From the moment you set foot inside Franklin’s Herban Market, you can sense something is wonderfully different. To the right, the shelves are filled with intriguing organic goodies, locally-sourced produce, grass-fed meats, and a dizzying array of flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Straight ahead, you’ll find a wine bar and a work space filled with locals typing away on their computers. In the back, customers line up for house made baked goods, customized take-out salads, and specialty lattes. And on your left, a dozen tables are filled with diners feasting on wild-caught salmon, grass-fed burgers, gluten-free chicken pot pie, and other menu items so delicious, you’d have no idea they’re also good for your body.
Herban Market has been one of my absolute favorite Franklin restaurants ever since Ashlea and Matt Hogancamp opened it back in 2015. At that time, I committed to making meals for my family that were organic and all-natural, without sacrificing flavor. Herban Market had the products I needed to make those meals, as well as a delicious restaurant menu that reassured me food could be both delicious and healthy. And now with the addition of executive chef Bobby Benjamin, that menu has gotten even better.
No stranger to Tennessee, Bobby grew up in Bell Buckle and got his first taste of being head chef when he helped open Flyte in Nashville at the age of 26. That was followed by a nine-year stint running a restaurant and then a bakery in Louisville before returning to Tennessee and Herban Market – this time with a wife and four young daughters in tow.
Bobby is now taking all he’s learned and incorporating it into Herban Market’s dine-in and take-out menus. “I think it’s fun to be able to come in here and live my passion,” he says. “It’s been a blessing because I can do exactly what I want to do here. It’s just a very diverse menu selection, and it’s super healthy.’”
Spend even a few minutes talking to Bobby and it becomes clear that he considers Herban Market to be a sort of wonderland of opportunity; the Hogancamps’ commitment to sourcing the highest quality foods has made his creativity soar. “The owners here are amazing,” he says. “They allow me to bring in the best ingredients. So we can bring in masa from Mexico, we can bring in organic flour. I can’t be more thankful.”
Bobby spent nearly an hour giving me a tour of the market and kitchen, proudly pointing out the lion’s mane and oyster mushrooms harvested from a single family farm, the scratch-made pizza dough, tortillas, and pastries, the beautiful local salad greens, the specially sourced avocado oil, and the many varieties of balsamic vinegar and olive oil that he’s incorporated into his recipes.
The wide selection of ingredients here gives him the freedom and motivation to constantly improve on Herban Market’s offerings. This includes elevating the dining experience for customers with dietary restrictions. A spectacular gluten-free chocolate chip cookie appeared on the menu recently; a gluten-free burger bun is in the final stages of development. “The gluten-free burger bun is probably one of the most challenging things I’ve made in my career, recipe-wise,” he says. “My pastry chef and I probably revisited that recipe at least eight to ten times.”
As Herban Market expands its bakery and take-out menu in a new space opening next door, Bobby wants his customers to know the same attention is paid to the foods they’re taking home to their families as the dishes they eat inside his restaurant. “You can experience Herban Market here and that’s cool,” he says, “but I want people to experience Herban when they’re in their homes. I want them to experience Herban when they’re in their office, when they’re at a picnic. To me, that’s a win. I want people to experience it in all different ways.”
It’s clear that for Chef Bobby, Herban Market is a perfect partnership at this stage in his career. “You’ve gotta pinch yourself,” he laughs, “because you’re like, ‘How is this even possible?’”