Chef Yolanda “Yoli” Ruiz
Yolanda “Yoli” Ruiz only planned on staying in the United States, from her native country El Salvador, for about two years. Fast forward 30 years later, she now serves as a key member of a female management team for Ruth’s Chris Hospitality Group leading as the Executive Chef of the downtown location in Washington, DC.
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Yoli never thought she would learn English, get married, have three beautiful children (one of whom, Alexander, works at Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Annapolis, Maryland!) and work her way up the culinary ranks of a revered fine-dining restaurant group. Ruth’s Chris loves to hear its employees say it’s the best job they ever had, but Yoli never imagined it’d be the only job she ever had. In the words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Chef Ruiz grew up with fond memories of making pupusas -- a thick griddle cake that is also the national dish of her native El Salvador -- alongside multiple women in her family, led by her great-grandmother. Her forthright communication, care and concern are qualities rooted from her strong family upbringing in Central America. Those characteristics still resonate today through family connections -- both at the home she established here in the U.S. and with her Ruth’s Chris family. She credits her success managing her professional culinary team with her ability to relate to them individually on both a personal and professional level.
From day one, the clear communication style modeled by her mentors at Ruth’s Chris is what gave her the confidence and discipline to eventually run the kitchen at the DC location. Chef Ruiz’s team is fiercely loyal, a testament to their respect for her leadership. While she is outwardly more reserved than boisterous, she values relationships above all else. She sees nothing but opportunity for her team stating, “You can do whatever you want here. If you want to grow in the company, great, that’s awesome. But if you are happy where you are, then I’m happy for you, too.” She is the conductor; they are the orchestra and all perform better when they are contently playing in unison.
“I had my kids while working here and now they are growing,” said Chef Ruiz. “So, now I am working with them to become whatever they want to be in their careers.” An incredible full-circle personal moment takes place each year when Chef Ruiz’s mother visits from El Salvador and takes photos of everything she eats in the restaurant to share with family back home.
Early in her Ruth’s Chris career, Chef Ruiz had an opportunity to meet the company’s namesake founder Ruth Fertel, aka Ms. Ruth, in New Orleans. While Chef Ruiz admits that she was still working on her English back then, she has always remained touched by Ms. Ruth’s humble and engaging demeanor. Ruiz said of spending time with Ms. Ruth, who gave her a ride in her personal car, “She was just like a normal person trying to engage with people, connect with people. She reminded me of my mom and grandma -- the warmth of her personality.”
Chef Ruiz embodies an akin spirit exuding the warmth and human connection once shared with Ms. Ruth herself.