Restaurant Development & Design

WINTER 2014

restaurant development + design is a user-driven resource for restaurant professionals charged with building new locations and remodeling existing units.

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W I N T E R 2 0 1 4 • R E S T A U R A N T D E V E L O P M E N T + D E S I G N • 1 5 At the Chicago Palmer House Hilton hotel, the 25th-foor rooftop garden yields a variety of tomatoes, peppers, herbs, greens, peas and other produce — even honey from two beehives — for the main restaurant, Lockwood, as well as for the special menus in Lockwood Bar and Potter's Lounge. Throughout the season the garden uses hydroponic water towers to grow various types of lettuces, from arugula to mesclun greens. Every two weeks, Sara Gasbarra, founder of Verdura, a garden build-out and management company for restau- rant and other foodservice gardens, tends to the 84 raised boxes to make sure the plants are growing well and to do any necessary replanting. In the meantime, executive chef Joseph Rose and other hotel support staff manage, water and harvest the garden boxes on a daily basis. The boxes are self-irrigat- ing and set on a timer so they need less watering by hand and can weather any especially hot days. A beehive manager also comes by regularly to tend to the hives as well as the marigolds and sunfowers planted for the bees. Last growing season, which ran roughly from May to October, the hives produced a gallon of honey. In prepara- tion for the cold Chicago winter, the beehive manager will tightly wrap the hives in plastic to shield the hibernating bees from wind and the elements. This year, Rose plans to work with hotel management to build out more seating for special events and VIP cock- tail receptions in the garden. "Because of all the produce we grow, I rarely have to purchase any additional herbs or lettuce greens for the restaurant," says Rose, who showcases the other spe- cialty produce, such as Swiss chard and Japanese eggplant, in smaller portions for special menus and dinners. "I once made a large batch of lemon oil using extra lemon balm we grew, lemon zest and a little lemongrass for vinaigrettes." Due to the limitations on yield, the Palmer House uses produce from its on-site garden mainly for dinners at Lockwood, rather than for breakfast, lunch or room service for the 1,640 hotel rooms. Rose sources from lo- cal and organic farms to meet other bulk produce needs. Lockwood alone brought in $6 million last year in rev- enue, a number that gives a sense of the volumes involved. The kitchen has strict food safety plans for handling, cleaning, storing and preparing the garden's bounty, just like any other produce entering the hotel. Rose and his team use a natural vegetable wash for all the produce, since the staff use no chemicals or pesticides to maintain the garden. Fertilization sources come from hotel compost and other farm output. Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Riverpark, New York City Tom Colicchio's Riverpark restaurant in New York City went beyond a simple rooftop garden concept, partnering with the Alexandria Center for Life Science, a medical campus where the restaurant is located, to build the on-site Riverpark Farm, which grows vegetables and herbs. The farm, a temporary mobile setup using 7,000 milk crates, was constructed just outside the restaurant's main doors in 2011, a year after the restaurant opened. The not-just-hobby farm grows about 5,000 pounds of produce per growing season in the stackable vessels. Riverpark Farm's frst location at Alexandria Center's West Tower took up a 15,000-square-foot unused plot of land where development had stalled during the fnancial crisis. When construction resumed in the fall of 2012, the farm team was able to move the milk crate collection to the north side of the center's plaza in less than 24 hours. The crates make for the perfect fexible option for urban farming solution because they save space and staff can move them when necessary; they also have handles. When deciding what to grow, chef Sisha Ortúzar works with Zachary Pickens, the farm manager, to develop a plan for the season that will meet the restaurant's specifc needs. "Each winter season before we start to plant new seeds for spring, we meet with Zach to look at the last season's production and the favor of the crops we selected," Ortúzar says. "The selection becomes more in- formed each year, because we learn what makes sense for our climate and space and what makes sense for our menu. The chef team comes to the planning sessions with crop wish lists for new plants to try, and then we see how well they do for us and increase their production, or we remove it from the list." Last season, the farm produced a variety of more specialty types of common crops, like breen romaine, The Palmer House Hilton hotel's 25th- foor rooftop garden yields a variety of produce and honey from two beehives for the main res- taurant, Lockwood. Throughout the season the garden uses hydroponic water towers to grow various types of let- tuces, from arugula to mesclun greens.

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