“Ben’s parents had bought a house in the area and he was staying there with his sister and brother,” Woo says. “I was facing having to quit school and move back home when Ben offered that I could stay at his place for a while. So I ended up sleeping on his couch for a month or so until I found a place to live.”
Woo and Bebenroth remained friends throughout culinary school, but moved back to their respective homes in Wilmington and Cleveland after graduation. Both spent some time bopping around, looking for their next step. Not long after, Woo got a call from Bebenroth -- he was starting a catering company in Cleveland, and would Woo like to move up for the summer and see what happens? So he did.
"We were living in his grandma’s house [in Parma]: me in the attic, Ben, his wife Jackie, and daughter on the first floor, and one of Jackie’s friends in the basement. We also split the basement as our kitchen, so we were catering 200 person weddings out of it. But it was awesome, we wanted to do everything from scratch, buy locally, and we stuck with it,” he says.
As summer wound down, they realized that they couldn't keep the business afloat. They were nearly out of money and had nothing booked going into winter. So the small team disbanded, and Woo moved back to Wilmington to be with his girlfriend (and future wife), Janna.
Woo spent several more years there and helped open a few restaurants. He desperately wanted to ramp up the local food scene, but faced an uphill battle. The locavore concept was difficult to push on the residents in this relatively small southern town. Meanwhile in Cleveland, Bebenroth revived his catering business and founded his restaurant, Spice Kitchen & Bar, in 2012. In the winter of 2013, Bebenroth reached out to Woo again. He was looking for a Chef and Operations Manager, was scouting farms, and wouldn't he like to help expand the business?
“When he called, it was three months before my wedding. I said, ‘Dude, I can’t even talk to her about moving to Cleveland right now. My wedding’s coming up in three months, if you still need a chef after that give me a call.’ So we got married, Ben came to the wedding, and a few weeks later he called and said, ‘I’m still looking. Can I fly you guys up and give you a tour?’”