Creative Regional California Cuisine

Our Team

Cy Yontz

Executive Chef

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Denver, Yontz began working in kitchens as a teenager, but attributes his first real love of food to his apprenticeship under his mentor, celebrity chef, author and self-proclaimed “Dean of Southwestern Cuisine,” Jimmy Schmidt (Chianti on Main, Chianti Tucson Grill, Rattlesnake Club).

In Denver, Yontz worked with restaurateur Kevin Taylor at Palletes Restaurant and Café Z in the Denver Art Museum before expanding both his geographic and culinary horizons at Pranzo Italian Grill, a well-known celebrity hangout in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Moving from Italian to Southwestern cuisine, Yontz then worked with Chef Mark Miller at Santa Fe’s Coyote Café.

In 2001, Yontz ventured briefly to Houston where he served as corporate R&D chef for Pappas Restaurants, implementing award-winning themes and recipes in more than 70 locations before returning to Santa Fe as executive chef at Someone’s in the Kitchen, an upscale catering company.

Yontz has achieved great success in the various markets in which he has served, garnering praise from regional associations and media, and culminating in an invitation to the prestigious James Beard House in 2002. Yontz recently returned to his native California to raise his family and serve as executive chef at Rio Grill where he hopes to crystallize his creative culinary vision.

Becky Ellis

General Manager

Becky Ellis was born and raised in Colorado. After moving to California, she embarked on a career in the restaurant industry that has taken her from an entry level position in the pantry of Casanova to her current position as General Manager of Rio Grill.

In 1991, Becky took her first position at Rio Grill as a server and in 1993, transitioned to another Downtown Dining property, Tarpy's Roadhouse where she was promoted to restaurant Manager and placed in charge of the liquor program and staff scheduling.

Following her tenure at Tarpy's, Becky moved to Montrio Bistro, also a Downtown Dining property, where she served as part of the Management Team until 1996 when she left to start a family.

After working part time at Hullaballoo until 2005, Becky returned in 2009 to her true family, Downtown Dining at Tarpy's in the Events and Catering Department.  She took advantage of a Restaurant Manager opening at Rio in 2010 and became General Manager in 2015.

Eduardo DiCaprio Coronel

Sous Chef and Chef Cy’s right-hand man

Started at the Rio Grill as a dishwasher in 2000 and after 2 years he moved into the prep area; doing all the behind the scenes work that goes into making the wonderful Rio Grill food. After one year of Prep, Chef Cy promoted Eduardo to the Pantry where he made appetizers and salads. After three years working on the line, doing everything from grilling ribs to sautéing vegetables, Chef Cy pegged Eduardo for promotion once again, making him his Sous Chef. As Sous Chef Eduardo is in charge ensuring the Rio Grill operates smoothly and helps create menu items.

"DiCaprio is my right hand man," Chef Cy says. "If I am not around I can guarantee he will do things the way I want them done." After four years DiCaprio has been the man Cy depends on. And his favorite dish to make: Chicken Tinga Enchiladas, a spicy saute chicken dish with Oaxacan Mole.

Gabe De La Vega

coryWine Director

Born and raised in Monterey, Gabe is no stranger to the local restaurant scene. His interest in hospitality was peaked early on when he took one of his first jobs at a local Italian restaurant, Allegro’s, here in Carmel back in 2006.

In 2006, Gabe embarked on a scholastic adventure in Orange County attending the University of California at Irvine to study Theatre Arts and Education.

After graduating in 2011, Gabe returned to Monterey and moved into management at Allegros and eventually landing a second job serving at Rio Grill. His passion grew as he continued to work for both restaurants and he expanded his knowledge of different styles of cuisine and wine. Gabe left Allegros on 2012 to focus his talents at Rio Grill as a lunch, dinner, and banquet server.

It became readily apparent that Gabe's true calling was in wine and he began another adventure in 2013 as a tasting room and special events associate for McIntyre Vineyards.  And it was in the summer of 2015 that Gabe accepted a full time position as a Restaurant Manager and take over the wine program for Rio Grill.

Cory Calder

coryBar Manager

A native of South Lake Tahoe, Cory Calder moved to the Monterey Peninsula in 2007 and was immediately drawn to the hospitality industry.

While playing collegiate soccer and majoring in Kinesiology, Health and Wellness at California State University Monterey Bay, Cory honed his food and beverage service skills working in both front- and back-of-the-house positions in Santa Cruz.

In 2012, Cory moved to the peninsula and worked at two of Carmel's most popular and respected restaurants, Little Napoli and Vesuvio. While there, he advanced his knowledge of and interest in wine and spirits.

As Rio’s new Bar Manager, Cory contributes to the upbeat and exciting atmosphere that patrons have come to know and love. He's always willing to lend a helping hand and makes sure that each guest is exceptionally well cared for.

In his spare time, Cory enjoys volunteering for a local organic farm, learning about sustainable farming practices, seasonal recipes and specialty produce, which he hopes to showcase on Rio Grill's signature cocktail menu!

Tony Tollner

Managing Partner

Tony was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1953. In 1964, Tony and his family moved to Greensboro, North Carolina where his mom lives today. In Greensboro, Tony embarked on his career in the restaurant industry taking a position at Yogi Bear Honey-Fried Chicken, at age 15.

Following a career in the Navy and time to "explore his options", Tony moved to Mountain View, California and attended Foothill College. During that time, he supported himself waiting tables at MacArthur Park in Palo Alto. It was there that the idea of restaurant management first surfaced. On a trip to the Monterey Peninsula he went to what was then Billy Quon’s where their ex-boss was working. Following a job offer, Tony moved to Carmel Valley in 1983.

In November of 1983, Tony helped to open Rio Grill and in 1985 he became a partner in Real Restaurants, which was then comprised of Rio Grill, Mustard’s Grill in Napa and Fog City Diner in San Francisco. In 1989, Real Restaurants reorganized and Rio Grill became a free-standing entity.

Tony managed Rio Grill from 1984 until 1991 when he and his partner, Bill Cox found the building that now houses Tarpy’s Roadhouse. In 1994, a chef/friend approached Tony and asked if he would consider another venture. From that conversation, sprung the award winning Montrio Bistro. Montrio Bistro, along with Tarpy's Roadhouse and Rio Grill comprise the Downtown Dining group of restaurants.

With outstanding cuisine, exemplary service and an attention to detail, The Downtown Dining restaurants continue to bring a unique and flavorful dining experience to locals and visitors alike.

Kayla Boughton

Banquet Manager

Kayla Boughton, the new Banquet Manager at Rio Grill in Carmel, is following in some familiar footsteps.

Kayla's mother not only worked at the Rio Grill in the 1980s, but she was one of the first event coordinators at Tarpy's Roadhouse, Rio's sister restaurant, in the 1990s.

Kayla learned early on what it takes to be a restaurant professional from her mom, a single mother who worked in the restaurant business, was an independent caterer and loved to entertain. It was an invaluable learning experience.

Kayla grew up in the Carmel area, graduated from Carmel High School and spent a few restless years in Southern California. She finally moved back to her hometown in 2009.

Prior to joining the Rio Grill team Kayla worked for five years as a fitness associate at Clint Eastwood’s Tehama Golf Club. She spent a semester at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco studying product development, commuting weekly from her full-time job at Tehama.

Even while working full time, commuting and attending classes, she was able to exercise her love for writing and singing, which is a big part of where her heart lies.

She started working as a hostess at Rio Grill in 2012, where her exemplary customer service skills and personable approach shined. Knowing that event coordinating was the direction she wanted to go, Kayla asked for more responsibilities.

Because of her mother’s background and the world she grew up in, it was a natural fit for Kayla. She became the banquet manager’s assistant, and after two years at the position, she took over the program.

Kayla is looking forward to bringing a new energy and vibrancy to the banquet program and is eager to spread her wings as the new banquet manager at Rio Grill.

“The personal satisfaction that comes after you’ve done an event for someone, whether a birthday, a rehearsal dinner, a business dinner, being responsible for making their party amazing, creating those memories, seeing and hearing their gratitude,” she says, “That is why I do what I do. That’s fulfillment.”

101 Crossroads Boulevard | Carmel | California | 93923 | (831) 625-5436