Forget the 100-Mile Diet—some Canadian chefs are doing their foraging 100 ft from the kitchen door. Fairmont Hotel chefs were looking for fresh stuff from local farmers eons before the 100-mile cliché was coined. But now some of them are taking the concept to new heights—literally—with everything from herb gardens to beehives up on the roof.
Executive Chef David Garcelon pioneered regional cooking in the Rockies and is now leading the charge among the downtown towers of Hogtown. In summer ‘08, he, along with local consultant gardener Marjorie Mason, redesigned and planted all kinds of stuff in his rooftop garden at the The Fairmont Royal York. Along with chives and horseradish, he planted alpine strawberries, five kinds of eggplant and even his own cabernet franc grapevines. I guess the chef thought he might face some pollination problems on the 13th floor, so he plunked three beehives on the roof, too, and now you can literally have local Royal York honey with your afternoon tea.
“I have a white suit already,” quipped Garcelon, when asked about the 136 kg (300 lb) of honey that will be extracted in the hotel kitchens with the help of local beekeepers.
When I poked my head out of my suite at The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, BC, this summer, I found myself on a similar green roof: chef Shannon Wrightson’s lush potager. The meticulously manicured beds make a beautiful home for bees, ensure the presence of fresh herbs, flowers and vegetables on hotel plates year round, and give budding chefs a hands-on experience with food from the ground up. And the honey? In true west coast fashion, the hotel bar is shaking up stylish, honey-infused cocktails.
It’s a similar story at The Fairmont Algonquin in New Brunswick, but the country bees on this roof may be the happiest, surrounded as they are by flower gardens, not concrete towers.
Garcelon told me his industrious livestock has been spotted buzzing skyward from the street outside Union Station.
What’s next? Pigs in the parking lot? He’s thinking chickens.