OUR FAMILY TREE
CHEF, FARMER, FOUNDER
Trained at Johnson and Wales University, Charleston, Chef Ben Bebenroth graduated in the top ten of his class and won the school’s national Taste Down Under cooking competition in 2004. He was rewarded with a 5-week trip to Australia, where he traveled with a French Master Chef to tour the country’s best restaurants and cook for national dignitaries along the way.
In early 2006, after spending some time in Northeast Ohio’s top kitchens, Bebenroth founded Spice of Life Catering Co. (now Spice Catering Co.) with a passionate commitment to source all ingredients from small, sustainable family farms within a 150-mile radius of Cleveland, Ohio.
In 2012, as distribution systems between regional farms and restaurants became more efficient, Bebenroth opened the popular Cleveland restaurant, Spice Kitchen + Bar. In 2014, he acquired Spice Acres, a 13-acre Countryside Conservancy farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, to grow foods for catering clientele and restaurant guests. In 2016, he and his wife, Jackie, established a non-profit organization, Spice Field Kitchen, that offers education and outreach to students and individuals who seek to learn more about farming and cooking.
Ben has spent most of his decade-long career forging relationships with local producers in order to understand how to balance consumer demand with seasonal offerings. This knowledge, combined with his award-winning culinary talents and farming experience, make him one of the most sought-after local food authorities in Northeast Ohio.
CATERING DIRECTOR + PARTNER, SPICE CATERING CO.
Jess Edmonds has nearly two decades of experience in the food and beverage industry, honing her service talents in high-traffic Cleveland hot spots before joining Spice Catering Co. in 2008. After graduating from Cleveland State with a focus in PR and marketing in 2005, she blended her textbook knowledge with acquired hospitality skills to plan weddings, benefits, and farm dinners for parties of up to 500. Last year she moved into the Catering Director role and manages an incredible team of Event Planners that create exceptional dining experiences all over town. In addition, she lends her hand to general operations of The Spice Companies, planning the annual Plated Landscape Calendar and fostering business relationships throughout Cleveland (the best city in the world, as far as she’s concerned!). She spends her free time with her husband, Brian and daughter, Hazel Dae…preferably in the flower field at Spice Acres.
CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, SPICE FIELD KITCHEN
Steven Baker, or “Bakes” as he is known, is the longest serving member on the Spice Team. Steve is a licensed educator with more than fifteen years of experience as a classroom teacher and administrator. Steve wears many hats here at Spice as Secretary of the Board of Advisors, investor, farmer’s market “Burrito Guy”, farm worker and the occasional kitchen hand for Spice catering events. When the time came in 2018 to formally launch Spice Field Kitchen as the 501 (c) 3 non-profit arm of The Spice Companies, Steve’s background and commitment to the development of our family of Spice brands made him the ideal candidate for this leadership position. Steve is excited and honored by the opportunity to apply his professional experience to expand Spice’s impact and mission by cultivating agricultural and culinary connections to our community and our local food systems through field-based education.
EVENT PLANNER + DIRECTOR OF SALES, SPICE CATERING CO.
With over a decade of experience in event planning and coordination for small and large-scale events (and everything in between), Missy Chambless really has learned that there’s no place like home. She returns to her Cleveland roots after honing her event planning skills in several great cities, most recently Austin, TX. When Missy is not working hard to provide the best possible experience for her clients, whether in the restaurant or at an off-site event, she can be found around town feeding her addictions to coffee, film, sweets, and on rare occasions…sunshine. She is honored to do life with one of the hardest working teams in town.
SPICE ACRES COORDINATOR, SPICE CATERING CO.
Caroline has been a member of the Spice team for over six years, starting off as a hostess and working her way up (and through) the ranks of The Spice Companies, eager to share her love of food and local business to anyone who will listen. Her stint as the restaurant general manager and time spent working in the kitchen has given her a solid understanding of this diverse company and all of it’s many branches. Her love of being outside and passion for local food lends itself well to her role as the Spice Acres coordinator — aiming to bring people to the source of their food one wedding and event at a time. Caroline earned her bachelor’s degree in management and small business entrepreneurship at American University and made the move to Cleveland to pursue a career at Spice. Caroline drank the “kool aid” and feels lucky to work with such a passionate group of people who are doing some pretty exceptional things here in Cleveland.
EVENT PLANNER, SPICE CATERING CO.
Spending three years as a proud member of the Spice Team, Ashley started off as a catering server and event captain, left for a year to further her education and training, and returned as an Event Planner. Ashley earned her bachelor’s degree in English from Kent State University, followed by a certificate in event planning from Tri-C. Her love of cooking and gardening fuels her passion for Spice’s mission of sourcing seasonally and locally. Outside of planning events alongside the best team in town, Ashley enjoys spending her free time with her husband, puttering around her garden or playing with her two purr-cious cats.
Liz is the friendly voice you hear when you call in for reservations during the day. To our staff and vendors, she’s the ever-adaptable go-to person who wears the most hats in the organization. She’s been with Spice almost seven years, starting as a catering server before becoming our office manager. Since then, she’s mastered the art of negotiating with contractors, cutting through the red tape with the City of Cleveland, getting grant approval for renovations…in addition to her regular duties of payroll, A/P and A/R, answering the phone, receiving deliveries, and more. She also helps run off-site events on the weekend. Be sure to say “hi” if you see her in the office, decorating the restaurant, or enjoying a well-deserved glass of wine at the bar.