Ben Poremba returns to the Elaia and Olio kitchens

Ben Poremba, co-owner of Bengelina Hospitality Group, has announced that he will step back behind the stoves as executive chef at his co-located eateries Elaia and Olio in Botanical Heights. Poremba said he officially took the reins on Sunday, July 7, replacing chef Aaron Martinez, who recently signed on as chef de cuisine at Cinder House.

In an email statement, Poremba said it’s been about three years since he was involved in daily operations and menu development at Elaia. His renewed presence in the kitchen in recent months is part of an ongoing effort to solidify the restaurant’s identity.

“It’s exciting to be back,” Poremba said. “I get to cook on my own terms.”

Poremba also owns The Benevolent King, Nixta and the recently opened AO&Co. The James Beard Foundation has named him a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Going forward, Poremba said guests at Elaia will have a choice between a vegetarian or regular tasting menu, including pre-meal snacks a four-course dinner and post-meal mignardises (small sweet bites) for $70 per person or $125 with beverage pairings. While the menus are set, guests will have a choice of main course. Poremba said the menu will change daily Wednesday through Saturday.

“I get to cook for today, and there’s something really great about that,” Poremba said.

chef aaron martinez is now chef de cuisine at cinder house. // photo by anjali pinto

As Sauce reported in October 2018
, Martinez assumed the executive chef role at Elaia last October. His background includes service at such restaurants as Commis in Oakland, California and Quince in San Francisco.

“Elaia and Olio was a great experience,” Martinez said. “It was a nice intro to St. Louis.”

He said he’s looking forward with Niche Food Group owner and executive chef Gerard Craft at Cinder House.

“A lot of my friends and mentors in in L.A. and San Francisco know [Craft] and speak highly of him,” Martinez said. “Whenever I’ve met him, he’s always been very humble and gracious. He’s a good fit with my personality.”

Martinez said he intends to switch up dishes on a regular basis, some as often as weekly, and put his own stamp on the menu. He will also oversee Cinder House’s exclusive 10-seat tasting menu concept, Dia’s Room.

“I’m definitely going to push the menus as much as I can,” Martinez said. “There are a lot of things I love at my disposal here. I’m looking forward to it.”

Craft did not immediately return requests for comment.

Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine.