I would say that chromatography first (if needed) is common. Since recrystallization was performed first, I assume this was done for one (or two) reason. Generally, one absorbs their material on the chromatography column for best results. This usually done with a solvent with low elution power. However, since chromatography was not done first, it may mean the solvent cannot dissolve the sample very well without using a large volume. That would degrade the chromatography. Another method is to dissolve the sample in a larger amount of solvent, add a fraction of absorbent, evaporate the solvent away, and add the absorbed material to the column.
If I remember correctly, benzoin is quite insoluble. Its insolubility can interfere with recrystallization if it will begin to crystallize before all of the benzil can be crystallized, even if a polar solvent were used. If most of the benzoin is first removed, the sample can be dissolved more easily and applied to the column.
If you try to chromatograph directly, the benzoin can interfere with application to the column. If the sample is a suspension, a poorer chromatography will be likely as the benzil may not have been completely dissolved and the insoluble material will now become a stationary phase. Using a larger amount of solvent will also degrade the chromatography or if the preabsorption method were used, increases the amount of time required for the operation.