When you step into a restaurant, the last thing you may expect to see is a fully functioning hydroponic garden, but that’s exactly what customers find when they step into The Chef’s Table.
First opened in September 2019 as an expansion of All-Ways Catering, The Chef’s Table prides itself on its quality ingredients, transparency and sense of community.
Jacob Fierly is a self-taught chef and the founder of both All-Ways Catering and The Chef’s Table.
Satisfied customer Howard Kirkland remarked on Fierly’s abilities as a chef.
“What strikes me about (Fierly) is that he seems to understand ingredients and how they work. It’s not just ‘here’s the recipe’ - he understands why you put certain things in recipes in certain proportions to make it taste great,” Kirkland said.
Take, for example, the seemingly odd jalapeño waffle. Kirkland said he tried it on a dare and was blown away by how good it was and how the flavors balanced each other out.
As far as menu recommendations, Fierly raved about the quinoa salad, crab cakes and brussel sprouts. Kirkland noted that he’s making a point to try everything on the menu and has never had anything bad to eat there.
To Fierly, his restaurant is more than just a business; it’s like a family.
“We want to hire and employ people in the restaurant realm and make it better than other places. The restaurant realm is a very unsavory world with very long and hard hours. Our goal is just to try to take care of people better,” Fierly said.
“My wife and I also have a huge passion for adoption and mission work. Our biggest long term goal is to start hosting fundraisers for other people: to provide people with a place to gather, to provide the food and then hopefully have people donate towards a cause,” Fierly said.
Fierly’s restaurant and business has only been growing lately, including his new in-house hydroponic garden. He said he had been playing around with hydroponics at home for a while and decided to implement them in the restaurant about three months ago. The garden provides the restaurant with a source of fresh herbs, including cilantro, parsley, basil, dill and spearmint.
Hydroponic gardening is an alternative form of gardening that uses no soil. Instead, plants are grown in a solution of water and nutrients. Plants grown this way usually yield more, require less space and conserve resources.
The Chef’s Table’s hydroponic garden is right out in the open, in the front of the dining room.
“When he started the herb garden in the restaurant I was like ‘okay that’s just cool.’ It’s not only that it’s cool because he’s growing his own herbs, but he’s not growing them in some back room somewhere, he’s put them out front so people can see exactly what they’re doing,” Kirkland said. “You can watch them come right into the dining room with scissors and clip off something — you’re getting it about as fresh as it can be.”
Fierly also has ambitions to expand his gardening efforts. He mentioned that there is a courtyard out front that — pending approval from the landlord — he would love to take advantage of for growing tomatoes, lettuce, squash and more, with hopes of one day turn it into a community garden.
“I’ve always loved the idea of farm to table and locally sourced foods. We had the space to put these hydroponic boxes out front so we did,” Fierly said.
Fierly also noted how hard it is to rely on locally grown food.
“There's not a lot of locally sourced products that we are able to utilize. At one point we were going to use some local beef for our burgers but we couldn’t get enough to source our burgers,” Fierly said.
Although the restaurant isn’t utilizing any other locally sourced products right now, the goal is ultimately to have an almost completely locally sourced menu.
All in all, the restaurant aims to foster a sense of transparency and community. There is only a glass wall separating the kitchen and the dining room, so customers can truly watch the entire process of their food being made — from the hydroponic garden to the frying pan to their plates.
Kirkland spoke to how all of the components of the restaurant contribute to its enticing atmosphere.
“It gives people an added sense of understanding of the freshness of the food — if he’s taking that much care with just the herbs, how much care is he taking with everything else … and he has this huge glass between the dining room and the kitchen. He’s essentially inviting people to watch them work,” Kirkland said.
Fierly has goals to expand and create more restaurants that are themed around different concepts. While The Chef’s Table only serves breakfast and lunch, he would love to create more niche restaurants so he can specialize in certain types of foods and flavors.
“Our goal is just to always grow. And we want to grow our family, because that’s really what my employees are to me,” Fierly said.
The Chef’s Table is located on 911A Executive Park Dr. Its hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.