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Long before Chef Geoff Baumberger was the executive chef of The Guild House, he began cooking holiday meals with his family. As a child, he found inspiration and a love of food from the memories and experiences with his loved ones. Cooking became a way for him to connect with people – not through the food, but through the shared meal and time with his community. As a high school student, he pursued a culinary program that exposed him to the restaurant business and opened his eyes to the endless career opportunities the industry offered. He was hooked.
Geoff attended The Culinary Institute of America and was introduced to Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) in 2002 during an externship. Upon his graduation in 2003, Geoff returned to Columbus and began working at various CMR concepts. He eventually transitioned to Ocean Prime in Phoenix in 2008. After brief stints at other restaurants, Geoff returned to CMR in 2015 to open Ocean Prime in New York City. He was most recently executive chef of El Segundo in the Short North Arts District of Columbus. His new role as executive chef of The Guild House allows him to explore the creative freedom of an artisan concept.
“I enjoy CMR as a whole for the diversity of our brand,” says Baumberger. “We have so many restaurants that each have a unique style and feel. Even some of our concepts with multiple locations are different in their own way.”
Geoff advises aspiring chefs to develop standards and expectations early. “Our industry is extremely competitive, and separating good from great throughout daily habits will lead to success,” he says.
Outside of the kitchen, Geoff loves spending time in the great outdoors – golfing, snowboarding and grilling. He always has ice cream in the freezer, and his kitchen is never out of chili garlic paste. Going back to his roots of holiday cooking, Geoff says the meal his family requests the most is Thanksgiving dinner.
Laurie Kniess, general manager of The Guild House, has been a part of the Cameron Mitchell Restaurants (CMR) family since 2013. Kniess started working at The Pearl Short North in guest services, gaining experience in several positions before becoming the restaurant’s general manager. Her great work at The Pearl was honored by CMR when she was named Dining Room Manager of the Year in 2016 and General Manager of the Year in 2018.
Laurie then opened two Short North favorites, Del Mar and Lincoln Social, before transitioning to The Guild House.
Kniess hopes to bring a positive energy to The Guild House and is excited to see the concept continue to enhance the Arts District’s thriving foodie scene. Her main goal is to deliver memorable experiences for both her team as well as guests.
Over the course of her career with CMR, Kniess has embraced the power of a positive attitude and is passionate about teaching this mindset to other associates. She is continually impressed by the impact a positive gesture, thoughtful comment and generally optimistic spirit can have on someone else’s day.
“A positive attitude is easy to keep when you strongly relate to the bones of the company and its people,” said Kniess.
Kniess resides in Columbus, Ohio. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with family, working out, exploring new cities and shopping. Her favorite CMR dish is The Pearl’s Braised Short Rib.