“Food-for-you food can be good food.” Paula Szczepanek, owner and head chef at Farmacy Grill, smiles as she sets a plate of Belgian waffles with South Texas rhubarb compote on the table. “I want clients to come in and enjoy elevated dishes made from local foods.”
Szczepanek relies on her instinct and impeccable culinary palate to infuse dynamic flavors into each dish — waves of sweetness, bitterness, acidity and umami with every forkful. Oxtail from Boarri Craft Meats is slowly braised in wine and balsamic vinegar to create a marmalade that Szczepanek serves in a marrow bone. Next, scratch-made fettuccine with eggs from Edelen Farms and melt-in-your-mouth lamb ragu. Then, a show-stopping honey-mustard glazed Duroc pork belly over sautéed sweet potato greens from Terra Madre Mini Farm.
Szczepanek’s story is like one of her dishes — inspiring and delightful. A native of Maryland, Szczepanek opened her first restaurant before ever having set foot in a commercial kitchen. After five years of growing her business, she relocated to New York to study at the Culinary Institute of America. It was there that she was introduced to the concept of cooking with locally grown food by Alice Waters and others in Napa Valley. “That really solidified my love of using local ingredients,” she said.
Szczepanek moved to Corpus Christi to assume the role of head chef at CCISD in 2010, the same year Corpus Christi had the highest rates of juvenile diabetes in the country. With a motto of “Let’s feed our kids well,” she brought chefs into local schools and scaled up the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Now at Farmacy Grill, Szczepanek creates an atmosphere reflective of her passion to design delectable plates while supporting local producers. As she aptly put it, “I can’t make food I don’t believe in.”
Szczepanek finds creative ways to incorporate seasonal ingredients into her menu that are both unexpected and exquisite. She serves her half-pound grass-fed burger from Knolle Farm & Ranch topped with Terra Madre lettuce and grilled peppers with butternut squash ketchup. Even the bun is locally sourced from USS Chefs, just down the street. This mile-high burger is served with house-pickled okra and onions to give it a kick of acidity — a perfect contrast to the rich queso panela cheese, also from Knolle Farms.
Farmacy Grill is one passionate woman’s vision of how good local food can be. With each season offering a unique delicacy, we’ll be back to enjoy Szczepanek’s offerings again and again … and again.
213 S. Chaparral St.