News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Akron General

The Holden Arboretum


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Social Issues




From table to farm: Chef Ben Bebenroth will grow his own local foods
The chef and owner of Spice Kitchen and Bar is leasing a farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Chef Ben Bebenroth is the owner of Spice Kitchen and Bar in Cleveland's Gordon Square Arts District and Spice of Life Catering Co. He recently became the proud owner of the former Spring Hill Farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
Courtesy of VIVIAN GOODMAN
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

One of the area’s top chefs and restaurateurs today becomes a farmer. 

The lease for Alan Halko’s Spring Hill Farm in Brecksville transfers today to Ben Bebenroth of Cleveland’s Spice Kitchen and Bar.

For today’s Quick Bite, WKSU’s Vivian Goodman takes us to Cleveland’s Botanical Garden to hear from the chef about his new adventure in agriculture.

LISTEN: Table to Farm

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:44)


Ben Bebenroth grins as he slices the flank steak he just grilled for a big crowd of fascinated foodies. He’s cooking in the middle of a garden full of vegetables, raspberries, strawberries, grapes and peach and apple trees.

Every summer for the last six years, Bebenroth’s been part of Gourmets in the Garden, a series of outdoor cooking demos.

“I just love working with Botanical Garden. A hundred and seventy-five people out here watching me do naan and flank steak for crying out loud. I mean all these people are gathering around this concept of ‘Hey, we care about our food.’”  

They care, too, about the chef.

Restaurant regulars wish him well
Fans ask for autographs and wish him success at Spice Acres, his new farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“It’s a big gamble,” he confesses. “I mean, what could be possibly more risky than a restaurant? Let’s have a farm.”

Bebenroth’s table-to-farm transition is a natural. As one of the strongest proponents of locally-grown food among Northeast Ohio’s chefs, he hopes to set an example.

“Everybody wants to buy locally. Awesome. Well then, everybody needs to grow locally, too.” 

Bebenroth has been gardening for his family and business for years. But now he wants more food than he can grow at home, or in the greenhouse behind his restaurant and the garden on its rooftop. 

Sharing tips as he grills
The dish he’s demonstrating this evening, honey-glazed flank steak with grilled bread and chimmichurri, is on the menu at Spice Kitchen and Bar in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Arts District. Sure, he’s promoting his restaurant. But for those who want to do it at home he shares how to get the garlic to pop.

“After you get a little bit of a rough chop on this, we’re going to really start to bring the juices out of this garlic with a little bit of kosher salt.”  

Former Marine
Bebenroth isn’t classically trained as a chef, but he has learned a lot in his 36 years. He is a former Marine helicopter repairman. He’s also been a dishwasher at Rockne’s where he started his culinary career and cooked at the Renaissance Hotel, Parker’s in Ohio City and Browns Stadium before opening his own restaurant and catering company.

He shares his background with the Gourmets in the Garden audience, along with his hopes for the farm. He plans cooking demos there, too.

Spice Acres is one of 11 Countryside Conservancy Initiative Farms. It’s a 15-year-old program bringing family farms back to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“And now it’s our turn,” he says to a round of applause. “So we’re really lucky, and we’ll be moving in there Aug. 15th.”

He didn't grow up on a farm, but it was close
Bebenroth grew up next door to a farm.

“And it’s still one of the only farms left in Strongsville right now. They had horses, cows and chickens, the whole nine yards. It was just something that really stuck to me.

"And when we walked into Alan’s barn the first time when I was talking about this lease with him, that smell of stalls and hay -- it was like going home again. It’s kind of crazy. You know that never leaves you.”   

Humble about all he has to learn
But he harbors no illusion about how hard it’s going to be.

“There’s a real steep learning curve with agriculture. I learned a lot of hard lessons and lost a lot of passionate product that I thought was going to be perfect and then wham, gone right before harvest. It’s something that you want to grow into.

"We had to earn the reputation that we have now and the trust of the dining public. And now we really have to earn agriculturally our street cred with the other valley farmers. I’m sure there’s a few of them out there thinking, ‘Oh man, this city kid doesn’t know what the hell’s going on.’ ”  

Bebenroth will have help. He’s been making plans for the last five months with the farm director and labor manager he’s hired, both veterans of Cleveland’s urban agriculture scene.

Farm to bar
And the staff at Spice Kitchen and Bar is ready to pitch in, especially bartender Dave Rydell, known for his farm-to-bar craft cocktails.

“Oh, he’s really excited. He brought a bunch of people out to the farm tour on Monday. We just started discussing what types of different products we’re going to be utilizing. It’s one thing for Dave to walk through the greenhouse and pick a couple jalapenos and ‘Oh, I’m going to throw some tequila on this, and it’s going to be great.’ Now it’s a whole other thing to say. ‘OK, what do you want on this acre?’” 

Ben Bebenroth of Spice Acres -- chef, restaurateur, caterer, husband, father of 8-year-old Sydney and 5-year-old Burke, and now a farmer, too.

How does he find the energy? Marine Corps calisthenics help.

“Oh yeah, every morning. I do a good bit of meditating, too, and stay pretty active with martial arts.”   

And that’s this week’s Quick Bite. Next week we meet the Akron bakers who make cupcakes for LeBron James.

(Click image for larger view.)

Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook






Stories with Recent Comments

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Ohio company cuts off a dairy supplier after allegations of animal abuse
these people should be held accountable for their actions. i would be more than pleased to see a year or more behind bars. i will NEVER eat anything that comes ...

Goodyear recruits thousands of vets
What a wonderful interview! Excellent reporting skills by a talented young reporter! I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Schley!

Ohio Democratic Party begins the rebuilding process
I agree 100% with Sen. Brown. I think it is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party in Ohio to engage in the long, tedious, hard task of re-building from t...

They're talking again in the Macedonia bridge dispute
Norfolk Southern says the Ledge road bridge meets regulations for train traffic, however it was built as an overpass for a roadway and/or farm usage. I think t...

Cleveland City Council to consider transgender public restroom law
this is sick. I do not want my daughter in the same bathroom as a perverted 45 year old man. this proposed legislation could seriously damage the security of ch...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University