About Ben

Hi, there!  I’m Ben.  You probably saw me on YouTube, or maybe on MasterChef years ago.  I assume that, because you found this page, you’d like to know a bit more about my background…so here goes!

Gordon Ramsay playfully strangles Ben Starr behind the scenes on MasterChef

Gordon playfully strangles me the night I get eliminated from MasterChef

I was born in San Antonio, Texas on July 14…that’s Bastille Day for those of you who know French history, and it’s also the anniversary of the day Billy the Kid was gunned down by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Lincoln, New Mexico.

I grew up in Abilene, Texas, which is a relatively small city about 3 hours west of Dallas, basically in the middle of nowhere.  I lived on what you might consider to be a small farm, surrounded by sheep, pigs, goats, and chickens.

I started learning to cook at age 4 when I took an interest in the way my grandmother, Meemaw, was making biscuits.  It looked like magic to me, the way she put those small little rounds of dough in the oven, and they came out tall and puffy.  I demanded that she teach me, so she did, after after a few practice rounds, she left me to continue on my own.  About an hour later she was walking by the kitchen when she heard me bragging to myself, “Who ever heard of a 4-year-old who knew how to make biscuits?”

Ben Starr in Spooky Gulch Slot in Utah

In the depths of Spooky Gulch, hidden deep in Utah’s canyon lands

I like to think I’m a little more humble about my cooking these days, but I have learned a lot since I was four.  Both my grandmothers and my mom were housewives and cooked 3 meals a day, so by the time I left for college, I was pretty skilled in the delicate art of Southern cooking.  After a few years of college, I accidentally stumbled into a job as a travel agent and started roaming the world.  But I found it more fulfilling to stay with local families, rather than in hotels, and this is how I learned to cook a variety of foods from other cultures.

To date, I’ve tromped across more than 40 countries on all 7 continents.  I’ve crawled through water-filled caves into tiny chambers filled with skeletons in Central America.  I’ve frolicked with tens of thousands of penguins and swam in hot springs with elephant seals in Antarctica.  I’ve been in car wrecks on the Sinai peninsula and been rescued by Bedouins on camelback.  In 2007 I appeared four times on The Rachael Ray Show, in the summer of 2009 I appeared on season 1 of HGTV’s All American Handyman with Mike Holmes, and in the summer of 2011 I appeared on the season 2 of Fox’s MasterChef with Gordon Ramsay.  I grow my own vegetables and fruit.  I brew my own beer and wine.  I cure meat and make aged cheeses. And I have a flock of free range chickens in my suburban back yard.  Hiking, canoeing, and caving (cave exploring or “spelunking”) are my hobbies.  I reside in Lewisville, Texas, (a suburb of Dallas) with my partner of 20+ years.

Ben Starr Giant Pumpkin Signature Ingredient

Hugging my favorite ingredient at a rural festival near Seattle

I am extremely concerned about our country’s move toward industrialized agriculture and nation-wide distribution over the past 30 years.  I am a die-hard fan of local family farms which sell to local grocery stores, rather than having your arugula trucked 1,500 miles from California’s central valley…of eating foods seasonally (you don’t need fresh peaches or asparagus in February, people, they’re being shipped all the way from Chile!)…of bolstering our local economies by supporting local family farms rather than massive industrial farms 10 states over…moving away from the “Certified Organic” logo which has become utterly corrupted by powerful mega-farm lobbies and is out of the reach of most family farms and certainly no longer means organic…focusing on sustainability and good animal and land husbandry rather than obsessing over the term “organic.”

I am the wealthiest person I know.  Not from money, for I have almost none of that.  My life is rich because I have the most fascinating and devoted friends, fans, and family of anyone I know.  Without them, I’m nothing.

Ben Starr and his backyard flock of urban chickens

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