Ken Myszka’s love for food is rooted in the eighth grade when he started cooking.
As his passion took deeper root, he graduated top of his class from the Culinary Institute of America in New York, and then cooked for the world-class Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado.
It was during his studies, for a hotel and restaurant management degree at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, that resilience and sustainability became key ingredients in his good food mission.
He moved back home to the Bloomington area in 2009. “I had $20,000 in savings and I bought 100 chickens, eight pigs and a greenhouse, and rented some land,” Myszka says.
An early adopter of the farm-to-fork concept in Illinois, his business plan relies on regenerative agricultural practices that focus on soil health, sustainable farm practices and raising the highest possible quality produce, meat and dairy.
“By my third year of farming, I had taken on management of a historic restaurant called Central Station. I now operate four restaurants and manage 100 acres of mixed species and diversified cropland,” he explains.
Today, Myszka at age 37 is the creative force behind the Epiphany Farms Hospitality Group, not to mention his expertise as a chef, farmer, environmentalist, entrepreneur and leader for his 109 employees.
“I try to inspire my team and everyone who comes to our restaurants to think differently about food,” Myszka says. “I’m extremely invested in our state, especially central Illinois. I’m excited about the opportunities that are available for the young agricultural community, and I want to influence as many people as possible so sustainable, regenerative agriculture can be a profitable business model.”
Here’s a quick taste of what Myszka’s group serves up at its restaurants and farm.
Epiphany Farms Restaurant
The first of the four restaurants established by Myszka, Epiphany Farms Restaurant is an elegant yet comfortable setting for a food journey. Each menu item comes with its own pedigree because of its local origins at Epiphany Farms. The staff knows the story behind each item.
Look for the “sharable” appetizers and desserts that one never knew existed, including the flourless foie candy bar made with peanut butter, chocolate ganache, candied orange, berries and coffee ice cream.
For namesake entries, look under From Our Farm and find such offerings as ditalini and cheese, mushroom risotto, braised pork shoulder, roasted chicken breast, and a pork feature.
Just upstairs from Epiphany Farms Restaurant is Anju Above with its fast, casual twist on such Asian favorites as sushi, hand rolls and noodle bowls. There’s also the option to dive into wings, salads and rustic pizza. It’s a warm, cozy spot to enjoy food and libations with friends and family.
Old Bank Restaurant & Bar
In the tiny town of Le Roy, Old Bank Restaurant & Bar features Midwestern favorites such as sandwiches, numerous burgers, meatloaf, steak and other classics.
The menu items playfully pay homage to the former bank building. Find steaks and baked chicken under the menu’s Banker’s Prime Interest; Old Bank stir fry and braised pork belly cavatappi under Foreign Investments; and a wad of sandwiches under the Sandwich Ledger.
Bakery & Pickle
The newest member in the hospitality group takes its inspiration from the secretive speakeasy days of the 1920s.
This is more of an experience than just sitting down for a meal. A liaison greets each guest and explains the evening’s offerings, starting first with canapés and then moving on to dinner.
Be warned, instead of needing a password to get in, an email or a text is necessary for a reservation.
Throughout the year, the farm hosts a range of events tied to planting, harvesting or celebrating. The staff also uses some farm techniques that may not be familiar to everyone and are worth learning about for a closer look at sustainable and regenerative agriculture methods.
Tours are available for a fee beginning in May, and the farm’s community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares are now available. The shares are like taking a subscription for a portion of the farm’s products throughout the growing season.