team
team

Our Approach

We have a secret recipe when it comes to catering, but why not...we will share it with you. First we start with a whole lot of passion for what we do (creating amazing events) and whom we are doing it for (you.)

…then we begin…

The Chef Experience: Your event comes with your own chef. We pair you up with a chef on our team that best reflects your culinary style and vision. From the menu design process to the day of your event, and the days in between, your chef will always be available to meet with you to brainstorm ideas, customize options and carry out your vision.

Credit: J.H. Photography

Event Coordinator Collaboration: Now that you have the perfect menu, what about everything else? That is where your event coordinator comes in - ensuring that everything is happening when it should be, as it should be - overseeing timelines, layouts and our highly-trained service staff. 

The Little Things: Your chef remembers you love fun, inventive chocolates and makes you a batch as a surprise; your event coordinator recalls you talking about Spanish Cava and brings you a bottle of her favorite. We work with local farms, infuse our own olive oils and butters, take pride in our Eco-initiatives, and give back to the community.

Meet the Team

Exec. Chef/Owner, Jim Benson

A Baltimore native, Chef Jim Benson’s first and only culinary job before launching Eleven Courses was illegal. Just barely a teenager, not officially old enough to work, Jim got a job at a local grocery store in the produce department. He fell in love with the simplicity, beauty and freshness that surrounded him every day and started bringing his work home. Over a decade later, after graduating college, countless dinner parties for friends and family and extensive international travel, Jim created Eleven Courses with his wife, Melissa.

Jim is regularly featured on FOX, ABC, CBS, and USA for the latest in wedding, food and event trends.

Hey Chef, what’s your style?

My style is bringing the client’s vision to life. I thrive on creating clean, un-muddled, layered flavors. I love to push boundaries in the kitchen; opening people up to a new experience - challenging them to rethink about the foods they’ve loved their whole lives.

Eleven things that Jim Benson loves:

Family, foie gras, tasting menu, ocean-to-table, traveling, local cheese, red wine, French macaroons, sushi, Italy, my guitar

Event Director/Owner, Melissa Benson

Melissa grew up in a very food centric family – exposed to great restaurants from a young age and use to something always cooking in the kitchen. “Family dinners were a big deal in my house and I loved every night was a true celebration of good food and people.” Jim and I met in college and he started spoiling me with his cooking right away. We entertained all of the time and I was constantly going out and buying new places settings, centerpieces, etc. to design the perfect event. After one epic eleven course dinner party, our journey began – weddings, galas, corporate affairs and soirees of all kinds.

Melissa often joins Jim on his television appearance as a design & event expert.

Eleven things that Melissa Benson loves :

Fresh vegetables, Aubriel, Ariette, Jim, weddings, chocolate, mojitos, sunshine, (Jim’s) shrimp & grits, our team, exploring.

Chef, Shaun Mengel

Chef Shaun has had a passion for food for as long as he can remember; cooking has always made him happy. He attended the Art Institute of Philadelphia and after working in many restaurants found his home at Eleven Courses where he constantly brings new ideas to the table – helping to develop some of our greatest culinary creations.

Eleven things that Shaun Mengel loves :

Wood-grilled pizza, my beautiful wife and 3 children, hospitality, a great merlot, vintage t-shirts, cowboy ribeye, tattoos, cheesecake, Dr. Who, 90’s video games, risotto

Event Coordinator, Kristina Powell

Kristina started out in management at a large company before joining Eleven Courses as an event coordinator. Her sense of humor lights up her coworkers’ days and you can hear her telling a funny joke whenever you come into the office. Her love of food comes from her grandparents, who owned their own bakery, which she remembers running through as a child.

Eleven things that Kristina loves :

Family, the color orange, when Fall meets Winter, homemade Ice Cream, the Eastern Shore, Christmas, dogs, crabbing, cocktails, Saturdays, love.

Daniel McGarity Photography
Executive Chef, Jake Hack

Even at a very young age Jake knew he would become a chef, and always appreciated the science behind cooking. With a passion for the fast pace of restaurants and an artistic eye, Jake honed and developed his skills in some of Baltimore's top restaurants and catering companies. He has clearly proven himself to be one of Baltimore's finest chefs and is extremely excited to share his love of food with the amazing and talented staff of Eleven courses.

Eleven things that Jake loves:

Family, food, science, the great outdoors, football, snow, fishing, thunderstorms, friends, high fives, and sharp knives.

Director of Events, Janae Aiken

Janae graduated from the Culinary Institute of American with a Bachelor’s Degree in Baking & Pastry Arts and Business Management. Janae has worked in some of the top restaurants in Baltimore and while she has mad pastry skills, she craved the client interaction of the front-of-the-house. She came to Eleven Courses to make that dream come true. She gets to have her cake and eat it too (or make her cake? and eat it too.) When she isn’t coordinating dream events for her clients, Janae collaborates with our chef team on designing our pastry menus.

Eleven things that Janae loves:

My family, extravagant dinners with my sister, laughing, all music, rearranging furniture, the feel of a good book, traveling to Lisbon, my grandmother’s hand-written recipe box, pinups, photography, Pinterest

Event Coordinator, Emily Schulz

Emily graduated from Towson University in 2017 with a major in journalism and minor in electronic media and film. Prior to join the Eleven Courses team, she wrote for multiple websites, and promoted events at a radio station in Baltimore. While her experience is mostly technical, Emily is an all-around people person! Since she was little, Emily has always loved putting a smile on someone's face, and making their day better. She believes that everyone has a story to tell, and Eleven Courses can be part of that story. The client's smile at the end of the night makes everything worth while to her.

Eleven things that Emily loves:

Theatre, music, fantasy movies (particularly Harry Potter), good books, writing short stories, candles that smell woodsy, Sunday morning cappuccinos with my parents, a nice Chianti, homemade carbonara pasta, karaoke nights, and above all- Coffee!

Event Coordinator, Matthew Hurt

Matt came to Eleven Courses after several years as a kitchen manager at a local seafood hot spot. Matt first knew he wanted to join our team when we catered his cousins wedding. He loves interacting with our clients and bringing flawless events to life. Matt is a truly talented and dedicated team member and has the ability to make the impossible happen!

Eleven things that Matt loves:

Dogs, My family, Swimming, Waking up on Christmas Morning, When late spring meets summer, tacos, making people laugh, singing and karaoke , cocktails, the beach, Grey’s Anatomy

Warehouse Manager, Vernon Fields
Kitchen Manager, Veronica
Staff Manager, Lorena Gallegos
Our amazing kitchen, service and bar staff.
Event Coordinator, Magan Sipe

Magan is our go-to warehouse manager! Magan is passionate about organizing events and excellent food service! She is from Parkville, Maryland and currently resides in Dundalk. She enjoys spending time with her friends and family, especially with her son Kaleb and boyfriend Vernon. Magan enjoys swimming, shopping, hiking, and going to the beach!

Eleven things that Magan loves:

My son, My boyfriend, Animals, Homestyle Food, Fall and Halloween, Family, Cheesecake, Studying History, Christmas, Music

Chef, Emily Street

Emily’s background comes from Business Leadership and Management at Towson University. Her love for cooking is inspired by helping her mother cook as a child and working at a produce stand for 4 years. Emily loves taking fresh ingredients and turning them into artwork that you can eat! Two years ago, Emily was a server at Eleven Courses and now she is back and serving it up in our kitchen. Her “just so” blend of culinary skills and business leadership and management make her a perfect addition to our team.

Eleven things that Emily loves:

My boyfriend Austin, my puppy Lola, Mexican food, the beach, iced coffee, Sunday brunch/mimosas, painting, Jeeps, New York City art galleries, Maryland crabs, my family