John Caton of Benton Park Cafe



This is part one of Chrissy Wilmes' Chef's Choice profile of chef John Caton of Benton Park Cafe. Part two, a Q&A with Caton, is here. Part three, a recipe from Caton, can be found here.

  • Chrissy Wilmes

John Caton fell in love with cooking when he was 15-years-old, making pizzas at Paesano's (which is now Peggs Restaurant on the Boulevard). "I like the whole process. I like being able to put a smile on people's faces. It's something that kind of came naturally. I always wanted to own a restaurant, ever since my first job." Coincidentally, that same pizza place was where he met Jessica Lenzen, with whom he now co-owns and operates Benton Park Café (1900 Arsenal Street, 314-771-7200).

There were, however, a few more steps along the way. Recognizing his interest in the restaurant business, Caton moved to Columbia, Missouri and worked at Shakespeare's Pizza while studying Hotel and Restaurant Management at Mizzou.

Degree in tow, he found a job working at a Hooter's in August of 2004, managing the front of the house, but it didn't take long for Caton to get nostalgic for the culinary side of the restaurant business. He began working as a sous chef for P.F. Chang's and helped open the Brentwood location.

In 2006, Lenzen and Caton began catering under the moniker All in Good Taste Catering. Business was good, and they soon outgrew their home kitchens. Thus, on August 25 of 2007 (which also happens to be Caton's mother's birthday) Benton Park Café was born.

The classic breakfast pizza, mimosa and bloody mary -- three of Benton Park Cafe's house specialties - CHRISSY WILMES
  • Chrissy Wilmes
  • The classic breakfast pizza, mimosa and bloody mary -- three of Benton Park Cafe's house specialties

Caton's philosophy for the café is smart and simple: "Having people satisfied. Nobody's rich anymore. One percent of the population is, and that's it. The rest of us aren't. I like being able to provide a good, quality product that people appreciate. Not that they appreciate it because they're spending $50 on it; they appreciate it because they're paying a level price, but still getting a very good product."

Although Caton and Lenzen's business and success was born out of toil, determination and love, they know they didn't do it alone. "The main reason this restaurant's been successful is... obviously, Jess and I couldn't do it ourselves. It's our staff. Our staff's amazing. They work hard, they do a good job, and they're all very friendly and nice people."

Despite the demands of owning and operating a restaurant and its kitchen, Caton makes time for himself and his three dogs: Hudson, Escher and Otis. When he's not at the café, he can be found about town playing Frisbee golf, going to baseball and hockey games and attending concerts (he's especially excited to see Dispatch in Chicago this June). In the meantime, he'll be at Benton Park Cafe, serving up breakfast pizzas, slingers and BBLTs.

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