Hilton Chicago's Microgreen Growers Provide Sustainable Greens Year-'Round
Along with the hotel's rooftop garden, the growers put fresh flavor at Chef Garcia's fingertips.
Hilton Chicago’s Executive Chef Mario Garcia is elevating the hotel’s sustainable culinary offerings with an 100-planter urban rooftop garden and beehive, and recently purchased refrigerated microgreen growers at a cost of $20,000 to ensure the property has fresh, flavorful ingredients for groups all year.
Garcia, who started at the hotel as a busboy, now leads the charge in sustainable cuisine from techniques cultured while learning how to farm during his childhood. In addition to the new microgreen growers, the hotel has farm partnerships in all the Midwestern states and local partnership with Windy City Harvest to helps teens from low-income communities to learn urban agriculture.
"My philosophy has always been about balancing seasonal ingredients, locally-sourced foods, farm-to-table, and nutrient-rich ingredients," Garcia says. "I am a big believer and promoter of enjoying your meals. I always try to ensure that my food inspires everyone to sit down with their family, eat slowly, and enjoy the company."
Garcia applies this same philosophy to banquets, just on a larger scale. "Producing massive food functions can have additional perks, such as buying out a farmer for the week because we use all the vegetables they can produce for a single event, which is very satisfying for me," he says. "We have such a great relationship with several farmers, we can even ask them to grow a special item just for us that we can use in specialized banquet functions.
The microgreen growers were on Garcia's want list for a long time, he says, and they've enabled him control over the product as well as allowed him to be nimble as needs arise.
"This thing is so cool; I can essentially grow microgreens in a temperature- and light-regulated system that can turn out a large amount of greens in a very short amount of time, so it’s quite possible to start growing these a month prior to an event and have them plated direct from the kitchen. In addition, I was looking for the opportunity to have a growing unit inside the kitchen, to motivate the culinary team to be more involved in our sustainability initiatives.
Due to the hotel's volume, Garcia's team mainly uses the microgreen growers for garnishes.