In this day and age of sustainability and locally produced foods, we have all heard the catch phrases farm to table, farm to fork, and farm to plate but have we thought about farm to hotel?
Ever since I witnessed chef and restauranteur, Mario Batali, hosting a Farmer’s Market in the luxurious Palazzo Hotel on the famous Las Vegas Strip, I wondered if top hotel executives and chefs in the Philippines would feature food produced by local farmers in their restaurants? Better yet, in a ground-breaking event similar to what Mario did, host a Farmer’s Market event? Mario’s event brought him, his farmers and Las Vegas, national and international press.
It’s been two years since I started the first Farmers to Chefs Meet-up in the Philippines. This Meet-up provided valuable introductions that blossomed into productive relationships and partnerships. Owning a small, family farm in Batangas and working closely with Chefs, we both understood the importance of locally grown food to consumers and our local economy. Fruit that ripens under the watchful eye of a local farmer is vastly superior to ripening in a shipping crate. Greens grown naturally in a farmer’s field is healthier than those grown with harmful pesticides.
Fresh fruits and vegetables last longer in walk-in coolers. The quality of food depends on local production and the quality of care given by the farmer.
So what does this Farm to Hotel buzz phrase mean? Unless farmers have the luxury of their own marketing and distribution channels, it is not possible for farmers to knock on hotel executives and chef’s door and sell produce. Unless the in’s and out’s hotel purchasing is known, farmers will be lost along the way. With so many social networking opportunities and events, the connection between farmers and chefs is not that difficult anymore.
Convincing the hotel executives may be the bigger challenge. The corporate world must be willing to accommodate small producer’s needs and the producers must understand corporate limitations. But such a partnership is not impossible.
In Bahrain, Kempinski Grand and Ixir Hotel executives and Chefs partnered with local farmers they met at a local farmer’s market. They enlisted corporate social responsibility in supporting local, small family farms. The partnership started with the hotel’s entire culinary team visiting the farm to assess their farming practices and capabilities. Agreements and compromises were made. To celebrate their partnership and the surprise of guests and the media, the hotel staff turned their lounge into a farmyard complete with a straw-covered floor.
The DuPont Circle Kimpton Hotel in Washington DC won critical acclaim by offering what they call their “Farm to Table to Bed” package. To complete a Saturday overnight stay, the package includes handmade herbal soap, reusable tote and $10 to spend at the local farmers market on Sunday morning.
Shangrila Hotel in Vancouver Canada regularly hosts a cooking demo inspired by produce from a nearby farmer’s market which the hotel supports. Lincoln hotel in Chicago has a Farm-to-Room package which includes a Hotel Lincoln tote bag, $50 food/beverage credit and a $5 donation to the Green City farmers market in the guest’s name.
Fresh ideas, right? Is the Philippines ready for it? When farmers learn how to market their fresh produce with fresh ideas, farming life gets more flavorful! Now the knocking begins.