A partnership between international hospitality veteran, Attila Gyulai (Elysian Hotel Chicago, Four Seasons) and up-and-coming executive chef Thai Dang (RIA, L2O, Zentan), Embeya is affectionately named after chef Thai’s childhood nickname, Embeya, which means “little one” in Vietnamese. Embeya aims to creatively re-tool the ubiquitous Asian concept, developing dishes based on a range of Asian ingredients, flavors and textures integrated with French technique. Chef Thai will offer a progressive Asian menu in an approachably chic space, designed by 555 International lead designer Karen Herold (Girl and the goat, GT Fish, Balena). Spearheaded by beverage director Danielle Pizzutillo, the Embeya beverage program will be driven by the same approach and ethos behind the cuisine and space, carrying over techniques and flavors from the kitchen. Whether it’s a cocktail crafted to order, or a perfectly paired wine from the Riesling-focused list, each drink is well balanced, layered, and delicate.
As executive chef of Embeya, Thai Dang is carrying out a simple philosophy with compelling results. He believes that the basis of any good dish is understanding the product followed by treating and caring for each ingredient individually.
Chef Thai began honing his culinary skills as chef de partie for award-winning chef Eric Ziebold of CityZen, a Triple A Four Diamond restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington D.C. He then received recognition, as a senior sous chef for celebrated chef Susur Lee of Zentan at The Donovan House Hotel in D.C. Dang’s knowledge of Asian-inspired cuisine was essential to the development of this seasonal menu. It was here that Dang first began combining his native Vietnamese cuisine with his traditional French training to create a progressive take on Asian cuisine.
In 2009, renowned chef Laurent Gras invited Thai to join the L2O team in Chicago. Chef Thai worked closely with chef Laurent to create the menu’s seasonal, labor-intensive dishes and in 2010, helped the restaurant earn three Michelin stars.
Chef Thai then joined the kitchen at two Michelin star RIA and Balsan at the Elysian Hotel as chef de cuisine. His focus on clean, fresh flavors coupled with his contemporary approach to technique and presentation elevated the menus at both restaurants. In 2012, he left to team up with Attila Gyulai to pursue their restaurant venture and further develop his unique cooking style.
In preparation for Embeya, Thai and director Attila Gyulai traveled across Asia to explore its diverse cuisines. Their trip reinforced Thai’s desire to celebrate the best ingredients from around the world by remaining true to their flavors. He draws inspiration from his Vietnamese upbringing and classic French training to create the inventive, progressive Asian cuisine at Embeya.
Attila Gyulai brings more than 15 years of international food and beverage experience to Embeya, as well as his enduring commitment to providing great food, wine, and service. Although ethnically Hungarian, Attila grew up in Transylvania, where his childhood revolved around the dinner table. His mother was an amazing home cook, and his family had been producing table wine for centuries. This powerful culinary legacy set the stage for Attila’s future interests in food and hospitality. He pursued both passions simultaneously when he was part of the Four Seasons team for 11 years (Santa Barbara, Provence, Seattle, Budapest, Bahamas), honing his leadership skills and learning the meaning of great service and brand integrity. His experience in an array of interesting locations gave him an incomparable understanding of different cuisines and restaurant operations around the world.
After his tenure at the Four Seasons, Attila joined the team at the Elysian Hotel Chicago in 2008. As director of operations, he was not only in charge of hiring, training, and mentoring, but also instrumental in creating the concepts for RIA and Balsan restaurants. Under his supervision, RIA earned two Michelin stars, and the hotel won the Triple A Five Diamond and numerous Best Hotel in North America awards. It was also here where Attila met and formed a natural bond with Embeya executive chef Thai Dang. Their friendship and shared value system when it comes to food, service and guest experience ultimately led them to open Embeya.
As beverage director of Embeya, Danielle Pizzutillo is bridging the gap between food and beverage in an exciting way. Her approach to the cocktail program is highly ingredient-driven, but also incorporates techniques from the kitchen. Danielle explores every conceivable possibility of an ingredient, from simple juicing or roasting to creating a syrup or gelée. Her goal is to pull the essential, integral heart of an ingredient and showcase it in its best, most interesting form. Executing a “bite and sip” philosophy, Danielle’s creativity extends to the edible garnish that accompanies each cocktail. She strives to achieve the perfect balance of sweetness, brightness, depth, and acidity with every drink.
Danielle’s background in architecture has translated into a purposeful, strategic approach to mixology. Not only does every ingredient have its place in Danielle’s concoctions, but her flavors also reflect her simple, clean design aesthetic. In 2009, she joined the team at Bernard’s at the Elysian Hotel Chicago, where she was a driving force for changing the menu and developing the bar’s signature product-based cocktails. Danielle joined Embeya in 2012, relishing the opportunity to create a beverage program from scratch and showcase her own mixology style.
Director of Sales + Marketing
As director of sales and marketing, Komal Patel brings a unique point of view to the Embeya team. Growing up in Zambia, Komal’s food education began early and ranged from the flavors of traditional Indian cuisine to the exotic fruits that could only be grown in a central African climate. Combining her adventurous palate and love for food with her background in real estate development, Komal oversees the restaurant’s daily operations.
Most recently, she was director of sales at Milborne Real Instate Inc., a top boutique real estate sales and marketing brokerage based in Toronto. It was there that Komal honed her ability to build relationships and see a project through from start to finish. In 2012, she seamlessly translated this passion to developing the Embeya concept. From assisting with the business plan and coordinating various creative teams to spearheading the accounts, purchasing, and human resources, Komal works hand-in-hand with director Attila Gyulai and executive chef Thai Dang to realize their common vision for the restaurant.