Lori Burson, Owner
Lori Burson graduated from the University of Dallas after she returned from her studies abroad in Italy. She moved to Oklahoma City to pursue a career in the restaurant industry.
During a seven-year hiatus from the food business, Lori became very involved with civic organizations in Oklahoma City. Home, family, and community are important to Lori, and she gives back to Oklahoma City by working with the organizations for the betterment of her community. She serves on the board of 6 non-profit organizations focusing on the areas of social services and the arts.
When the opportunity arose to start Stella, Lori brought all her experience in the restaurant business, her love of Italian food, and her commitment to the community together to build the neighborhood restaurant she has dreamed of since studying in Rome: Stella Modern Italian Cuisine.
Todd Davis, General Manager
Stella’s manager, joined the team shortly after opening. Todd started in the food service industry at 16, and he worked his way through the University of Oklahoma as a server. He now has 16 years of experience in the industry. Todd preferred to work for small, independently-owned restaurants, and toward that end, he was a server and front of house manager at Legends Restaurant in the Norman area before completing his history degree from OU. During that time, he developed a love for the service industry. After graduation, he worked for multinational corporations and Native American tribal governments. When Lori Burson offered him a place on the team at Stella, he accepted eagerly, as it presented a great opportunity to return to his small business roots. Todd loves the challenge of running a neighborhood restaurant–the quintessential small business–and is excited to help grow Stella into the premier restaurant in Oklahoma City.
Melissa Aust, Executive Chef
Executive Chef Melissa Aust is a California native, born in Riverside in 1971. She graduated from Perris High School in Perris, CA, and then spent ten years working in her family’s business, Micromold, a plastics injection molding company. She retired from the family business as production control manager and internal quality auditor, skills that serve her well in culinary work. She started culinary school in 2009 at the Riverside City College Culinary Academy.
Like Burson, Aust is a proponent of fresh ingredients sourced locally where possible. Her philosophy begins with fresh ingredients, proper seasoning, and attention to detail. She prefers to avoid processed foods, believing that fresh and local are better for you as well as better tasting.