TT: Last summer you had a chef demo series. How did you decide to integrate that into your farm?
MS: We had been doing farm demos for years as crops came available. At the urging of our customers we took a chance and reached out to restaurants that were actually suggested to us by friends of the farm, such as Edible Boston and others, and we were shocked by the response. I think we expected 30, 40, or if we were lucky, maybe 50 people at most. Our first night we topped out at 400+ and ran out of food! Those numbers continued all summer, even on the final evening when we had a torrential down pour!
TT: As the demos were successful, you’ve decided to open a summer only restaurant. What inspired you to undertake this project?
MS: Well, based on last year’s success we wanted to up the game. I have attended several farm-to-table dinners and they are all wonderful. We wanted to make sure we had a little bread & circus in ours. We’re one of the oldest farms in New England, but we’re also a place where families create and foster their yearly traditions like apple picking, Christmas trees, etc. We wanted to work on creating another tradition with this restaurant. We want people to have their first dates here, come as a family, or maybe even propose on the post dinner hayride. We’re excited to create new memories and overwhelmed by the talent that will be cooking at Whim!
TT: Although the menus are secret, can you tell us some of the ingredients that you are growing at the farm?
MS: Well, first of all you’re not getting a single chef’s menu out of me. That is totally top secret. As far as product, we are primarily a fruit farm, but there are some surprises in-store this year, and for those items we don’t carry we’ll be working with the chefs to source locally.
TT: In addition to creating a unique restaurant, you’ve added a charity component to the dinners. Why did you choose to do so?
MS: We ask so much from our New England Chefs, and they so graciously donate their time. We thought it would make sense to honor them through getting behind the charities they are passionate about. We had nothing to do with the charity selection. Those charities were selected by the chefs because they are close to their heart.
TT: Will dinner literally be under the stars? Are there contingency plans for rain?
MS: We do have a large event tent so if it rains we’re fine, and tables will be both under the tent and outside the tent. Seating is communal and I just read somewhere that communal seating is no longer “hip” which is ridiculous. This all goes back to experience. I think meeting new people and fostering community will always be hip!
TT: Finally, can you tell us a little bit more about Smolak Farms?
MS: Boy did you open a can of worms. You really want me to rant? Well, we’re located in North Andover, Massachusetts, and we try to combine agriculture, education, and entertainment to make the farm an experience. Parts of the farm date back 300 years. We have great daytime kids program, we hold birthday parties for children, we have a farm stand and bakery and make wonderful baked goods, and the entire farm is getting a facelift this year with a new animal interaction area. We host weddings, we grow amazing produce and we’re just the perfect way to spend a day or now with Whim Restaurant an evening! I love this farm! It has been part of my family for a very long time, and I plan on always learning, growing and using the land as a vehicle for growth, education and individual and community experience.
To learn more about this restaurant, please visit their website.