Locally sourced and prepared. This is exactly what Florida Food & Farm is all about — and it just happens to be the tagline for Aioli, a casual restaurant in West Palm Beach that offers both a dine-in and a takeout experience. Home to Chef Michael Hackman and his wife, Melanie, Aioli provides an impressive line-up of freshly prepared soups, salads, sandwiches and sides — and it quickly became a favorite of the Florida Food & Farm team when it opened its doors.
Now, four years later, Chef Michael Hackman continues to perfect his craft and, in doing so, has gained a loyal following — enough so that he opened a second location in downtown West Palm Beach earlier this year.
1) Tell us about your first kitchen experience:
The first professional kitchen that I worked at was the Flagler Steak House at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach.
2) What’s your drink of choice?
Pumphouse Dawn Patrol Coffee or local craft beers.
3) What about secret talents? Do you have anything that you’re hiding from us?
I’m a deep thinker and a great conversationalist.
4) Do you have any advice for those looking to become a chef?
Continuously read and develop your palate. Travel and eat at as many different places as possible. Find what cuisine really interests you and start there.
5) As we move through summer and into “the season,” what are you most looking forward to ?
The rush of being busy and the events. The culinary scene has really grown in this area. There is a ton of talent. I love being a part of the “chef community.”
6) Tell us about some of the local farms that you work with.
We work with Holman’s Harvest and Swank Farm in Loxahatchee, and Pontano in Boynton Beach.
7) When did you start working with local farms, and why do you think it’s important?
I worked with local farms prior to opening Aioli. It is a little bit more work, and it’s not always cost-effective; however, I believe that supporting local businesses is crucial to the continued growth of our community — not only to reinvest back into the local economy but also from an environmental stance. We leave a much smaller carbon footprint by sourcing from local farms. By utilizing produce in season, we are also making more-conscious decisions for our health.
8) Who has helped you get to the place you are now?
My wife Melanie. She is my constant support; without her, I would be lost. Also my daughters, who take care of me and love me continuously.
9) Tell us about your new restaurant in downtown West Palm Beach.
How is it different from your first location? The downtown location for Aioli is a more streamlined version of the original South End location. We cater to the local business clientele. We also have extended our hours to include Saturdays to support the growing amount of residents in downtown.
10) Why should we love the restaurant, and what are you doing there that’s truly unique to the restaurant and to you as a chef?
We have a full-blown Sour Dough Bakery in the South End location. It definitely sets us apart from any other café locally. You should love Aioli because it’s like being at home. There is a warmth that starts with the incredible crew that we have working every day with us. We have cultivated a community and built a following. The food is simple; however, it’s executed with care and we use the best possible local ingredients. Everything is made from scratch, and you can definitely taste the difference. Most chefs don’t bake bread or start their day at 3 a.m. I do.
11) Is there anything on your agenda that we should know about?
Continuing to build what we have created. This past season, we grew into the wholesale bread business and have delved into the challenges that come with growth.
12) Shoutout — Is there a little guy that you want to tell the world about?
Lani from Avenue Pottery. We have commissioned her to create custom plates for us. Think of it like a canvas for your art. She is an awesome local business that we love to support!