Daniel Benjamin’s culinary passion can be traced all the way back to1998. While reading Pastry Art & Design, he discovered pastry icon Francois Payard’s new patisserie, Payard Patisserie & Bistro. Benjamin was so inspired that he moved from small town Valparaiso, Indiana to New York City and enrolled in the French Culinary Institute, simultaneously securing a nine-month apprenticeship at Payard itself.
After learning the fundamentals from the finest collection of French pastry chefs in the country, Benjamin joined The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, as pastry cook in The Dining Room. Learning quickly and refusing to stay in one place, he relocated to The Dining Room of The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco. He was then recruited as pastry chef for the distinguished 60-room inn in Lake Tahoe, Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn. There, he began his own pastry program, baking breads, desserts and other pastries completely in-house. Missing the guidance of a strong mentor, and city life, he moved to Chicago, and worked, under pastry chef Keegan Gerhard at The Four Seasons, Chicago. He followed Keegan’s to the Windsor Court Hotel in New Orleans.
Thriving in a town world famous for its food, Benjamin’s highly inventive style emerged, preparing him for his role as assistant pastry chef at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. There, he focused on bringing the attention of fine dining to the desserts served to several hundreds in large gala banquets. This experience led him to his current position at The Umstead Hotel and Spa, and Herons, its award- winning signature restaurant, which he joined in January 2007 as a member of the pre-opening team. Incorporating over ten years of extensive experience, Benjamin is celebrated for his creative and modern approach to Southern sweets.