Hailing from Michigan City, IN, Jill Weber spent her childhood longing to travel. This eventually led her to seek a career in archaeology, landing in Philadelphia where she received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania.
Since 1992, Jill has worked in Syria, Turkey, Armenia, Oman, Iraq, and Italy. In addition to excavating and analysing animal-bones, she acquired an intimate knowledge of these countries, their cultures, and native cuisines. Inspired by some of the world’s most unique bars and restaurants, she decided to open a restaurant of her own back in Philadelphia.
Building on the success of her first restaurant, the stylish but unpretentious Jet Wine Bar, Jill – along with her husband, Evan – combined the best qualities of her favorite, international spots to create REX 1516.
Evan Malone grew up in the mountains of Colorado and came to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where he and Jill met.
He left briefly for Cornell and a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Systems Engineering, which also took him to to Fukuoka, Japan where his team became World Champions of RoboCup (soccer-playing robots), and Gauteng, South Africa, where he helped open an internet cafe. At Cornell, Evan helped develop a multi-material desk-top 3D printer to help democratize invention.
These experiences led him back to Philadelphia to open NextFab- a membership-based high-tech workspace (“maker space”) and product design-, engineering-, and fabrication consultancy in Philadelphia.
PRODUCT DIRECTOR, REX 1516 EXECUTIVE CHEF
Justin Swain was born and raised in Philadelphia. He went to high school for visual arts at CAPA on South Broad Street and worked at the Mayfair Diner for three years as a teenager, dishwashing and peeling potatoes. After high school he spent four years as a bike messenger, racing frequently, being an artist and cooking for himself every night. His fiancee urged him to pursue his interest in food and he enrolled in culinary school at the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. He began his career working at 1601, working with former Chef Regis Jansen and learned a lot very quickly. From there he moved on to Bridget Foy’s where he perfected his talents. The chef at Foy’s (Brendan Mullen) gave him a lot of culinary freedom and he quickly honed his skills. Once REX 1516 opened Jansen brought him on and he quickly was made sous-chef.
After Regis fell ill Justin took over as Executive Chef of REX 1516. He strives to uphold their elevated Southern cuisine with personal influence from charcuterie, bbq, and classical French techniques with a modern twist. Justin graduated valedictorian from Walnut Hill College while taking on the Executive Chef position at REX 1516.
DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, REX 1516 GENERAL MANAGER
A Pennsylvania native and adult beverage enthusiast, Heather Rodkey’s passion for restaurant industry flow is unmatched. To this day, Heather has maintained a passion for hospitality with over 27 years of experience, and a commitment to continue learning and improving in an industry where change is the only constant.
Heather began her restaurant career at age 14 working as a bus girl at The Dixie in Lebanon, PA and she hasn’t looked back since. Over the years, Heather has incrementally worked her way up the ranks, earning the respect of her peers in the process with an uncompromising quest for perfection. An integral element to her success, Heather has strictly worked at restaurants in which chefs shared a comparable level of credibility and integrity to her own standards.
To further expand her knowledge of craft beers and wines, Heather organized beer tastings and cocktail gatherings, as well as managed the beverage programs while working at Philadelphia restaurants Rouge and Adsum. In addition to her extensive experience, Heather received a degree from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and studied at both The French Alliance and The Wine School of Philadelphia.
In July 2011, Heather worked as Consultant at Jet Wine Bar. It only took a few months before Heather was named REX 1516 General Manager, and later Director of Operations for Sojourn, LLC.
Qamara fell in love with working in the restaurant and hospitality industry while studying at Northwestern University. Always the consummate host and event planner, the restaurant industry combines all of her passions into one: making new friends, hosting friends to her “home” with amazing food and drinks, event planning, and the challenges of running a business – tapping into her strong entrepreneurial spirit. Though, she was able to get her first taste of management in Hampton Roads, Virginia at Roger Brown’s Sports Bar & Restaurant, it would be quite a few years before she was able to truly hone her restaurant management skills. During her time away from hospitality, Qamara worked with her family at American Real Estate Development, Inc. (AREDI) in Lawnside, NJ. There, the team developed two multi-million dollar single-family home subdivisions: The Estates at Lion’s Gate and River Run; Qamara being primarily responsible for all sales and marketing efforts for the company. While with AREDI, Qamara served on the Board of Directors for the Builder’s League of South Jersey and the New Jersey Builder’s Association. Diving back into hospitality industry, once AREDI closed, she was with the Guest Counts Hospitality team at Square Peg in Washington Square West, and helped transition the Loews Philadelphia Hotel from their old restaurant, SoleFood, to their pop-up restaurant, Level 33 (while Bank and Bourbon is under construction). Joining Jill Weber’s team in 2014, to help open the group’s third restaurant, Café Ynez; she remains excited to continue working with Sojourn Philadelphia, as the team’s Business Director. With this position, she hopes to usher in new avenues of revenue across the entire organization.