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Founder & Owner

Johan Engman

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Johan Engman was born and raised in Östersund, Sweden before moving to San Diego in 1997 at the age of 16. One year later, he moved out on his own while still in high school, working nights as a dishwasher to pay rent. He was promoted to busser, then server, and continued working at multiple restaurants throughout San Diego until 25 years old. Realizing his passion for the industry, Engman gave himself two years to save money to open his own restaurant.

On October 9th, 2008 Engman opened Fig Tree Cafe in Pacific Beach with a shoestring budget of $45,000. After three months of losing money, he was faced with a tough decision. To close the restaurant and make some drastic changes to my life, or somehow come up with a way to keep the doors open? Many people suggested that Engman close the place down. “The economy is terrible Johan, nobody will blame you for closing,” they’d say. Due to his stubbornness and determination, Engman decided that under no circumstances would he throw in the towel. He limited the hours of operation for the restaurant as much as possible and finagled his way into a full-time job in the accounting department of a pharmaceutical company (long story on how he managed to pull that off without any experience). Engman managed to pay personal bills and offset the losses of the restaurant for three years after opening, until the restaurant finally turned a profit. In 2011, Engman left the corporate job and opened Fig Tree Cafe’s second location in Hillcrest followed by its third location in Liberty Station in 2013.

Engman has always been an avid traveler. It’s a way for him to recharge his batteries, while being inspired by new countries, cultures and cuisines. He vividly remembers being in a hut next to the Danum River in the rainforest of Borneo during a day when it couldn’t seem to stop pouring down rain. He was thinking about Fig Tree Café and the aspects of its concept that could be improved. In lieu of drastically changing it, Engman decided to conceptualize a new restaurant utilizing what I’d learned from opening and running Fig Tree Café. He knew he wanted to simplify things, and ensure that the consumer could identify and relate to the concept. Engman believed that breakfast was a severely underserved market and had lots of room for growth, not to mention that the San Diego consumer really seemed to love the first meal of the day, along with the boozy brunches that come with it.

Twelve hours later the rain was still pouring and the name “California Breakfast Republic” was born. The original idea for the logo was not what it is today, but not terribly far from it. Engman continued adding ideas such as a heavy emphasis on design and branding, a menu that was unique, yet still offered the classics, and incorporating hidden puns and quotes throughout the restaurant that the consumer would discover over multiple visits.

Breakfast Republic (later decided to drop “California” from the name) opened its doors in North Park on July 26th, 2015. The attention to detail (such as quirky quotes printed on the undersides of coffee cups, funny and sarcastic sayings on our napkin bands, life-sized “egg” chairs, bathroom “music” and mirrors along with custom-made branded t-shirts and caps) were a hit from the beginning.

Almost exactly one year later Breakfast Republic’s second location in Liberty Station opened, followed by several more spots over the next two and a half years. New Breakfast Republics continue to pop up in San Diego, expanding to Orange County and beyond. Engman’s restaurants are under the umbrella of Rise and Shine Restaurant Group, which includes other successful restaurants; El Jardin, North Park Breakfast Company, and Feast and Fareway with more to come. Stay tuned!

In addition to owning and operating restaurants Engman enjoy traveling and enjoying the outdoors with his wife Yasmin, son, and two dogs. They are also guilty of immersing ourselves in a good Netflix binge from time to time!

VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT

Grant Price

VICE PRESIDENT OF OPERATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT

Grant Price

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Grant was born and raised in Heber Springs, Arkansas — a small summertime resort town known for fishing, camping and water recreation on beautiful Greers Ferry Lake. He grew up loving the outdoors and enjoying everything the Foothills of the Ozarks has to offer. He also developed a deep passion for travel at an early age and eventually moved to Chicago to became a flight attendant and explore the world. To this day, international travel still holds a top priority in his hobbies.

For a change of scenery, he decided to move to California in 2010. Remaining within the hospitality industry, he worked for P.F. Chang’s before joining Rise & Shine Restaurant Group in 2011 as a General Manager of the Fig Tree Cafe. In 2014, he became the Director of Operations and gained experience with a unique opportunity to help shape the core foundation and direction of the rapidly growing Restaurant Group. Today, Grant currently sits on the Executive Committee and is the Vice President of Operations and Development for Rise & Shine Restaurant Group.

CORPORATE CHEF

Cesar Garcia

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Cesar Garcia is the Corporate Executive Chef for Rise & Shine Restaurant Group. Cesar has many years of culinary experience working in the kitchen for international brand hotels such as Four Points by Sheraton to Peohe’s serving breakfast for the San Diego Chargers NFL team. Cesar also gained significant knowledge and leadership experience during his employment with Gordon Biersch and Yard House as part of the management teams.

Cesar joined the Rise & Shine Restaurant Group in 2011 working at the Fig Tree Cafe Pacific Beach location. In 2014 he transferred to the Fig Tree Cafe Liberty Station location where he assumed the Executive Kitchen Manager position. It wasn’t before long that he was proving himself fit for the Corporate Executive Chef position with the Rise & Shine Restaurant Group. As the company was, and currently is, growing, Cesar now oversees all restaurants and is excited to be apart of all the new restaurant openings in the near future.

Outside of work, Cesar enjoys spending time with his friends and family. Born and raised in La Paz, a small fishing town in Baja Mexico, Cesar grew up a die-hard soccer fan and soaking up the sun along the warm beaches of the Sea of Cortez. He enjoys visiting new restaurants to explore other chefs creations and is always observing nature for colorful plate inspirations and his own new tasty creations. When asked, Cesar states the foundation for a great business lies within respect and loyalty among each other.

DIRECTOR OF HR AND ACCOUNTING

Sarah King

DIRECTOR OF HR AND ACCOUNTING

Sarah King

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Sarah was born and raised on a Christmas tree farm in Allentown, New Jersey. She began her career in the restaurant industry at The Happy Apple Inn at the age of 15 bussing tables, and worked there for seven years as server, bartender and manager. She attended the University of Delaware where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance. In 2006, seeking new challenges in a new city, she made the brave cross-country move to San Diego. For the next 9 years she worked in various local restaurants in numerous roles: following her passion for hospitality, while using her education in business and accounting in different restaurant administrative roles.

Sarah’s love for the restaurant business and accounting merged in September, 2015, when she became a part of Rise and Shine Restaurant Group. Currently she heads the HR/Accounting Department while simultaneously assisting with Operations, giving her the unique opportunity to use her education and experience to pursue her passion.

Sarah’s other loves are music and sports, and when she’s not working you will likely find her at a concert or a game.

OPERATIONS MANAGER

Sean Sterling

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Sean began working with the Rise and Shine family in 2012 as an Assistant Manager at Fig Tree Cafe. After a move to the East Coast, he has relocated back to San Diego and rejoined the group as the Corporate Project Manager. Happy to wear many hats, Sean has over 8 years of Project Management experience which he is thrilled to share with the group.

Sean has a Bachelor’s Degree from Keene State College in his home state of New Hampshire and a Master’s Degree from Lehman College in NYC. Proud to be a member of the Rise and Shine team, he is looking forward to the continued success of the group.

Sean oversees the group’s many projects, group communications, public relations, maintenance and merchandise warehouse amongst other projects and tasks.

OPERATIONS MANAGER

Heather Ross

OPERATIONS MANAGER

Heather Ross

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Heather born in San Diego but spent her childhood years in Orange County California. She moved to Temecula in her early twenties where she acquired a bar-tending position with P.F. Chang’s when they opened in 2009. Rising through the ranks, she ended back down in San Diego as a hospitality and bar manager where she quickly became the Operating Partner for the P.F. Chang’s in the Fashion Valley Mall. She joined the Rise and Shine Group in November 2017. Heather is excited for this new venture and motivated to assist in the success of the company.

Operations Manager

Carmina Katigbak

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Carmina Katigbak has been an operations manager for Breakfast Republic since the fall of 2016. She graduated from San Diego State where she studied Public Administration and Hospitality. She has worked in a variety of concepts in the last 21 years, from her first job as a gum-smacking server at a 50’s themed diner to a bartender at an Asian Fusion restaurant to a decade spent running the first sustainable sushi restaurant in Southern CA.

Breakfast is her main focus now and she enjoys the challenge of continuously elevating San Diego’s brunch experience with the R&S restaurant group. When she’s not trying to make #dogsofbreakfastrepublic a ‘thing’ she enjoys spending time with her family and pups.

CORPORATE SOUS CHEF

Maryella 'May' Ortiz

CORPORATE SOUS CHEF

Maryella 'May' Ortiz

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Maryella “May” Ortiz Was born in San Diego but raised in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. At the age of 18 she moved to Guadalajara to pursue a career in Graphic Design. But, falling in love with the food culture she found her true calling inside the kitchen. She moved back to Cabo to study Culinary Arts, where started working in the industry as a line cook in a Mediterranean Restaurant in Baja.

In 2015, wanting bigger challenges that what Cabo had to offer, she applied to be part of the opening team of Javier Plascencia’s “Bracero”, and moved back to her hometown. At Bracero, starting as a Prep Cook she moved up the ranks to become one of the restaurants Sous Chefs. Parting ways with Bracero in 2016, she joined The Patio Group in their newly open “Fireside” restaurant where she lead their prep team.

In May 2017, seeking a bigger challenge in her career, May joined Rise and Shine Restaurant Group as their Corporate Sous Chef.

Corporate Sous Chef

Daniel Villegas

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Born in San Diego and raised in Tijuana, Daniel Villegas started his culinary career at the age of 18 as a dishwasher at California Pizza Kitchen, where he quickly moved up in rank until he became a kitchen trainer.

Deciding to pursue his passion, Danny enrolled in Southwestern College’s culinary program, studying under one of the partners of San Diego’s Saiko Sushi, he got invited to form part of the opening team of their first location in Coronado.

In 2014, he decided to move back to Mexico and continue his culinary education at the Culinary Arts School in Tijuana. During his studies he was able to do an internship at Quintonil in Mexico City, one of the 50 best restaurants in the world.

After returning to San Diego, wanting to apply his acquired knowledge in Mexican cuisine, Danny decided to join Javier Plascencia’s team at Bracero Cocina, where he worked as a line cook. Then, in 2016 he returned to Saiko Sushi Coronado as their Sous Chef.

Moving forward, he worked as a Lead Cook at The Cork and Craft in Rancho Bernardo, working under Chef Phillip Esteban, and as kitchen supervisor at Provisional at the Pendry Hotel in San Diego, working under Chef Christopher Osborne.

In mid 2018, he joined Rise and Shine Hospitality Group to lead the opening of their new eatery; North Park Breakfast Company. While the concept was in the works, he helped develop menus and systems for the group’s newest projects, and eventually became Feast and Fareway’s Executive Chef, moving up to be one of the company’s corporate Sous Chefs.

Warehouse Manager

Michael Malagon

Warehouse Manager

Michael Malagon

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Michael was born and raised in the Imperial Valley of El Centro. He graduated from Southwest High School 2012. Right out of high school, Michael started working any job that would help him build his resume. One of his favorite jobs was working for Spreckels Sugar Company, also known as Holly Sugar. He was the Granulator Operator, where he monitored the consistency of an excellent product.

At 21 years old, Michael decided to take the plunge and moved to San Diego. Michael found himself working 3 jobs trying to get established. He then got hired at Shoreclub in Pacific Beach as security in September of 2016. Michael found from working at this establishment for 2 years his customer service skills improved immensely and soon realized he liked being the “behind the scene guy” but also having very important responsibilities of keeping guests safe.

Michael knew he was meant for something better. His search continued until he was brought onto Rise and Shine Hospitality Group as the Warehouse Manager in August of 2018. Michael is happy to say being a quarter of a century young he never saw himself going this far within a company so quickly and is truly thankful to be managing the warehouse.

Leann Molle

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LeAnn Molle was born in San Diego and grew up in Oxnard, CA. At 19 years old, LeAnn moved to Los Angeles where she began her accounting career working in a range of industries from insurance to travel. After a few years in Los Angeles, LeAnn briefly moved to the alluring Catalina Island where she worked as a server and gained her initial restaurant experience.

With an adventurous spirit, LeAnn left California behind and moved to Sweden where she started a family, studied and obtained a degree in Account/Systems Information and spent the next 18 years.

After raising a family she decided to move back to her roots in San Diego. She obtained a position with Pro Specialties Group, Inc. as an accounting specialist. In 2014, LeAnn left PSG, Inc. and joined Rise & Shine Restaurant Group.

ACCOUNTING

Denise Velasco

ACCOUNTING

Denise Velasco

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Denise is native of San Diego and has lived in multiple areas of the county from inland La Mesa to the coast of Imperial Beach. Denise started out her career in the accounting field but has ventured in other industries including veterinary, real estate, restaurant, and manufacturing. Along with working in various industries, Denise has worked a variety of roles including being a warehouse worker, inventory analyst, veterinary assistant, as well as a barista and cook but mostly had administrative/accounting roles. After taking on so many different roles in various companies, the food and beverage industry is where she worked the bulk of her career. Working for Coca Cola and AleSmith Brewing thereafter, she realized that she really wanted to get into the restaurant industry again. Denise truly enjoyed her time in the restaurant industry and the lifestyle it entailed. This is how she ended up at Rise and Shine.

In her free time, Denise enjoys spending time with her family, going outdoors, having a local craft beer (or two) and reading.

Accounting Manager

Courtney Davis

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Courtney was born and raised in Cromwell, Connecticut where her love for the restaurant industry was discovered. At sixteen, she was hired as a busser at a local breakfast restaurant, it wasn’t long before she became lead server. Able to juggle work and school, she graduated from Central Connecticut State University with a Bachelor’s in Accounting. She accepted a position in the Finance Department of a large healthcare conglomerate creating the corporation’s budget.

Due to her adventurous spirit, it was apparent that she was ready to move on, so she packed her bags and headed to beautiful Southern California. Once settled in her new home of San Diego, Courtney joined Rise and Shine Restaurant Group. Courtney started as a bookkeeper and has since been promoted to the Accounting Manager. She is excited to continue her career which joins both of her passions; accounting and hospitality.

Being extremely active and adventurous, Courtney enjoys watching and playing sports, playing games, beaching, biking and hiking.

ACCOUNTING

José Alvarez

ACCOUNTING

José Alvarez

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José was born and raised in San Diego. After graduating high school, he spent time working in industries ranging from construction to insurance. In 2016, he moved to Santa Cruz on the Central Coast of California to attend The University of California, Santa Cruz. There, he studied Business Management and Economics, with an emphasis in Accounting. After graduating in 2018, he immediately sought out a career where he could grow with a company that had a culture and values that aligned with his own, all while utilizing the skills and knowledge he had gained over the years. In the fall of 2018, Jose joined the Rise & Shine Hospitality Group’s accounting department, eager for a chance to apply the skills he learned in a business field he is passionate about.

Outside of work, José enjoys reading and drawing, along with recording music.

MAINTENANCE

Rene Serrano Valdez

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Rene was born in Acapulco in 1964 and lived there until 1988 when he came to San Diego. Rene immediately went to work for Pizzeria Uno in Pacific Beach and worked there and at other Uno’s in the San Diego and Los Angeles area in the Back of the House, a short stint in the front of the house and as Glenn Miller’s right hand man. It was at this time that Rene started honing his General Maintenance skills which he continues to utilize today. He moved to Seattle in 1998 where he worked with a painting contractor until the economy took a dip in Seattle and there was little to no work available. In 2000 he moved back to Acapulco and worked in the family business. His family took care of a vacation home estate in Acapulco for 30 years. They did everything at the estate from driving guests, cooking, bartending, all of the cleaning, and all of the maintenance.

Rene stayed in Acapulco until 2007 when Miller’s Field opened, at that time Rene moved back to San Diego and worked at Miller’s until 2017 when it was purchased by Breakfast Republic.

Rene very quickly became the “go to maintenance man” for all of the Rise and Shine Restaurants. He handles the painting, equipment repairs, plumbing, minor electrical, delivery of supplies, and anything else that comes up.

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