Chrystal Tamillo developed a passion for helping and serving others early in life.

Tamillo spent half her childhood being raised by her grandfather, who was a pastor. As she approached college, she thought that’s what she would become as well.

“I thought in order to make a difference in people’s lives, that’s what you needed to be,” Tamillo said. “Over time, though, I realized I could do that just by being me and I could do that in the business field.”

Tamillo, managing partner at the West Des Moines branch of the Fleming’s steakhouse chain, didn’t start in the restaurant industry. In fact, she spent several years in real estate development and property management. It wasn’t until she met her husband, Don, that she realized restaurants might be the right fit for her career.

“He’d been in the industry for 25 years, and I loved what I saw through his eyes,” she said. “I made the decision in 2008 to move from property management to food. It was the right place and the right time. I love people, I love working with them, I love using food and wine to entertain, and I thought it might be fun.”

Fun ultimately turned into success. After two years as wine manager at Fleming’s in St. Louis, Tamillo was promoted to managing partner in West Des Moines.

Her experience in food often merges with her civic involvement. As the class project for the 2012 West Des Moines Leadership Academy, Tamillo co-founded Morsel Combat, a “Top Chef”-style competition that has raises money toward food insecurity.

Tamillo was also instrumental in starting Moisson (the French word for harvest), a breakfast club that aims to connect women with other female leaders in the community.

“I truly believe that as a woman, I would not be where I am without the mentors I’ve had, both men and women, over the last 15 years of my life,” Tamillo said. “To be able to throw yourself into something, you have to have those personal connections supporting you.”

Reasons she’s a Forty:

• Named Fleming’s Steakhouse Partner of the Year (2010-12) for community involvement and leadership

• President of Morsel Combat, a “Top Chef”-style competition raising funds for food insecurity both globally and locally, and the project of the 2012 West Des Moines Leadership Academy

• Co-founder of Moisson, a breakfast club focused on cross-generational leadership and mentorship among women 

• Executive chair of the Iowa Restaurant Association board of directors and treasurer for its executive committee

• Presently interning for junior venture partner position with Fleming’s, she is also being mentored for succession nominee as national beverage director.