Ben Starr

The Ultimate Food Geek


Hi, there! I’m Ben. You probably saw me on YouTube, or from an old season of Fox’s MasterChef. I assume that, because you found your way to this page, you’d like to know a bit more about my background, so…so here goes!

I was born in San Antonio, Texas on July 14…that’s Bastille Day for those of you who know French history, and it’s also the anniversary of the day Billy the Kid was gunned down by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Lincoln, New Mexico.

I grew up in Abilene, Texas, which is a relatively small city about 3 hours west of Dallas, basically in the middle of nowhere. I lived on what you might consider to be a small farm, surrounded by sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens.

I started learning to cook at age 4 when I took an interest in the way my grandmother, Meemaw, was making biscuits. It looked like magic to me, seeing those little flat rounds go into the oven, and come out all tall and puffy. I demanded that she teach me, so she did. After a bit of practice, she left me to continue on my own. About an hour later she was walking by the kitchen when she heard me bragging to myself, “Who ever heard of a 4-year-old who knew how to make biscuits?”

I like to think I’m a little more humble about my cooking these days, but I have learned a lot since I was four. Both my grandmothers and my mom were housewives and cooked 3 meals a day, so by the time I left for college, I was pretty skilled in the delicate art of Southern cooking. After a few years of college, I accidentally stumbled into a job as a travel agent and started roaming the world. But I found it more fulfilling to stay with local families, rather than in hotels, and this is how I learned to cook a variety of foods from other cultures.

To date, I’ve tromped across more than 40 countries on all 7 continents. I’ve crawled through water-filled caves into tiny chambers filled with skeletons in Central America. I’ve frolicked with tens of thousands of penguins and swam in hot springs with elephant seals in Antarctica. I’ve been in car wrecks on the Sinai peninsula and been rescued by Bedouins on camelback. I’m a washed-up reality TV star, and have cooked for and with Gordon Ramsay, Bobby Flay, Rachael Ray, and Lidia Bastianich, among others. I was part of a 3-chef team at a collaborative, secret underground restaurant concept in Dallas for 7 years called FRANK. We were Yelp-ranked as the best restaurant in Texas for several years, and the Chicago Tribune ran a spot saying that we were one of the hardest-to-get reservations in the country. (But it was just 20 strangers gathering around a huge table that I built, to share a humble dinner of home-cooked food…nothing pretentious.)

The silly hats I wear are made for me by my amazing mother, Betty, who has been sewing them for me for decades. I wear them in her honor, as she made the kitchen my favorite room in the house since I could crawl. Her life is a perfect example of how to be a servant to everyone within arm’s reach, and how to show your love through cooking.

I garden. I brew and distill. I cure meat and make cheese. I hunt wild mushrooms. And I have a flock of free range chickens in my suburban back yard. DIY, sewing, hiking, canoeing, and caving (cave exploring or “spelunking”) are my hobbies. I travel almost half the year, exploring new places and meeting new faces. I reside in Lewisville, Texas, (a suburb of Dallas) with my partner of 20+ years, Christian.

I’m not a food SNOB. (Give me concession-stand nachos for breakfast, please! And let’s eat dinner at a taco truck rather than somewhere flaunting their Michelin stars.) I’m a food GEEK. (Let’s figure out how to make the BEST possible version of our favorite foods, using science to understand why other recipes aren’t up to par!)

I am the wealthiest person I know. Not from money, for I have almost none of that. My life is rich because I have the most fascinating and devoted friends, fans, and family of anyone I know. Without them, I’m nothing.