The health-conscious restrictions of Farmer’s Table have only bolstered this chef’s creativity
Chef Michael Schenk has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany, been in the Food Network spotlight, and overseen the New York Marathon’s Pasta Feast, to list a few career highlights.
Along the way, he realized a passion for adapting recipes with the philosophy that “the integrity of the food needs to shine.” That brought him to Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton, where there’s no dairy (butter, milk, cream), deep fryer or microwave used. The beef is grass-fed, the chickens are raised with no antibiotics, steroids or hormones, and the seafood is sustainable. All fruits and vegetables are organic.
He’s still learning. “There’s still an undiscovered world out there,” he says. “More and more products and techniques [are] still being discovered—Like sous-vide cooking.” And his favorite current kitchen helper is the Cryovac machine. “If I had to make a kimchi quickly—this usually takes a few days—we have a Cryovac machine. If I put it under pressure, I get the effect within minutes.”
Favorite thing about cooking in South Florida?
“I’m a lover of seafood, so just being so close to the water is like the seafood being everywhere. This is probably—with the beach—my favorite part of Florida.”
What was the toughest non-vegetarian thing for you to replicate in your kitchen?
“The hardest part was when it comes to a good vegan meatball. It took me quite a bit [of work], since we don’t use a deep fryer. There’s a difference between producing something with the right flavor, profile, density—something that gives you the pleasure of eating the meatball. We have it on the menu now, and it gives you the same pleasure. It’s very popular.”
To start moving a home kitchen in the same direction as Farmer’s Table, what’s the first step?
“Take a close look at every bag and box in your pantry. It’s unbelievable, the little details that are missed which could make a possibly great food not that great for your body. A single ingredient from phosphate or … corn syrup is in so many things. Without understanding those two important components, you will not be able to shop in the right direction.”
What helps you get ready for the intensified holiday season?
“I wouldn’t put something on the menu that takes an incredible amount of attention. One of my favorite things is a great barbecue. You can be set by marinating the meat a day or two in advance. Prepare the salad in advance. Besides the meat, you can prepare everything in advance for a meal like that.”