Charles Billies and Jen Pelka

Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs: Jen Pelka and Charles Bililies

Owners of The Riddler and Souvla

Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs (MTCE) is an exclusive lecture series featuring food and hospitality industry leaders. Join us for our upcoming lecture by Jen Pelka and Charles Bililies of The Riddler and Souvla.

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These lectures are free for current ICE career students, $15 for alumni and $40 for general public. 

Institute of Culinary Education

225 Liberty Street
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10281

Husband and wife team Jen and Charles are experienced food business operators with successful Champagne bar and restaurant concepts in San Francisco That they’ve brought to New York City. The Riddler opened to much acclaim in the West Village in the fall, and Souvla is opening in April. They’ll share their unique perspectives on strategic branding, organic marketing and restaurant management with aspiring chefs, operators and entrepreneurs.

Jen Pelka, Founder and Owner, The Riddler (San Francisco and New York) Co-Founder, Une Femme

Jen Pelka is the founder and CEO of The Riddler, a popular, all-women-funded champagne bar in San Francisco and New York. The Riddler's first location in San Francisco was named Wine Bar of the Year by Eater and Best Concept by StarChefs, and the second location opened in the West Village in October 2019 at the top of Grub Street’s Power Rankings. It was named one of Eater’s 2019 Most Beautiful New Restaurants. With over 15 years of experience in restaurant and food marketing, Jen is an ace at community building and an experienced, profit-focused operator.

Jen is also the co-founder of Une Femme, a passin project brought to life with her brother Zach Pelka. Celebrating the dreamers, doers, hustlers and winners, Champagne Campaign and Une Femme reflect a unique take on Champagne and sparkling wine for a new generation.

Jen’s career in restaurants began at Chef Daniel Boulud’s iconic New York Restaurant Daniel, where she held range of roles - kitchen stagier, Boulud’s research assistant, and eventually, US competition director for the Bocuse d’Or under Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller - for five years. She went on to lead influencer marketing, content strategy, and media relations in-house at OpenTable, Gilt Taste and Tumblr.

She has been named among Forbes’ 30 Under 30 for Food & Wine, Details’ Digital Maverick and Cherry Bombe’s It Girls. She was a recurring guest as a secret diner on Season 1 of Bravo TV’s “Best New Restaurant“ and a guest on Season 6 of “Top Chef.” Jen won an IACP Award for Best Culinary or Brand Site in 2012, and was a James Beard Award nominee for Best Food Coverage in a Food Publication.

Jen is an alumna of Stanford University and the London School of Economics, where she studied the Philosophy of Science.

Charles Bililies, Founder and CEO, Souvla

Charles Bililies is the founder and CEO of Souvla. The Greek-American comes from a family tradition of restaurateurs and is deeply passionate about the hospitality experience. Bon Appetit Magazine dubbed Charles “the Mark Zuckerberg of fast fine restaurants,” and Souvla is among the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Top 100 restaurants, a recipient of the StarChefs award for Best Concept and has been featured in such media outlets as Today Show, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Bloomberg.

Charles leads strategic development for the restaurant group, focusing on new business opportunities, financial planning, team, culture and brand consistency. He also now serves as an advisor (both officially and unofficially) to partners in the food and tech space, including Apple, Square, Caviar and Plate IQ. He regularly speaks on panels and in the press about the future of restaurants and tech, entrepreneurship, and how to develop profitable restaurants.

Charles moved to California in 2006 and worked for Chef Thomas Keller at The French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro, as well as Chef Michael Mina at both his eponymous restaurant and RN74. He holds degrees in Hospitality Management from Cornell University and Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University.