Ben Poremba is the Chef/Owner of Bengelina Hospitality Group, the St. Louis-based, award-winning operator of Nixta and Bar Limón, Elaia, Olio, La Patisserie Chouquette, and The Benevolent King. Poremba is a three-time James Beard Award semifinalist in the category of Best Chef-Midwest, and he continues taking the St. Louis dining scene by storm.
An Israeli native, Poremba learned the art of cooking (and eating) from his mother, Rachel, who had a 40-year career as a chef and culinary educator herself. Poremba moved to St. Louis to earn a BA in philosophy from the University of Missouri.
Poremba began his culinary career in the states as a private chef, and then transitioned his experience into launching a catering company, Taste Fine Catering, while still in college. Poremba held roles as Executive Chef at The Maryland House at Brennan’s and Executive Chef of Winslow’s Home (both in St. Louis), and also attended Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomich (University of Gastronomic Studies) in Parma, Italy where he studied Food Culture and Gastronomy. In 2008, he started Bengelina Hospitality Group with his wife, Angela, opening their first venture Salume Beddu. He then went on to open Elaia and Olio, La Patisserie Chouquette, Old Standard and Parigi (now closed), Nixta/Bar Limón, and soon-to-open AO&Co, a small market to offer Bengelina's brands foods.
Poremba is moved by how food plays a central role in celebrations, rituals, holidays, and virtually every ceremony humans are engaged in. A fan of spontaneous cooking, without referring to recipes, Poremba strongly believes that food must be prepared with love. For Poremba, food, design, and service should all be measured by how great of an experience you can give to people; not only on a substance level, but through the environment, art, and conversation as well.
“I aim to create food that takes you somewhere,” says Poremba. “Either somewhere familiar that invokes memories, or to a place you’ve never been before. Diners don’t need to go to the theater for a full night out; I want my restaurants to be the show itself for guests. I aim to transport diners, whether it’s to Baja at Nixta, or Brooklyn at Olio.”
His goal is to run a sustainable enterprise giving job opportunities to his employees, who he greatly admires. Each restaurant is a formula to retain and attract talented people, providing opportunity to others – one of the reasons he continues to open new restaurants.
An extensive world-traveler, Poremba has staged in kitchens in France and Italy. Looking to international chefs as inspiration, he credits Gray Kunz’ book The Elements of Taste for changing the way he thought about cooking. Poremba is passionate about his Israeli heritage, and is involved in St. Louis’ Jewish and Israeli communities. His charity and community outreach interests are immigration, equitable urban redevelopment, and sustainable agriculture. In his free time, he loves antiquing, modern design and art, and reading, with a library of over 5,000 books at home. He is always learning from his two kids, and continually planning his next restaurant concept.