Amy Morton may have restaurants coded into her DNA. Her father, Arnie, founded Morton’s The Steakhouse, and her brothers oversee their own famous restaurant chains. But she took a 15-year break from the industry before she opened Found Kitchen and Social House in Evanston, Illinois, in November 2012. What inspired her return? “I could not envision going back to work without doing something that gave back,” Morton said. She’d open a restaurant only if she could make it a hub for social change.
In this, Morton was partly influenced by her father. “My dad was committed to mentoring kids from more marginalized backgrounds, giving them opportunities, whether dining in his restaurants or helping them find internships and jobs,” she said. “I think I was born with this idea that giving back is not only my obligation, but a privilege.”
Her community focus helped her recruit chef Nicole Pederson, a veteran of Gramercy Tavern in New York City. “The philanthropic aspect was a huge draw for me,” Pederson said. “Because you spend at least 90 hours a week at a restaurant—at the end of the day, it’s got to be more than just a restaurant.”