Our Team

Jill Weber- Owner

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- Owner

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.  


Justin Swain – 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.


Heather Rodkey- 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.


Brian Jackson – Dining Room Manager

A Florida native, Brian has been bringing Southern Hospitality to Philadelphia for the past 8 years. As the Dining Room Manager he enjoys wearing different hats and providing exceptional service in various roles at REX 1516. Originally coming from an upscale dining background that spanned from oceanside restaurants to country club dining rooms in Jacksonville, he appreciates the refinement and finesse that is involved in seamless service. Since moving to Philadelphia he has worked for some of the top restaurateurs in the city including Jose Garces and Stephen Starr. He has come to prefer a more intimate atmosphere such as REX 1516 in order to create a memorable and personalized dining experience.


Lou Dinunzio – Bar Manager

Lou first came to Philadelphia in 1998 to attend the Tyler School of Art. Deciding that it wasn't where he wanted to finish his undergraduate degree he moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he spent the next 8 years living and working. He worked at both a fast-paced college bar as well as a wine and tapas restaurant. This is where he developed his interest in bartending with fresh ingredients and began to research classic cocktail recipes. He has worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years in all positions but found that with the face to face interactions of bartending one can create an experience that feels both personal and inclusive. Always looking to learn more, he is constantly reading and researching to improve his knowledge about wine, beer, and cocktails. His experience in the kitchen helps with pairing beverages with dishes and being able to describe in detail the processes that produce Rex 1516’s amazing cuisine.


 

Evan Brackett Kelley – Chef de Cuisine

Evan Kelley, born and raised in Natick Massachusetts, first developed his passion for cooking at the age of 5. His culinary education began at home, learning from several members of his family. After graduating High School he attended Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI where he took his childhood passion and began to turn it into a career. After finishing college, and before moving to Philadelphia almost 10 years ago, he also worked as a mechanic and at a local artisan bakery.

Upon arriving in Philadelphia he began attending the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College and started working with Chef Chris McConathy at Merediths in Berwyn. From there he moved onto Patou where he furthered his dedication to modern French food. At Cafe Estelle under Chef Marshall Green he learned how to produce various types of charcuterie. He was also able to continue using his experience in baking along with the other staff members, producing all of the baked goods in house.

At Caribou Cafe, Evan was able to practice the necessary skills that led him to be hired as the Sous Chef at Rex. Amid his tenure as sous chef, he was eventually promoted by Executive Chef Justin Swain to the position of Chef De Cuisine.  Now working as the CDC along with Justin and the other capable staff members he strives to innovate and refine the Southern cuisine that Philadelphia has grown to love from REX 1516.