Farm-to-Table Evolution

Culinary director of Farmer's Table, Michael Schenk, shares his perspective on the changing farm-to-table landscape.

A little over five years ago, Farmer’s Table opened and transformed the Boca Raton food scene with its brand of healthy, farm-fresh cuisine. Today, it continues to prove that when food comes from clean, sustainable sources, it can be as delicious as its deep-fried or butter-laden counterparts. Recently it debuted a new menu that emphasizes more vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options as well as daily specials that allow culinary director Michael Schenk to get creative with produce from the on-site garden. Here, Schenk shares his perspective on the changing farm-to-table landscape and his culinary convictions.

PBI: How do you think farm-to-table and healthy eating has evolved over the years?
Schenk: Millennials are starting to live a little healthier and are more conscious about what they’re putting into their bodies. Farmer’s Table plays a tremendous role in that. Since we are a semi-casual place, we make dishes that are still favorites on everybody’s list, like meatballs or braised short ribs, but that automatically—not even as an option—provide the customer with what’s better [for him or her]. We teach people that they can simply start a lifestyle and there’s no real sacrifice because it can be just as good.
How do you make food delicious without butter, which other restaurants rely so heavily on?

The sources have always been there, but I think they have been very underutilized at other restaurants where fat is the flavor carrier. We flavor or thicken our sauces in a natural way, such as braising with vegetables, using organic superfoods like acai and pomegranate powder, and working with fresh herbs and greens from our garden. It’s essentially not a challenge at all to accomplish a good flavor profile because nature provides us with everything we need. I haven’t missed heavy cream or butter a single bit since I started here.

Describe your food philosophy.

Farmer’s Table Tuna Poke

If it looks great and tastes fantastic it goes on the plate. [I enjoy] being provided with an ingredient and finding all of the different possibilities to create with it, and to give the customer something that’s still recognizable but has a surprising twist. I always say we have to treat food just like all of the other industries treat their products. You want the new iPhone every year. I don’t ever want to stand still and say it’s a great dish, so let’s leave it.

What are the top items to try from the new menu? 
Our poké tuna with rice noodles is outstanding. It provides such a powerful flavor and yet it’s so lean and clean. I put quite a lot of work behind the ramen bowl because it’s very important that the broth and all the ingredients complement each other. Then another favorite is the Root to Stem salad, with watermelon, a crunch from the toasted pumpkin seeds, tabbouleh, and roasted butternut squash.

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