuoka, Japan where his team became World Champions of RoboCup (soccer-playing robots), and to Gauteng, South Africa, where he helped open an internet cafe. At Cornell, Evan helped develop a multi-material desk-top 3D printer to help democratize invention. Back in Philly, Evan opened NextFab- a membership-based maker space and business accelerator.
Building on the success of their first restaurant, Jet Wine Bar, Jill and Evan opened REX 1516 and Cafe Ynez, and are soon to open Sor Ynez.
In their spare time, Jill and Evan love to travel. At home, you’ll find Evan cooking, Jill opening wine, and the cats being crazy.
LUCIO PALAZZO – CULINARY DIRECTOR
Lucio Palazzo was born and raised in Italy. As a kid, he never thought he’d have a career in the restaurant industry. Upon moving to West Philly, Palazzo found a job through a friend who was working at Brasserie Perrier, where he soon started work as a pastry assistant. Palazzo found his calling in preparing beautiful plates for guests to enjoy.
After a few years of transitioning between cooking sweet and savory, Palazzo got the opportunity to join the opening team at the acclaimed Zahav, which led to Palazzo’s first Head Chef gig at Xochitl. Xochitl sparked a long running fascination with Mexican cuisine and culture, which included stops at La Calaca Feliz and Loco Pez. Palazzo further developed his focus on high quality local ingredients working in the kitchen at Russet, where the menu changed daily based on the shims of the season.
Palazzo’s love for his adopted city runs deep and inspires his food and activism in the restaurant industry. He works to ensure that his team is being given opportunity to flourish in the kitchen. He strives to be a more well-rounded chef for both himself and his staff, and avidly promotes physical and emotional wellness.
When he’s not in the kitchen, Palazzo can be found tending to his vegetable garden with his wife and two children, as well as his oldest friend, Calvin — the family’s Pomeranian. Outside of cooking, Palazzo is passionate about cycling and he looks forward to spending July mornings watching the Tour de France.
HEATHER RODKEY – DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
In July 2011, Heather worked as Consultant at Jet Wine Bar. It only took a few months before Heather was named REX 1516 General Manager, and later Director of Operations for Sojourn Philly.
A Pennsylvania native and adult beverage enthusiast, Heather’s passion for restaurant industry flow is unmatched. To this day, Heather has maintained a passion for hospitality with over 30 years of experience, and a commitment to continue learning and improving in an industry where change is the only constant.
An integral element to her success, Heather has strictly worked at restaurants in which chefs shared a comparable level of credibility and integrity to her own standards.
To further expand her knowledge of craft beers and wines, Heather organized beer tastings and cocktail gatherings, as well as managed the beverage programs while working at Philadelphia restaurants Rouge and Adsum. In addition to her extensive experience, Heather received a degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and studied at both The French Alliance and The Wine School of Philadelphia.
When Heather is not in the restaurants, she’s in her studio, drawing birds or silversmithing.
QAMARA EDWARDS – BUSINESS & EVENTS DIRECTOR
While studying at Northwestern University, Qamara fell in love with the hospitality industry. Restaurants and hospitality combine all of her passions into one: making new friends, hosting friends to her “home” with amazing food and drinks, event planning, and the challenges of running a business – tapping into her strong entrepreneurial spirit. She began honing her customer service and sales skills at Roger Brown’s Sports Bar & Restaurant in Portsmouth, VA. In Philly, she joined the Guest Counts Hospitality team to open Square Peg in Washington Square West, and helped transition the Loews Philadelphia Hotel from their restaurant, SoleFood, to their pop-up restaurant, Level 33 (as an interim for Bank and Bourbon). From that experience, and a chance meeting between proud Northwestern alumni (Jill is also an alumnus), she welcomed the opportunity to join Jill Weber’s team in 2014, to help open the group’s third restaurant, Café Ynez.
Qamara took on more responsibilities and projects in her current position, Director of Business and Events. In this new role, she introduces the group’s restaurant and catering portfolio to guests through on-site private events and off-site community events. In addition, she looks for new areas of business opportunities, whether that may be partnering with BYO restaurants for off-site catering, philanthropy events, or any chance to share how great our restaurants are with Philadelphia residents and visitors.
In 2019, Qamara became President of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, which allows her the chance to bring the entire hospitality industry together in becoming one stronger voice across the state.
Away from the restaurants, you will find Qamara hosting game nights at her home or Jet Wine Bar, and she enjoys playing softball and fancies herself a Boggle Master.