It's A Woman's World: Jes Bengsten of Terrain

CTbites Team

Fairfield County is full of trailblazing women, particularly in the culinary world. Which is why, with 2018 being proclaimed the Year of the Woman, we felt compelled to honor the pioneers among us.  

Our series, “It’s A Woman’s World’ is devoted to Fairfield County female influencers who’ve forged their own paths, often in food-related fields long dominated by men.

How'd they do it? Read on. This week, we feature Jes Bengsten, Chef at Terrain Garden Café. Stay tuned to see who’s next. And feel free to send suggestions for your candidates to

Why You're A Pioneer:

"I started cooking when I was 16 at a seafood shack in Misquamicut RI, I actually started my first day as a cashier and in typical restaurant fashion the owner was short staffed and demanded I " drop a basket of fries" which at the time might as well been in a different launague, so I did and I never made it back to the register. I spent the next 10 years working in miscellaneous bars and restaurants, starting as a fry guy or dishwasher, eventually making my way thru grill and sautee just dreaming of the day I could be a sous chef. After a while I made it to sous chef under Keith Omarra at Two Steps in Danbury and after a few years of doing that got my big break into the Westport/Fairfield County food scene with the offer to open what at the time was intended to open as a coffee/bakery called The Granola Bar. The project quickly turned into a full blown fast/casual clean eating restaurant and turned my life upside down. Introducing me to people/ experiences/ problems/ places I had never seen before, it was thrilling and wonderful, and to this very day beyond grateful for the experience. I did that for two years before transition over to Terrain.  Terrain is where I have been honing my style and elevating my skills the most. I had spent so much time with my hands on the pulse trying to pursue positions and fighting in a world of men trying to get somewhere that I never was able to focus on technique or education.  Now I spend most of my time trying to learn what I would of, had I gone to culinary school. Most of my attention and love goes towards clean and healthy eating as that's been my driving force in cooking always, along with my passion for the environment and trying to prevent animal agricultural from taking its toll on our planet. I also try to pay attention to sourcing locally and supporting local vendors and farmers to the best of my ability." 

On Being A Woman In A “Man’s World:” 

"You know its a challenge, always has been and always will be. Our careers as women chefs are in a bubble of boys clubs. Honestly I find the most interesting is being challenged by women in the industry being a women. As if I were a man and demanding a server to do x, y and z but as a woman she claims "I'm just being a bitch or always this is my favorite" or "why are you in a bad mood?" As if being focused and quiet and trying to run a business means I am unhappy when I assume if I were a man I would just be demanding and professional and assertive. I'm constantly reminding myself that there's a huge world of women that I have been lucky enough to encounter over the last few years who have become my role models, and who have supported and encouraged and helped me, helps me stay focused on my goals. It reminds me that I have a large support group in and out of my restaurant, and won't let petty garbage ruin it for me."

What’s Next: This speaks for itself

"TAKING OVER THE WORLD, just kidding whats next is growing terrain to a national brand. Working for a corporation was the best change I have ever made in this industry and I'm so beyond lucky for everything I have with URBN company.Were opening two more location this year that I will be a small part of and hopefully as time continues traveling and opening more! This year for me had been beyond blessed, Ive been invited to do a dinner at the James Beard house in August, Id like to say its beyond my wildest dreams but truthfully it was always so beyond my scope I didn't think it was even possible. Ive been invited back to Greenwich food and wine as an ambassador chef this year. So that's always amazing and wonderful and being in the presence of that caliber of talent is so humbling and I try to soak up every second and learn as much as possible. Just always trying to elevate my food, be a good person, being kind and staying grateful and trying to save the planet one straw at a time.  Focusing my time on sourcing local and seasonal and how we can bring small farms into big business nationally."