A St. Louis native, Chef Grupe built his career from the ground up, starting as a dishwasher. He quickly fell in love with the energetic and team-based atmosphere of the kitchen, and – at the age of 18 – began cooking. He entered the hospitality program at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, during which time he also apprenticed at The Racquet Club Ladue under Chef Chris Desens. In 2006, he left St. Louis for West Virginia, where he entered the Greenbrier Culinary Apprenticeship Program under the guidance of Chef Peter Timmins. The intense, competitive program fueled his career track. He returned to St. Louis in 2010 and worked in some of the area’s top private clubs. In 2010 he also made the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team at the age of 26, before joining Bengelina Hospitality Group’s flagship, Elaia, as Executive Chef in 2016.
During his culinary tenure, he has served as the team captain for the U.S. Culinary Olympic Team and led the team to bring home three gold medals and a world championship in 2016, a tremendous source of his pride and fire. Competition has taken him all over the U.S. and the world, which has no doubt informed his globally-inspired creations in the Elaia kitchen. Over the years, Chef Grupe has accumulated over thirty national and international medals. In 2017, he competed in the American Mentor BKB selection for the Bocuse d'Or, the most prestigious culinary competition in the world, where he finished an honorable second. Most recently, Chef Grupe was nominated for the first time as a James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest.
With deep appreciation for several mentors, Chef Grupe says his accomplishments would have been impossible without the guidance of chefs like the late Peter Timmins CMC and Chris Desens.