Starting off quite humbly in the the Northeast, in the small state of Vermont, Benjamin grew up in an even smaller town that was comprised of farmers and artisan workers. Ben has always been deeply connected to sustainable living and the conservation of natural resources through everyday life as a child, and then through hunting and foraging as an adolescent. Once in high school, Ben began his culinary journey as a pizza chef and started to gain deep interest into anything culinarily related.
After graduating high school, he attended the University of Vermont for a degree in Plant and Soil Science which focused on permaculture and sustainable practices. Pursuing this, he was able to directly interact with farmers of all sorts and saw true value in what that brings to the “table”.
While attending UVM, Ben opened a pizza restaurant with his long time boss. He ran this for two years, the restaurant sold, and Ben, still needing funds to complete his degree, starting working at a fine dinning establishment called Tilley’s Cafe. Here he worked his way up the culinary ranks, all while attending college full time. From line cook to sous chef, until the culmination of all his hard work paid off. He graduated college and became executive chef of Tilley’s Cafe and decided to put the plant business on the back burner to let his chef career take face. All the while, Ben never forgot his roots and what a close connection with farmers, foragers, and mongers alike can bring to the table.
After running Tilley’s cafe for two and a half years, Ben’s mind was set on bigger things. He wasn’t done growing, and decided to take the show on the road and move to San Francisco to follow his dreams as a chef. After a few weeks of looking, he ended up as sous chef at a high end smaller scale restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco called Barbambino, under Chef Elizabeth Binder. Barbambino, strictly authentic Italian based food, held ideals Ben had learned as a child -- use of whole animals, cooking everything from scratch, taking care of every fava bean like your life depended on it, etc. He engulfed himself in this culture and fully accepted what the Italians had been doing for centuries. Elizabeth was, and still is, an amazing inspiration and as they worked more and more together they started to mirror each other. In 2011, Lizzy was chosen for Season 10 of Top Chef and Ben was given the reins of Barbambino. Sadly, New Years Eve of 2012, the owners of Barbambino decided to close its doors for a myriad of reasons, and Ben was left to his own devices.
In April of 2012, with sun on the horizon, Ben moved to Italy. He lived and apprenticed at Le Caffanne, a small trattoria tucked away in the mountains separating Umbria and Le Marche. Here the ideals and practices of all past experiences seemed to fall into place. Each house was practically self sustaining -- chickens in your backyard was common practice and knowledge of where to get the best ingredients and how to prepare them was constantly shared amongst the community, unless you were taking tartuffo (heh heh). Ben lived and worked there for four and a half months before returning to the USA.
After spending the rest of the year as a contract chef for various gigs, Ben decided the travel bug wasn’t dead and there was a lot more to see so he set his sight on Spain, specifically Barcelona. Here he traveled and studied everything Spanish, all the while cooking around the country. Learning Spanish culture was similar to the Italians but also very different and as he travelled, tasting different cuisines, the differences really shined through. He was able to visit many farms and sustainably-minded people. He lived in Spain for 4 months before returning to the Bay Area.
The goal was to put the travel, studies, and culinary expertise in motion in the form of a Butcher shop in Redwood city, and thus, Gambrel and Co. was born. The shop primarily provides sustainable, grass feed, local meat from beef to goat. Ben, already knowing the importance of knowing your farmer, brings assurance and guidance to your meat buying and overall local butcher's experience. Most of the meat is derived from whole animals giving the freshest and non-adulterated product. Along with the meat, there is also prepared sauces and stocks accompanied by Ben's tested recipes used throughout his adventures. As an added bonus, having the extensive culinary background, Ben is willing to work with the customer on custom roasts, cuts, sausage, etc, and will also be available to help decide what to do with your purchase.