Applebee’s Announces Chef Stephen Bulgarelli as New Chief Culinary Officer

Applebee's Stephen Bulgarelli

Applebee’s® Neighborhood Grill + Bar welcomes Stephen Bulgarelli as vice president and chief culinary officer to head its culinary team. With an extensive and accomplished background in the restaurant industry, a mind for menu innovation, and a deep commitment to guest satisfaction, Bulgarelli will lead the talented culinary team at Applebee’s as they work to ensure every guest has something to look forward to when they dine at Applebee’s.

“Chef Stephen possesses a unique balance of strategy, creativity, and team orientation that will elevate our menu and strengthen our culinary culture,” said John Cywinski, president, Applebee’s. “All of this coupled with his passionate focus on our guests makes Stephen the ideal partner for our franchisees.”

With more than 120 years of combined experience, the Applebee’s culinary team is starting a new chapter of menu innovation focused on returning to its roots. The team will elevate Applebee’s neighborhood position around familiar favorites with an emphasis on abundant, indulgent value.

Noted Bulgarelli, “As the biggest casual-dining brand in the country, Applebee’s is America’s neighborhood kitchen, and I am honored to create original and downright good food that millions of people will be able to enjoy each week. In collaboration with an already stellar culinary team, we’ll be focusing heavily on listening to our guests to help drive the changes that will further set Applebee’s apart.”

IRFSNY Oct 2017 728×90

Bulgarelli has a rich background in the restaurant industry and a keen understanding for what restaurant guests want from a casual dining experience. Most recently, he spent seven years with Chili’s, the last five as vice president of food and beverage. Prior to his tenure at Chili’s, Bulgarelli was the vice president of culinary innovation at O’Charley’s, held two culinary leadership roles with T.G.I. Friday’s and was an executive chef at LSG Sky Chefs. He is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y.

Bulgarelli’s accolades include recognition by Nation’s Restaurant News in the 2008 MenuMasters Awards for Best Menu Revamp and again in the 2014 MenuMasters Awards for Best New Item. While head of food and beverage innovation at Chili’s, the brand also received the 2016 COEX Innovation Award Culinary/Operations.


Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar offers a lively casual dining experience combining simple, craveable American fare, classic drinks and local drafts. All Applebee’s restaurants are owned and operated by entrepreneurs dedicated to serving their communities and offering quality food and drinks with genuine, neighborly service. Applebee’s is one of the world’s largest casual dining brands; as of June 30, 2017, there are nearly 2,000 franchise restaurants in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and 15 other countries. Applebee’s is franchised by subsidiaries of DineEquity, Inc. [NYSE: DIN], which is one of the world’s largest full-service restaurant companies.