“Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream.” Josephine Nuese
For a lot of people, building their own garden or a kitchen garden has always been a dream, or has always been on the back burner. But since life was always so full, there was no time to bring it to reality. Thanks to the global shut down in most of the countries, people actually found the time. They slowly started growing their own produce which led them to be more conscious of their food choices.
The lockdown came in as a gentle reminder for many of us to go back to basics. It also seems to have positively impacted people’s consumption patterns and made them more mindful of their eating habits. The efforts of millions of people growing their own produce has slowly started becoming a trend.
This newfound trend has also inspired many luxury hotels across the world to start thinking in similar lines. Restaurants who grow their own produce have started getting scores of queries as they see an uptick in demand for organic food.
From Farm to Table
Starting from home and talking about Singapore, nobody could have imagined this tiny republic to adapt to this trend. But believe it or not, Singapore is encouraging sustainable dining with more eateries working closely with local farmers.
The Westin Singapore offers organic options in their a la Carte menu at Seasonal Tastes and so does W Singapore – Sentosa Cove’s SKIRT, where organic produces are sourced from local homegrown vendors.
“As we continue making progress towards our sustainability and social impact goals, via our Serve360 platform of doing good in every direction (through the coordinates of Nurture, Sustain, Empower, Welcome) we strongly focus on sustainable, responsible and local sourcing,” said Rajeev Menon, President, Asia Pacific (excluding Greater China), Marriott International.
With an onsite vegetable and herb garden, Capella Singapore is also doing its best to promote organic produce. Capella’s kitchen grows fresh, organic ingredients for use throughout the various F&B outlets.
“At the moment, we have a thriving Herb Garden Plot, which is located near Chef’s Table, as well as Planters outside Bob’s Bar – the convenient locations allow Chefs and our Mixologist to easily harvest the plants and keep a close eye on them, meaning they are able to use them when they are still very fresh. We are working to expand our gardens to more areas of the hotel, too – we have the space, and I’m sure our guests would enjoy more garden areas throughout the already abundant grounds,” said Fernando Gibaja – General Manager, Capella Singapore.
Culinary experiences using authentic local ingredients
Several restaurants in Singapore are replacing imported ingredients with local ones to provide connoisseurs with fun and creative dishes for their refined palate.
Head Chef Oliver Truesdale-Jutras from Open Farm Community (OFC) has always been an advocate for sustainable dining. OFC, a 35,000 sqft restaurant nestled on Minden Road in Dempsey Hill, houses herb and vegetable gardens, worm and ant farms, a farmer’s market and an outdoor recreation terrace. The European-fusion dishes at OFC are prepared using fresh and sustainable ingredients sourced from local farms and regional farms within a 400 km radius of the island.
“I am super excited to incorporate the next big thing in the menu which I fondly refer to as heritage ingredients, things that were once widely used in Southeast Asia but have fallen out of favour for imported alternatives. Things like local varieties of mint and basil, ginger flowers andulam raja flowers are a category of flavours that are regionally unique, and we want to push them forward for people to experience,” said the excited Chef.
Talking about preserving Singapore’s unique role in celebrating diversity he added, “We try and draw inspiration from Southeast Asian dishes but modernise them. We have had twists on Kinilaw from the Philippines using local oysters, one of our most popular dishes is a ceviche with the flavour profile of Indonesian Sambal Matah, replete with ginger flower and lemongrass.We balance it with buah keluak for an earthy counterpoint. We experiment a lot with little used ingredients and continue to chart a catalogue of cool local ingredients that we plan to use in the future.”
Another gem that follows a local approach is Artichoke. The Middle-eastern restaurant is located in the heart of Singapore’s Arts and Heritage district and helmed by Chef-owner Bjorn Shen. It has its own herb garden and changes its menu seasonally based on the locally-picked ingredients.
Championing Singapore’s 30 by 30
Joining the organic farming bandwagon are Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford hotel, the landmark properties of the Accor group in Singapore.
Both the Hotels launched the industry’s first urban Aquaponics farm in October 2019 to meet the rising demand among guests for fresh quality produce and to support Singapore’s goal of producing 30% of its nutritional needs locally by 2030.
Aquaponics combines aquaculture – the growing of fish and other aquatic life – with hydroponics, which is growing plants without soil. It is a sustainable, pesticide-free solution to traditional methods with substantially higher yields while requiring less water, space and labour.
The fine-dining restaurants at both these luxury hotels have been offering organic food for years now but this pandemic has seen a push towards more locally sourced food, especially at the height of the pandemic when certain food sources were running low.
“People are more concerned with food security which will accelerate this trend. We made a commitment to plant urban gardens at our hotels two years ago and Asia Pacific has been leading the way in this with many of our hotels growing their own fruit, vegetables and herbs onsite,” said Michael Issenberg, CEO & Chairman Asia Pacific, Accor.
With the rise in sustainable dining in Singapore, let’s look forward to eating with a conscious and cheering on a greener future. ◼
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© This article was first published online in July 2020 – World Travel Magazine.