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Swank Table Season Heats Up as Master Chefs Take Center Stage

Celebrated chefs from New Orleans, Nashville, North Carolina, Detroit, Maine, and South Florida headline Swank Table's current season.
Celebrated chefs from New Orleans, Nashville, North Carolina, Detroit, Maine, and South Florida headline Swank Table's current season. Photo courtesy of Papp Photo
Swank Farms has been providing high-quality, fresh vegetables to restaurants across South Florida since 1996. Jodi Swank and her husband Darrin opened the 20-acre hydroponic farm in Loxahatchee to grow pesticide-free, all-natural produce. Today the farm produces more than 350 varieties of vegetables, edible flowers, and microgreens, and the Swanks invite hungry members of the community to taste their products at farm-to-table meals during Swank Table.

The annual series began in 2011 when the Swanks asked their friend and supporter chef Dean Max to cook lunch on the farm for 70 people. After that feast, locals began requesting more opportunities to enjoy meals using Swank-grown ingredients, and Swank Table subsequently expanded its programming each year.

The current season is the farm’s most ambitious to date, featuring chefs from across the nation cooking a variety of cuisines. When all is said and done, Swank will have hosted 14 dinners and 4 brunches, prepared by more than 70 celebrated chefs from South Florida, New Orleans, Nashville, Detroit, Maine, and the Carolinas.

The Sunday brunches and dinners feature chefs from Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, while most of the Saturday dinners are reserved for the Master Chef program, which started last year and brings chefs from around the country to showcase their cuisines in South Florida.

“We encourage the chefs to use as much of the farm’s products as possible when they put their menus together,” Jodi Swank says. “Anything we don’t grow is sourced locally from our partner farms and preferred sponsors.”
click to enlarge The current Swank series includes 14 dinners and 4 brunches. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAPP PHOTO
The current Swank series includes 14 dinners and 4 brunches.
Photo courtesy of Papp Photo
Guests are treated to an authentic farm-to-table experience, dining outdoors beneath a rustic, 8,500-square-foot pole barn. A local band plays live acoustic music as attendees are served a drink, followed by an appetizer paired with Champagne.

On Sundays, the event continues with a Q&A session led by Darrin Swank, who explains the couple's farming methods and answers inquiries from curious diners.

“We use this as an opportunity to teach the community about their local food systems,” Jodi Swank explains. “It’s important to remind people that food comes from a farm and not a bag and that there’s an actual farmer growing it by hand. It’s about education as much as entertainment.”

There’s no shortage of entertainment amid the multi-course meal. Local brewers pour craft beers, a sommelier pairs wines for each dish, and the Swanks lead tours of the grounds so guests can see how a working farm operates. Each event raises money for a different local charity, and a representative from the benefiting organization speaks about their cause and suggests ways to get involved. Much like the farmers themselves, the vibe is warm and homegrown. Diners depart sated and feeling like members of the Swank family.

“I like seeing our repeat customers, and I love meeting our new guests that come for the first time,” Jodi Swank says. “Our first Sunday dinner had so many new faces — and they were blown away. It’s exciting to see people leave happy.”

Each dinner or brunch centers on a unique concept, from regional and national cuisines (New Orleans and Mexico, for instance) to holidays (International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day) to fan-favorite themes like White Party and '70s Throwback — the latter of which invites attendees to get disco dirty on the (temporary) dancefloor. This year also marks the debuts of Flock of Lambs (the Swanks have begun raising their own) and Mambo Italiano, wherein Jodi will pay homage to her Italian heritage.
click to enlarge Swank Table's White Party, a fan-favorite theme, will return this year. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PAPP PHOTO
Swank Table's White Party, a fan-favorite theme, will return this year.
Photo courtesy of Papp Photo
“We keep a lot of themes that people love, but we like to change it up,” she explains. “We did a Chinese New Year several times, but this year we’re doing different things because we don’t ever want to get boring. Eating with us should be an exciting experience.”

This Saturday, January 11, marks the season's first Master Chef dinner, served up by five New Orleans chefs. Subsequent Master Chef events will bring cooks from Raleigh-Durham, Nashville, Maine, and Detroit.

As she navigates her ninth Swank Table season, Jodi Swank says the biggest lesson she has learned is the importance of hiring talented staff to keep the show running. Team members become more like family members, returning year after year to keep the Swank Table fires burning.

“More and more farms all over the world are trying to do what we do. But Palm Beach is so small that we’ll always be the best at what we do here," Swank says. "It’s a lot of work, but it’s just love coming out of here.”

Swank Table Dinner at Swank Specialty Produce. 14311 N Rd., Loxahatchee; 561-202-5648;
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