Coming in to is like having dinner at a friend’s home: simple, good food, fresh flowers and a cozy setting.
And that is just the way chef Chad Burns and his wife, Sharon, the co-owners of the new farm-to-table restaurant, want it.
“We don’t really have customers here,” states Chad. “We have guests and we treat them as such.”
The couple’s warm relationship with their guests and their love of farm-fresh food has its roots in the genesis of their relationship, which began back when Sharon was a student at the University of Michigan.
In the summer between her junior and senior years, Sharon came to work at Tapawingo in Ellsworth, MI. This was Chad’s hometown, and he had worked at the famous estate restaurant since middle school.
“It was like a family’s camp, on a lake,” explains Sharon. “And this guy turned it into this incredible restaurant. It really formed us, and it was the original farm-to-table restaurant.”
After graduation, Sharon returned to Tapawingo but after a year or so there she and Chad decided they wanted to move back to her native Massachusetts.
The pair worked at various restaurants in the area, including a long stint for Chad at Michael Schlow’s award-winning restaurant, Radius. Sharon began focusing her talents on desserts and worked as a pastry chef under Lee Napoli at both Anago and .
In 2003, Chad moved on to help open Great Bay Restaurant in Kenmore Square. Shortly thereafter, Sharon left the restaurant world to stay home with their newborn son; a second son was born a couple of years later.
With two small children at home, Chad decided he needed better hours so he transitioned to running the restaurant at the . From there, he moved to the in Norton (a PGA golf course) where he remained for six years.
“I think what [Chad] learned there was more of the spreadsheet aspect,” states Sharon. “Everything there is very tidy, very documented so everything is done in a very standardized way. He really learned the business end.”
Armed with this knowledge, Chad and Sharon had been looking for a place of their own for several years. While Chad has always brought his basic “Midwestern style” to his cooking, even at the country clubs, he and Sharon wanted to bring their total vision of a true farm-to-table restaurant to life in their own establishment.
They first looked in their hometown of Needham.
“That was during that very short period of time when there were absolutely no places available in Needham,” Sharon recalls. “So we broadened our search a little.”
It would be over a year before they would be able to bring Farmstead Table into existence, in the space formerly occupied for 18 years by India Paradise.
Though the bright décor and homey touches are a far cry from the rich velvet and dark reds of the previous occupants, very few structural changes were made to the restaurant. The Burns added a small bar topped with a custom-made counter that, like the tables, was made from repurposed wooden doors. Lightweight metal chairs and stools and bright green farm-style chairs seat 48 guests throughout the restaurant.
With the help of decorators Urit Chaimovitz and Lynn Faitelson, Sharon created an interior that is both homespun and whimsical without being kitschy. She adds fresh touches each day from the Burns’ own home garden, including berry cuttings and flowers that provide pops of color throughout the dining room.
Chad’s cousin created the large painting of dandelions that greets guests when they enter Farmstead Table, and soon a quilt made by his mother will adorn the wall behind the bar.
The food is an even greater reflection of the fact that the Burns see their restaurant as being “all about relationships,” including their connection to their vendors.
“It’s so important,” says Sharon. “We know what [the vendors] are going through, we understand what they’ve done and gone through to get it--their products--to us here.”
These products include tomatoes picked just the day before, then dropped off by the girlfriend of the owner of Second Nature Farm, who was on her way to her internship at the MFA. They also include seafood from Cape Ann Fresh Catch. A whole sea bass that Chad couldn’t wait to break down was part of a recent delivery from this North Shore community supported fishery.
“The food is inspired by what is fresh and local,” says Chad. “I go about my day creating things on a whim. I kind of let the produce tell me what it wants me to do with it, from season to season. I just like making people happy!”
Farmstead Table is located at 71 Union St. in Newton Centre. Reservations for dinner at Farmstead Table may be made through OpenTable. A lunch service will begin in early September.