After Hours with Jack Dale Bennett

Meet the head chef at Saddleberk in North Market Bridge Park.

Erin Edwards
Columbus Monthly
Jack Dale Bennett

You could call him a jack-of-all-trades. Carrying with him a resume that ranges from Hounddog’s Pizza to a farming apprenticeship to the luxury hotel Blackberry Farm, chef Jack Dale Bennett was recently hired to open Saddleberk, the butcher shop and restaurant located inside North Market Bridge Park.

The youngest of seven kids, Bennett says dinner was always a big affair at his house when he was growing up in Reynoldsburg, and it left an impression.

“My dad will still claim to this day that he taught me everything I know about cooking,” he says. “Every single Sunday night for dinner I still go out to my parents’ house, and we all eat, drink and hang out. Every night growing up, my parents would always make us sit down and eat [together].”

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Early in his career, Bennett got a gig as dishwasher at Sage American Bistro, chef Bill Glover’s bygone restaurant, and worked his way onto the line. When Sage shuttered, Bennett was off to another memorable, chef-driven restaurant: Alana’s Food & Wine.

After paying his dues in Columbus kitchens, Bennett switched gears and landed a farming apprenticeship at Devon Point Farm in Connecticut. “I lived there for six months on property, slept in a tent. … It was very immersive,” he says. He helped to raise the farm’s American Milking Devons, grow organic vegetables and restore a historic cider mill.

In 2016, he worked as chef tournant at what he calls “Disney World for Southern food,” aka Blackberry Farm, the luxury resort in Walland, Tennessee. Most recently, Bennett was back to living the urban life, working as sous chef at Detroit’s Shinola Hotel and its flagship restaurant, San Morello. He got the job despite having almost no experience in Italian cooking, let alone making pasta from scratch.

“There was some skepticism. It’s all these guys coming from New York, and I’m just some kid from Ohio who has very little Italian experience. But I know how to cook. It didn’t take me very long to kind of earn my stripes,” he says.

Saddleberk is not an Italian eatery, but the chef has drawn on the cuisine’s philosophy. “Italian food is very liberating with how simple it is,” he says. “It’s taking some really simple products and trying to do the best you can with it. That’s Italian food in a nutshell. So [Saddleberk is] taking that philosophy and flipping it back to American food.”

Food review:Delicious roast beef, wings and salads among highlights at Saddleberk

At Saddleberk, Bennett is attempting to take great product, much of it sourced from the butcher shop, and execute American diner classics well—from old-school milkshakes to hamburgers to fried chicken sandwiches. Here, we asked Bennett to share some of his favorite eats around town.

Get to know Jack Dale Bennett

Birthday dinner request: “It’s always been ribs, baked beans and coleslaw. And root beer float cake.”

Go-to breakfast spot: “Hands down, German Village Coffee Shop

Favorite sandwich: Pepper Burger with bacon from O’Reilly’s Pub or a Big Don sub from Donatos

Spot for tacos: Taqueria Guadalajara off Cleveland Avenue

Best hidden gem: Villa Nova

Travel destination for food and drink: “I make a solid effort to go to New Orleans once a year.”

This story is from the December 2021 issue of Columbus Monthly.