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.
CHEF DE CUISINE, SPICE KITCHEN + BAR
With an unwavering work ethic and an ardent thirst for culinary knowledge, Adam Stafford came to Spice Kitchen + Bar by way of the Blue Ridge Mountains in March of 2015. Cutting his teeth in kitchens in Asheville, North Carolina, hot spots such as Tupelo Honey Café and the Corner Kitchen, he began to develop an understanding of the inner workings of a successful restaurant and the importance of the local food movement. When the employment opportunity arose, Adam saw Spice as a perfect venue to continue to hone his culinary knowledge with a focus on seasonality and hyper local sourcing. Over the course of the next two years he became familiar with the bounty of amazing produce, foraged goods and artisanal offerings Ohio has to offer; as well as preservation methods for maximizing the use of the products coming from Spice Acres and neighboring farms. Today, he spends most of his time developing menus and perfecting recipes and techniques for the restaurant with the help of a dedicated team. When he is not in the kitchen, Adam can be found enjoying family time with his wife, Sarah, and his daughter, Maryn.
EXECUTIVE PASTRY CHEF, SPICE KITCHEN + BAR
Art and creativity have always been a driving force in Emily’s life, and she studied painting, design, and fashion before realizing she belonged in a kitchen. She began working as a cook at Swirl Wine Bar in Solon (where she also met her now-husband), before accepting a pastry assistant position at Crop Bistro in Ohio City. Emily’s career at Spice happened by chance, starting as a food runner on the weekends. Drawn to the restaurant’s philosophy of seasonal ingredients from local sources, she made her way back to the kitchen as a line cook and pastry assistant. After a six-month stint as the corporate pastry chef for Crop Restaurant Group, Emily realized her heart was still at Spice Kitchen + Bar, and she returned as Executive Pastry Chef in August of 2016. Under the guidance of the chef team at Spice, Emily has been able to develop her ingredient-driven approach to baking and pastry. In her down time, Emily enjoys yoga, listening to music, and spending time with her husband, Corey, her stepson, Lukas, and their idiot dog, Lily.
GENERAL MANAGER, SPICE KITCHEN + BAR
Allison recently moved to Cleveland after spending the last ten years in New York City, working her way through some of its most prominent restaurants including The Modern, per se, and most recently, The Breslin. An Ohio girl at heart, Allison returned to Cleveland – where she grew up – to be part its ‘revitalized neighborhoods and blossoming restaurant industry’, though she also cites the recent success of the Cleveland Indians as a pull on her hometown heartstrings. She brings with her an extensive background in dining and hospitality, and her love of working with people and creating a truly stellar guest experience makes her a great fit for Spice Kitchen + Bar. Allison’s perfect meal? “It probably falls somewhere between a multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings and two Swenson’s cheeseburgers with a chocolate malt.”
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. Working in both front of house and back of house in the restaurant and catering company has given her a wonderful understanding of every aspect of the company. She brings a healthy dose of commitment, humor, sass and organization to the restaurant and strives to make every guest feel like a regular with her focus on exceptional guest experience. Caroline earned her bachelor’s degree in management and small business entrepreneurship at American University and made the move to Cleveland to pursue a management career at Spice. Caroline drank the Spice “kool-aid” years ago and is honored to work with and for an amazing group of dedicated people.
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.
Andrea Heim has been active in farming since 2009 where she began with a petticoat and frock at Hale Farm and Village. Since that time, she has served in the Peace Corps, coordinated the original Spice Acres (Chef Ben’s 1-acre plot in Broadview Heights), helped build an urban farm (Rising Harvest), and managed the organic farm at Crown Point Ecology Center. She is thrilled to be back with the Spice Team and can’t wait to get plans underway for the upcoming season. She brings her obsessive organization, tailored tractor skills, and passion to the fields and barns of Spice Acres.