Ever since he hit town from the Bay Area, Chef Christian Phernetton has been a culinary star in the Boise foodie firmament. He created quite a buzz with his eclectic and innovative dishes when he was the executive chef at Camel’s Crossing in Hyde Park and with the short-lived Epek. Most recently, he has expanded the concept of “farm-to-table.” His new venture is The Chef’s Table, a ready-to-eat meal delivery service that features fresh plant-based ingredients that he grows on one of his two farms. The food is “clean” with ingredients just-picked from the farm, and packaged in sustainable, reusable containers. His menus reflect the culinary creativity that is Phernetton’s signature style.
“He’s amazing!” declared Mara McMillen. “He’s an artist, which is kind of a strange thing to say about a chef, but the flavors he creates out of such simple ingredients is amazing. When you taste it, it’s like you’re in a five-star restaurant.” McMillen, president of McMillen Jacobs Associates, an engineering and construction firm, orders food delivery every week when she’s not on the road. “I don’t eat well—I’m busy, I’m stressed and I travel a lot,” she said. “I often work until 7 o’clock at night and the last thing I want to do when I get home is cook. Christian’s taken the thought process out of it. I don’t have to pick the meals up, I don’t have to mix the ingredients and cook them. He’s taken away every excuse not to eat clean and healthy. So it’s kind of a no-brainer to me.”
Phernetton creates a new menu each week, which he emails to clients, then harvests the crops, prepares the meals and delivers them the next day. He offers four lunches and four dinners that are plant-based with the option of adding an animal protein. All meals are sugar-, gluten- and dairy-free. “The idea is that the menu is never stagnant and is hyper-seasonal,” he said. “Ultimately, when you cook with the freshest ingredients, you have the best-tasting food, and that’s my edge.”
Lunches typically are a salad of some sort, chock-full of fresh greens, and range from Crunchy Thai Slaw Salad to Muffaletta Salad. Dinner menus have included:
Sesame Veggie Bean Thread Noodle Salad – “Delicious bean thread needles served with a sesame-ginger garlic sauce, along with garlic sautéed mushrooms, carrots and crunchy water chestnuts. Topped with a mélange of black sesame and peanuts.” Can add beef.
Cuban-style Picadillo – “This traditional Cuban dish is the epitome of comfort food: a fragrant, spiced tomato sauce coats tender lentils and is served with sweet currants and green olives. Served with rice on the side and a garnish of pickled red cabbage.” Served with cumin and garlic black beans with option of pork.
The magic of meals from The Chef’s Farm begins at the farm itself. Phernetton is emphatic about the necessity of farming in a way that improves the soil. “My style of farming is very bio-intensive,” he explained. “I don’t use mechanized tools. I don’t have a tractor, and I don’t till. In mechanized farming, when the farmer plows and plants, the rows can be as long as 100 feet and it changes depending on the type of crop he plants.
“I work to establish the beds, meaning that I build up the soil. My rows are 50 feet long and 30 inches wide. They are uniform and that never changes with crop rotation. So it’s regenerative. I dress the rows with compost and lay wood chips down in between the rows to act as mulch and a weed suppressor. It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but year after year it improves the soil. And when the soil is nutrient-dense, you get nutrient-dense crops.”
Phernetton operates two small-scale farms: one in Dry Creek, which produces cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage, and one in Hammett near Glenns Ferry which produces greens, root vegetables, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. If he can’t grow it himself, he will source locally—after inspecting farm operations to ensure they meet his rigorous standards. He sources chicken from Raw Life Farms, and pork and beef from Malheur Farms.
In the near future, Phernetton plans to expand into the Wood River Valley, and to produce salsa, pestos and jams in addition to meals.
Phernetton began his career trajectory as a teenager, working for restaurateur Peter Schott in downtown Boise. He went on to chef in top restaurants in New York City, D.C. and Chicago before landing in the Bay Area, where he realized that micro-farming was what sparked his passion. “When I first moved back to Idaho, my goal was to start a farm,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention to get back into restaurant work but less than a year later I owned one!” Now that he has divested himself from ownership of a brick and mortar establishment, he is pursuing his dream with The Chef’s Farm.
“This is what I believe in,” Phernetton said. “If I can feed 40 or 50 people with fresh, nutrient-dense food using creative flavors from one acre of land, think where we would be if more people did that! Eating food isn’t respected or celebrated the way it used to be. Food needs to be number one in our lives, because if we’re consuming nutrient-dense food, everything will fall into place. That kind of food gives you everything you need!”
The meals Phernetton produces reflect his passion. “Every dish you get from him, you know for sure that it’s made with love,” smiled Mara McMillen. “That’s the artist part of Christian. He has to be passionate or he couldn’t produce food like this. When you taste it, you feel the love that went into it.”