Benjamin Kallenbach

Benjamin Kallenbach

Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge

With more than 13 years of global culinary experience, Chef Ben Kallenbach brings an extensive culinary skillset and fresh talent to the role of executive pastry chef at The Ballantyne Hotel & Lodge, a Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel in Charlotte, NC. He oversees the hotel’s pastry team and creation of all desserts, including the dessert menus and artisan breads served at Gallery Restaurant.

Prior to joining The Ballantyne, Chef Ben spent many years with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Most recently, he was executive pastry chef at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. In addition, he worked in pastry at The Ritz-Carlton, Bahrain and at The Ritz-Carlton Lodge at Reynolds Plantation in Georgia.

Originally from Fulton, Illinois, Chef Ben discovered his passion for pastry and bakery arts while attending Kendall College in Chicago. Throughout his career, Chef Ben has studied with some of the world’s best pastry chefs.

Robert Nieto

Robert Nieto

Jackson Family Wines

A native from Texas, Robert received his cooking and baking certificate from Del Mar community college. His first job was at the Corpus Christi Country Club as a line cook but always had a thing for sweets. It was here where the Pastry Chef let him work with him side by side to learn the fundamentals of pastries and baking. Robert then headed west to Las Vegas to work in five star hotels such as Bellagio, Paris Las Vegas, and the Venetian. Robert finally got his break by landing a job by world-renowned Chef Thomas Keller as the Pastry Sous Chef at Bouchon Bistro. He then had the opportunity to move to Napa Valley as the Pastry Chef of Bouchon Bistro and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Robert then moved to Sonoma County to work at a One-Michelin Restaurant, Madrona Manor run by Executive Chef Jesse Mallgren. It was here where he explored Molecular Gastronomy that could add texture to his desserts. Robert joins the Jackson Family Winery as the Pastry Chef. He is always on the lookout for new innovations that could tie in with the wines.

Abderrahmane Neggaz

Abderrahmane Neggaz

Chocotenango

Aberrahmane Neggaz, a native of Algiers, Algeria, grew up surrounded by the smells and flavors of his mother’s kitchen. He has been a professional chef since 1994. Igniting his love of cooking, he started his career in the bread and sweets department of Cranks, in London, England. He went on to study Pastry Arts at Newbury College in Newton, MA and additionally received a professional chef’s degree from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. Continuing his love of learning, he studied sugarwork under Chef Notter. Abderrahmane worked as an Assistant Pastry Chef at Upstairs at the Pudding and led the savory team at the Rialto, both in the Boston area. Moving to Guatemala to accommodate his wife’s new job, he opened a small cooking school before opening his own chocolate business, Chocotenango (meaning the place of chocolate) where he created over 100 original recipes and quickly become the go to place for chocolate in the region. Abderrahmane’s versatility is perfectly suited to the creative pursuit of chocolate, in which he can balance both sweet and savory. In 2008, he was awarded first place at the 13th International Gastronomy Festival in Guatemala in the chocolate category. Now based in Washington DC, Chocotenango reopened in 2013 after Neggaz spent a few years working at the Four Seasons in Georgetown. Neggaz derives his inspiration from the unique ingredients that make up local cuisines from around the globe. Truly a global citizen, Abderrahmane speaks four languages, has lived on four continents and has traveled extensively. He often says, “I don’t find ingredients, they find me.”

Andrea Smith

Andrea Smith

Chocolatier

Chocolate F/X

Andrea Smith attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh not for pastry but for special effects make up. She decided to move her focus to chocolate while apprenticing with a studio in Atlanta. Smith has a very unconventional education in chocolate, being self-taught, and worked as head Chocolatier for diAmano Chocolate for 3 1/2 years, and is now moving her own company Chocolate F/X to Nashville, TN. and opening her first brick and mortar. Always eager to use fresh, local ingredients, Smith works with local suppliers to craft her recipes, keeping her creations vibrant and innovative. Smith utilizes her special effects background to make chocolate molds and design transfer sheets. 2011 AJC.com “Best of the Big A” Chocolate winner

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