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Culinary Team

Meet The Team

Love the Applebee's menu? Meet the team behind it. The Applebee's culinary team collectively brings more than 120 years of cooking experience and education to the brand; each with a passion for culinary innovation and menu development. Working in a state-of-the-art Culinary Center in Glendale, CA and taking inspiration from a variety of sources – such as regional specialties, all-American classics and new twists on classic recipes - our team of chefs make sure every item they create for our menu is an instant neighborhood favorite

Stephen Bulgarelli

Stephen Bulgarelli, Chief Culinary Officer

Stephen is Applebee’s culinary leader, dedicated to serving guests at our nearly 2,000 locations. With a passion for cooking and an accomplished and decorated background in the industry, Stephen is stewarding the innovation of Applebee’s craveable menu that pairs quality food with the brand’s genuine, neighborly service. Stephen began his career in the culinary industry first as a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY, where he developed a keen understanding of appealing to guests, and now as the Chief Culinary Officer where he shares his creative and strategic knowledge with his team. When not in the kitchen, Stephen’s favorite dish to order as a guest of Applebee’s is the new and bold Whisky Bacon Burger.

Michael Salem, Director, Culinary Innovation

Michael is a key leader in Applebee’s efforts to continually create unique and mouthwatering menu items that highlight the brand’s commitment to preparing American fare with flair. Michael brings to Applebee’s impressive expertise, with more than 20 years in the restaurant industry. His experience is grounded in a culinary degree from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, as well as a BA in Business and Economics/Marketing from Cal State Fullerton. Michael recommends you try the Hot Shot Whisky Chicken, an exciting addition to the Applebee’s menu!

Sara Lawson, Culinary Operations Chef

Sara works hand-in-hand with the Applebee’s culinary innovation team to streamline recipes and optimize and standardize the preparation and cooking process for the thousands of chefs in Applebee’s restaurants throughout the country. Sara’s work is critical to ensuring you have a delicious yet speedy experience every time you step into an Applebee’s restaurant! With her strong culinary background of more than 19 years – including Research & Development, high volume catering, fine-dining, along with her degree from the California Culinary Academy – Sara is a stellar addition to the Applebee’s team. And, with a love of Applebee’s Salsa Verde Beef Nachos, it is clear that her culinary expertise is indeed on point.

Steve Hutnyan, Director, Culinary Operations And Commercialization

As Director, Applebee’s Culinary Operations, Steve is in charge of all efforts to ensure Applebee’s recipes can be easily and effectively followed by Applebee’s cooks working in the brand’s U.S. restaurants to help them produce Applebee’s vibrant American flavors deliciously and efficiently. Steve brings with him a strong restaurant-industry background with 34 years of experience, including but not limited to work in casual dining, as well as a degree in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America. He believes that every guest who eats at an Applebee’s should try the Shrimp ‘N Parmesan Sirloin at least once!

Thomas Yun, Culinary Innovation Chef

Thomas works closely with the Applebee’s Director, Culinary Innovation to help create dishes that embody the fresh, bold, and uniquely-American flavors that Applebee’s restaurants across the country are known for. Thomas’s 20 years of food service experience make him an invaluable asset to a brand committed to providing you a range of culinary flavors and experiences. He has spent time as a corporate chef for numerous brands and even as an Adjunct Professor of Culinary Arts at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, CA. Thomas recommends you try an order of his favorite Applebee’s dish, the Grilled Chicken Wonton Tacos!

Paige Norman, Culinary Innovation Chef

Working closely with the rest of her Applebee’s culinary innovation team members, Paige is responsible for creating bold dishes that excite guests in a way only Applebee’s can. With 12 years of culinary experience under her belt, including time spent catering, consulting, and even working at multiple Michelin Star restaurants, she brings in a wealth of knowledge to an already seasoned team of chefs. In addition to her commitment to invigorating the Applebee’s menu with creative new dishes, Paige is also committed to getting guests to try the Grilled Onion Sirloin with Stout Gravy, her favorite Applebee’s dish!