Executive Chef Ben Hillan was raised in Santa Cruz and taught himself how to cook in high school while dabbling in the kitchen and using whatever was on hand to cook dinners for his family. This unguided experimentation kick started Chef Ben's culinary passion and led him to reach out to his uncle, who is a chef for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Auto Racing team. With encouragement and inspiration, Hillan's decision to become a chef was fast-tracked; he enrolled at California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and graduated two years later.
His over 10-year career at Seascape Beach Resort in Aptos, CA. From there, he joined Roy's Spanish Bay culinary team and was mentored by celebrated Chef Roy Yamaguchi. Before stepping into the driver's seat at Estéban Restaurant, Chef Ben was Executive Chef of Humble Sea Brewing Company in Felton, CA.
Chef Ben's vision builds on the restaurant's stellar reputation with his own twist on farm-to-table freshness and his fidelity to local produce celebrates the Central Coast's farmers, fishers, foragers, and producers. "It's an honor to work so closely with these people who are incredibly talented and dedicated," he explains. "They are my colleagues and friends; I never take these relationships for granted."
With a guiding spirit and cooperative approach, Chef Ben gives full credit to his colleagues insisting that culinary creativity and mastery happen only as a team. He nurtures an environment filled with curiosity and willingness to take chances, striving to be the best.
When not in Estéban Restaurant's kitchen, Chef Ben relishes sharing the outdoors with his wife and three-year-old son. Together they tend their garden, take hikes to look for banana slugs and wild mushrooms. Naturally, Chef Ben's teaching him to cook. "My kiddo loves to make omelets; smashing eggs is always fun."