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Foodie: Farm to Table 2.0

Foodie: Farm to Table 2.0


Two chefs bring fine dining and next-gen farming together under one roof

At the intersection of Larimer and 24th Streets in Denver, you’ll find something completely unexpected.

A fully functioning farm.

That’s also a restaurant.

And a local market.

That’s where I met Head Chef Austin Breedlove and Sous Chef Chase Meneely. Calling them two peas in a pod wouldn’t be entirely accurate. They each bring their own skill set to the creation of their farm-to-table menu that includes salads, soups, and handhelds, complementing each other perfectly. The deep, mutual respect these two have for each other emanates from them, which makes it seem as if they have been working together for years when, in reality, it’s only been a few short months.

Austin serves as the head chef and co-owner of this one-of-a-kind place. His brother, Davis, started hydroponics in his garage because he wanted his wife to have the freshest and most nutritious lettuce during the winter months, as it’s her favorite food. That idea morphed into Farm & Market’s fully functioning hydroponics farm that sits about two dozen steps from where Austin, Chase, and I talk in the restaurant section.

Growing up with busy parents, Austin taught himself to cook. He created meals for himself and his family. He, however, ended up working in payroll with a tax insurance company, which didn’t satisfy him the way cooking did. He ended up attending culinary school for four years, and he admits to sneaking in fresh herbs from his brother’s garage garden. His culinary instructors couldn’t believe how much flavor the herbs had, and the seeds of an idea began to grow.

Davis, Austin’s brother, wrote the code for the entire farm. Compared to a conventional farm, herbs and lettuce grown through hydroponics use 90% less water and yield two times more produce due to the fact that it grows to maturity faster. Temperature, CO2, and lights are all controlled. The plants never get stressed and go into survival mode, which can greatly impact both flavor and nutrition. Additionally, a controlled environment means no pesticides ever need to be used. You also never have the chance of an outbreak that commonly creates recalls of bagged lettuce at grocery stores. The farm-to-table turnaround time is fewer than 12 hours and sometimes fewer than five minutes if an ingredient starts to run out. With all this in place, Austin knew it was time to find himself a sous chef to co-create the salad-focused menu.

When Chase Meneely saw the position open up, he knew that Farm & Market was where he wanted to be. Unlike Austin’s formal education, Chase’s education stems from his 18 years of experience in the industry. His cooking began at an early age. A self-described “picky eater,” his mom told him to make his own food. Through TiVo and DVR, American chef Anthony Bourdain became Chase’s instructor in the culinary arts. Chase admits the core of his vast knowledge can be traced back to Food Network’s Good Eats. With an “I don’t know how; please teach me, so I can do that” mentality, Chase started out washing dishes and moved his way up the ranks, eventually landing in fine dining. He’s even been on two cooking competition shows. The rounds he participated in? Salads.

With his destiny perhaps foreshadowed, Chase interviewed for — and landed — the sous chef job at Farm & Market. The menu of eight salads, four soups, and four handhelds represents a partnership that values feedback, openness, and precision. With fine dining concepts in place, where every ingredient is measured to the gram, Chase and Austin have created a menu where salads are more than the crunchy water element ordered as an afterthought. Each ingredient offers its own unique flavor profile. Chase compares working with the farm ingredients to working with Lego. “You’re given elements to play with, and the possibilities are endless; you can build all sorts of things and don’t have to build what’s on the box,” he says with a grin.

What does the research and design look like? Taking anywhere from two days to two weeks, Chase and Austin keep a journal to track their recipe ideas and development. And because they both know that any menu must be replicable by anyone on their kitchen staff, any adjustment made is recorded. With that in place, Chase can then train the staff to make the salads, which he confesses is one of the favorite parts of his job. That way, the chefs are able to change the narrative of having to be at the restaurant all of the time to ensure quality and consistency. The staff knows what they are doing. In fact, during the time we spent together, a steady flow of customers came through. Not once did Chase or Austin glance over their shoulder to see how things were going. Such is the confidence they have in themselves, their training, and their staff.

Farm & Market sits on the cutting edge of what farm-to-table can, and maybe should, be. The high-quality ingredients can often only be found in (and are reserved for) fine dining. Here, you can look through plexiglass and see them growing. The future is here. It’s on a city corner in Denver.  

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