I’ve been very happy to find myself back in Vancouver this week and even more happy to have a chance to check up on how the bees on the roof of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel are getting along. I first visited them about 15 months ago, in early summer, so this was a great chance to see the rooftop garden and what’s left of the bees at the other end of their season.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, the Fairmont was a very early adopter of urban bees and continues to maintain a strong interest in sustaining urban bee health. The garden has come along brilliantly, under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Dana Hauser who meticulously plans all of the plantings each season. The hives (most of which had been taken away for their winter in Surrey, where they are rented out to local berry farmers) are now producing about 600 pounds of honey per year. New since my last visit is special viewing hive with perspex sides so that the bees can be observed up close and personal. New, also, is the opportunity for guests to have a guided educational tour of the bees and their habitat with Michael, the resident bee butler (who blogs about his bee butlering here).
The Fairmont’s commitment doesn’t stop here however and they play an active and vital role in the health of Vancouver’s bee population in general. Indigenous to North America is the Mason Bee, solitary bees which produce neither honey nor wax , but are immune to Varroa mites and crucial to pollination. In order to help boost the population of these and the equally important bumble bees, the Waterfront has partnered with Hastings Urban Farm and funded the construction and distribution of nests for Hives for Humanity. Chef Dana ensures her staff play a hands-on role here as well, attending workshops and open days so that they can gain a fuller understanding of the importance of their bee work.
Watch a video of a recent Fairmont Hives for Humanity event –
Dana works hard at keeping her kitchen staff motivated, educated and inspired – taking them out to meet producers and the farms their produce comes from. She likes to deal direct with producers where possible and even took her staff to meet the piglets which eventually became the pork the chefs cooked with, believing that a knowledge and respect for produce and it’s provenance is vital for the development of great cuisine and great cooks.
She encourages the staff to come up with their own concoctions, especially with their much-valued honey, and it finds it’s way into many varied dishes, as well as the Fairmont’s own “Stinger” lager, made by a local brewery, and a divine, hand-churned burnt honey ice cream. Both of which I had for afternoon tea. As you do.
Lambs’ Ears and Honey was a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission whilst in Canada and a guest of the Fairmont Waterfront for one of the three nights she stayed there. The other two nights were at her own cost.