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Farm to Table X

James Beard-nominated Table X creates modern American cuisine with ingredients from its onsite garden.

Written by Austen Diamond

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Table X   |  Austen Diamond

Hand-thrown earthenware plates serve as blank canvases for Mike Blocher and Nick Fahs’ always-evolving menu at Table X. 

Nightly, the duo, chefs and co-owners, adorn these plates with hyper-seasonal modern American cuisine. Their dishes are intricate, edible artwork. Menu descriptions read like poems, detailed with descriptions of garden-fresh vegetables grown on site. 

The ingredients in each of the flavorful concoctions are enticing, prepared with culinary refinement. Confit celeriac, beet molasses, lemon verbena mascarpone, coconut-curried leeks, winter squash nage, smoked sunchoke — the list goes on.

“You get to a point as a chef where, really, the only thing that matters is the quality of the ingredients,” Fahs says. “We want to showcase the best product we can get. And by growing it, we ensure that.”

Chef Mike Blocher builds pork broth with delicately cooked fungi sourced from Intermountain Gourmet Mushrooms.

Photo: Austen Diamond

Photo: Austen Diamond

Located in the quiet Salt Lake City neighborhood of Millcreek, Table X is buzzy and hip. A dining room with tall vaulted ceilings gives way to cozy leather booths and chic interior design that feels both intimate and spacious. The chefs’ culinary excellence in action takes center stage with an open kitchen concept. 

Tucked behind the bustling kitchen is the garden dining room, with its long 16-person table, a golden X embossed on the top. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views of a French kitchen garden, a potager, with 13 raised beds.

During peak growing season, about 70 percent of the produce Table X uses comes from this garden. That’s some 1,000 pounds of vegetables annually, but not necessarily your run-of-the-mill zucchini or corn. The restaurant’s full-time gardener, Gwen Orchard, grows interesting produce to dazzle patrons’ palettes and ignite the chefs’ imaginations. 

“We focus on growing unique produce,” says Blocher, pointing out a red mountain spinach, then currant bushes, cardoons, spruce tips, hibiscus and hop vines. The two joke that they’re chefs with a garden, not gardeners who chef. 

“We work with what’s available, when it is available,” Blocher says. “With that, we create our own limitations and that makes us better chefs and adds value to the customers.”

As such, dining at Table X offers a totally different flavor journey in various seasons. February’s palette is rich and hearty, while August is imbued with fresh, fragrant vegetables.

“We have the garden to spur our creative drive,” Fahs says. “If you have access to fresh ingredients coming out of the ground, it’s like a playground.”

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Photo: Austen Diamond

The constant stream of organic produce has indeed ignited the chefs’ creative juices as they use classic techniques to create progressive, dynamic dishes. Their efforts have been noted widely. 

In February 2020, Blocher and Fahs (and former co-owner and chef David Barboza) were named James Beard Award Semifinalists for Best Chef in the Mountain region. Fahs describes the nomination as “the highest achievement that seems attainable” for U.S. chefs. “It’s gratifying, especially knowing what we’ve done here the past few years,” he says.

The chefs broke ground for Table X in March 2016. Back then, the space was an abandoned warehouse with a patch of dirt in the back, the building serving as the restaurant’s first blank canvas. 

They chose the location because of the ability to establish a garden, and Table X has become one of just a few restaurants in the state with onsite growing. The space also allowed the restaurant’s expansion with a downstairs bakery and cafe. 

The kitchen makes its own bread and butter — both now available for purchase — and lists its local producers, artisans and ranchers by name. Table X sources local goods from staples such as Christensen Farms, Snuck Farms, Morgan Valley Lamb, Jones Creek Beef and Keep It Real Vegetables, among others. 

“Almost every single thing that’s grown here makes it to the table at some point,” Blocher says. If it’s not fresh from the garden, it’s dried, canned, pickled or fermented. 

Blocher dons his chef coat and stands over the stove to showcase this firsthand. He builds in house-made pork broth with delicately cooked fungi sourced from Intermountain Gourmet Mushrooms. 

An earthenware bowl awaits as the pan is poured over Table X bread. He uses tweezers to add pickled green garlic and garlic scapes as the finishing touches. 

The dish is a solid representation of Table X’s world-influences and hyper-seasonal approach coming together. And Blocher’s modern presentation brings the plate — a blank canvas — to life.

In February 2020, Blocher and Fahs were named James Beard Award Semifinalists for Best Chef in the Mountain region.

Photo: Austen Diamond

Photo: Austen Diamond

Photo: Austen Diamond

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