Our Team

John Arents

John Arents

Managing Partner

John returned to the North Pond family in December 2019, taking over as Managing Partner and GM. He had been with us fourteen years earlier serving as General Manager and we are thrilled to have him back in the fold. Originally from Michigan, John began his hospitality career as a concierge at The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and in Chicago at the Ritz Carlton in food and beverage and front office positions. He then went on to work at notable Chicago mainstays including Lettuce Entertain You’s Scoozi!, Bistrot Zinc, mk and most recently, Sepia. John is a thoughtful and collaborative leader and mentor and has a knack for getting the best out of his staff.

Back To TopCesar Murillo

Cesar Murillo

Chef

Cesar Murillo and his family emigrated from Chihuahua, Mexico, to Texas when he was just four years old. Murillo knew from a young age he wanted to create and to connect with his culture, and was drawn to the sensory experience of the kitchen. After completing his studies at Texas Culinary Academy he set his sights on Chicago, and in 2010, Murillo was awarded an internship at the influential Frontera Grill. While he had worked at other kitchens, Murillo feels his career launched from Frontera, where under Rick Bayless he developed a strong work ethic, and learned the importance of remaining humble and staying involved in the kitchen, no matter your position. After leaving Frontera, he went west to the Bay Area of San Francisco to better connect with and understand what goes into the growing and raising of the products he was using daily. He visited farms, ranches, farmers markets and vineyards, immersing himself in the farm-to-fork culture of the region. While there, Murillo worked his way up the culinary ladder at notable eateries including San Francisco’s Nopalito and Healdsburg’s Mateo’s Cocina Latina, both hyper-seasonal restaurants dedicated to traditional Mexican cuisine. After two years, Murillo returned to Texas, working at the acclaimed fine dining restaurant FT33 in Dallas, where he sharpened and refined his skills and was quickly elevated to lead line cook. While there, he set up a stage at the recently opened Grace in Chicago, and so impressed Chef Curtis Duffy that he offered Murillo a position after one week. Over his three years at Grace, he was able to explore his creativity and push himself in ways he had never before; while there, the restaurant earned countless accolades, including attaining three Michelin stars with Murillo as sous chef. In 2017, he was offered the senior sous chef position at critical and consumer favorite Sepia, where he was able to flex that creative muscle and express his culinary voice. In 2020, Murillo joined the North Pond team.

Murillo loves the sensory engagement of cooking, of creating and finishing a dish and finding ways to blend elegance with simplicity on the plate. He describes his style as one driven by the season, grounded in vegetables and “thoughtfully curious.” When not in the kitchen, Murillo and his wife might be found indulging in a great meal, or hitting a trail somewhere with their family, exploring and enjoying nature. They live in the Bridgeport neighborhood of Chicago.

Back To TopLoretta Montelongo

Loretta Montelongo

Manager

The daughter of Lithuanian immigrants, Loretta Montelongo thought she would become a criminal investigator when she grew up. Her father, a former chef in the United States Army, was an instinctual cook who loved spending time in the kitchen with his young daughter. Without knowing it, he was leading his daughter towards a career path – albeit one that would take some time for her to discover. Montelongo, a retired U.S. Treasury Agent, wasn’t one to sit still after leaving her position, so she began working in hospitality, both in retail and in front-of-house operations. It was while working at Neiman Marcus’ signature restaurant Mariposa where she met John Arents, and when he took over at North Pond, he brought Loretta into the fold. Montelongo likes the yin and yang of working in a restaurant – the daily challenges that arise in operations, and the satisfaction of playing a small part in providing a memorable dining experience. Montelongo lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, and when not working, you might find her in the kitchen, passing on some of her father’s creations to her granddaughter.

Back To TopLuke Hein

Luke Hein

Sous Chef

Luke Hein has always been fascinated by food. Growing up a Midwesterner, he spent his formative years raised in Southwest Michigan, and has vivid memories of watching his Mom in the kitchen, most notably making the Christmas pierogies. Like many teens, he got a job in a local restaurant washing dishes, and was instantly intrigued by the action on the line. After several weeks, he was promoted to a line cook position, and he has never looked back. Primarily a self-taught chef, Hein worked his way through kitchens, absorbing from other cooks and reading as much as he could, and in 2016, began working at the lauded Reserve Wine & Food in Grand Rapids, MI. Reserve’s Chef Luke VerHulst is a “whole animal” chef and between working with him and at a prominent artisan butcher shop, Hein became a strong proponent of this culinary philosophy. In 2017 he moved to Chicago, working at Sepia with Chef Andrew Zimmerman, who taught him the delicate balance of high quality and high volume, as well as the importance of being an ingredient-focused chef. In addition to Zimmerman, Hein cites the great Jean-Louis Palladin as a role model, for his tireless work exalting the farm-to-table way of cooking. In 2020, Hein returned to North Pond where he had previously worked as a line cook, now as sous chef. He loves the camaraderie, amongst the growers, farmers and producers, amongst the kitchen team, and of those enjoying a lovely meal at the restaurant. Hein lives in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

Back To TopChris Crispino

Chris Crispino

Wine Director

Floridian Chris Crispino came to Chicago via the Quad Cities and law school. While pursuing his studies, he worked in a restaurant and found he was much more interested in learning about wine than he was about the law. Opting to follow his passion, Crispino began his lifelong career in hospitality. In 2000, he moved to Chicago and shortly thereafter began working at the steakhouse N9NE, where he became enamored with wine. He immersed himself in enology, learning the history, the processes, and the role of wine as it relates to dining, while continuing his hands-on education. Crispino cites in particular the practices of the “Gang of Four” (winemakers Jean Foillard, Guy Breton, Jean-Paul Thévenet, and Marcel LaPierre, who together put forth a movement in the 1970s focusing on traditional winemaking, centered around terroir) as being highly influential on how he thinks about wine, and how he approaches building a wine list. Over the next several years, Crispino worked as wine director as Fat Rice, Elizabeth and Le Sud before joining the team at North Pond. Here, he hopes to demystify wine – “it’s fermented grape juice, after all” -- and loves talking with diners about wine, from a simple recommendation to a complex deep dive about the nuances of a particular varietal. Crispino lives in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago.