You 'Herb' it Right, Hotels Grow Veggies

With diners becoming health-conscious, hotels have their own kitchen gardens that chefs lovingly tend to.

Published: 30th April 2016 05:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th April 2016 05:18 AM   |  A+A-

BENGALURU: Competition brings the best out of an individual. The same is true of Bengaluru’s food scene. Every day a new restaurant, café or food joint opens with innovative concepts and quirky themes.

One such trend, which is extremely popular in West, is slowly gaining ground in the Indian food industry and city restaurants – ‘In-house culinary gardens’.

The in-house produce by the restaurants is a great way to give the dishes fresher flavours and engage diners. With different varieties of herbs such as thyme, rosemary, parsley and basil, fruits such as muskmelon and watermelon, vegetables such as aubergine, spinach, spring onion and celery and edible flowers such as lavender, chives and nasturtiums growing only few feet away from the dining space, the customers will not only taste stronger flavours on their plates, but they can also see where their food comes from.

Diners are more health conscious, says Julius Jack - Corporate Chef at The Biere Club and 153 Biere Street. “With our guests getting more and more health conscious, there is an increased focus on serving fresh and organic vegetable and herbs. Over the last few years restaurateurs are making sincere efforts to cultivate necessary ingredients on-premise.”

“It is a stand against agriculture globalisation where season of the nature of life is not followed any more,” believes Antonio Tardi, executive chef at Shangri-La hotel, Bengaluru.

Movenpick Hotel and Spa Bangalore currently doesn’t have a garden ready at their property but understanding the importance of a kitchen garden, they have started working on it and it will be functional in two months.

Rayomund Pardiwalla, executive chef at Movenpick Hotel and Spa Bangalore, says, “Of late the consumer has become more inclined towards organic vegetables and procures. Everyone wants to have vegetables that are free from pesticides and other chemicals. Hence we have taken the initiative to grow some basic herbs and veggies on our own campus. It helps us to use high-quality ingredients in our dishes, which in turn shows in the flavour of our food and also helps us in building the trust of our guests”.

There is no denying the benefits – health and otherwise. Marty Kindleysides, executive chef at Sheraton Bangalore says, “It gives us the opportunity to grow things that are not really available in the market, like zucchini flowers and other micro greens”.

Chef Julius feels that the benefit of in-house garden is manifold. He says, “Firstly, you have ready access to herbs or veggies that accentuates the flavour of the food we serve due to its freshness. Secondly, it reinforces our commitment to serve good food to our guests. Thirdly, it is a treat to your eyes as you have a beautiful green patch within the compound adding on to the overall beauty of the restaurant. Lastly, it is an experience for the guests as well; as they too get a glance of beautiful herbs and veggies being grown which otherwise they get to see only on the shelves of a supermarkets. It is like a brief date with the nature.”

He further adds “At our property, most of the guests explore the garden while the food gets prepared. It builds a trust among the guests as they are reassured that the food that is being served is fresh.”

Good things don’t come easy, hence growing and sustaining in-house gardens need an investment of time and constant effort and care. Money is last on the list.

Chef Tardi with lots of excitement says, “I believe we have green fingers and the passion to have the in-house culinary garden in bloom with a large variety. I am glad to have a team which is equally passionate about it”.

Chef Julius too agrees that it requires a lot of time and attention. He says, “To ensure that the garden is maintained well, we have an expert who is charged with tending it. While we do make recommendations to grow certain herbs and vegetables, the gardener takes the ultimate decision”.

But certainly there are few limitations as well. Chef Marty says, “The limitation is the size of the garden which restricts us from growing anything in abundance. If the availability of space was not an issue, the chefs would have grown cucumbers and squash hanging from the hotel facade.”

“There are few things which needs to be taken into account – like you might need to buy soil, Roots dry out quicker in a hot climate so plants must be watered, bagged soils might lack mineral content,” says Chef Rayomund.

Chef Tardi has a complete different view. He says “If there is a will there is a way, and we believe there can be no roadblocks if you have a goal in mind which we believe in.”

But the million-dollar questions is - is this new trend of ‘in-house culinary garden’ killing the business of small farms and vendors? Growing Greens, a city-based farm located near Hebbal,  which delivers fruits, vegetables and herbs to many hotels and restaurants like Fava, Caperberry, Olive beach, Taj Group of Hotels, Ritz Carlton, Hyatt, JW Marriott and Shangri-La to name a few, does not see this trend as a threat to business.

Hamsa V, co-founder of Growing Greens, says, “This will not affect the business as there is enough business for each of us across country depending on the product category.”

He further adds “It is a good practice. However, considering larger requirements in the hotels and restaurants, this model might be difficult as it requires a dedicated person round the clock”.

Chef Julius strikes a positive note. He says “It is not going to affect the small farms or vendors. For bulk orders we do buy vegetables and herbs from them. The greens that are grown in-house are sufficient for a small customer base.”

Chef Tardi agrees with Julius’. “No, we are passionate farmers in the sense that we do it for quality and for guest experience and cannot produce the volumes that we source for our hotel need,” he says. He signs off saying, “Local farmers will always be supported from our side”.



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