A few years ago we started talking seriously about planting gardens on hotel grounds as a way of elevating the connection to food sourcing. Initially, the skeptics figured local growing was just a fad and that the upkeep would never pencil. Now, I look around and at nearly every hotel I visit there is some form, large or small, of a thriving kitchen garden supplying herbs and vegetables to our kitchens. Of course, no hotel will ever be able to supply all their produce needs with such an endeavor, but some are taking it beyond basil and into real production vegetables, honey from hives, and a year-round herbs.
Then, there is The Orlando JW Grande Lakes. First opened 10 years ago, the hotel had (and still does) a small garden as part of Melissa Kelly's Primo restaurant.
Recently, they have added a farm. Yes a farm. Huge, this plot of land next to the golf course is a full fledged specialty farm producing fruits and vegetables, as well as a fantastic event space. Now the chefs really have something to work with. Whisper Creek Farm.
Chef Brown uses this garden as a central message in all he does - Fresh and local food, passsionate curation for the benefit of JW guests, and a real teaching field for the hotel associates to learn how things are grown. In the short time the farm garden has been up, countless groups have selected the site for BBQ's, opening receptions, and special events. Pretty cool place to be for sure.
In addition, he has bees, and these are not just ordinary bees. They are bees that get invited inside...as long as they behave themselves.
Just to be safe, Chris keeps them in a glass enclosed hive when they are part of a Honey Break during a meeting.
One honeycomb with a supply of guardian bees goes into the glass case, safely secured for both person and bee to enjoy.
Getting the bees to hand over some honey is not the easiest thing to do, but here the chefs trade in their whites for a little more protection. I must admit i was standing a good distance away when I took this shot, but a few bees found me and wanted to know if I was in any way part of the intrusion. Somehow I convinced them I was just an innocent bystander.
Whisper Creek Farm, JW Grande Lakes
Eating locally and local farming go hand in hand. Through efforst such as this, we may see even more opportunities to get closer to the source, and closer to the real passion for food. Really proud of what hotel chefs are doing to make this such a reality.
What's on YOUR plate today?