A recent stay at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City involved a visit to the roof to meet with the new guests in the Penthouse, well all 140,000 of them to be exact.
One of the things I like about being a travel journalist is that I get to do things I wouldn’t normally do, such as sit in the cockpit of Concorde in the morning and well, stand just a foot away from a bee hive with bees flying all around me in the evening with no protective clothing on!
Back in April the Hyatt Regency decided that they would play their part in a state-wide agricultural effort to increase pollination across New Jersey and install a bee hive on their roof with 32,000 bees. That soon increased to a second bee hive and today there are some 140,000 bees (70,000 per hive) producing enough honey to feed guests at breakfast and in the menus at the hotel’s signature restaurant ‘Vu’.
Executive Chef Cathy Kearney has really embraced this new project and her passion and enthusiasm was very evident when we were on the roof with the bees. She explained that so long as we don’t interfere with the bees you can get very close to the hives without fear of being stung. Bees will only sting you as a last resort if they perceive you to be a threat. Cathy was even letting the odd stray bee climb on her hand and they seemed quite content.
But it’s not just Cathy and her team that have embraced this project, all the staff have given their input, in particular the engineering team who even painted the generator yellow and black to make it look like a bee!
What I didn’t realise is that honeybees are in fact the New Jersey state insect and that these new hotel residents will actually help pollinate a wide area around the hotel, including nearby farmlands. Crops such as apples, blueberries and cranberries actually depend upon honeybee pollination.
The next morning Cathy joined us for breakfast and kindly ensured there was a fresh honey comb on display so I could see it in its full glory and take a few photographs. Cathy then explained that in the early season around June time, the honey tends to be light and clear, whilst mid-season, towards the end of July, when more flowers are in bloom, the honey is still clear but darker.
A lot of the produce served in ‘Vu’ is locally sourced and Cathy is always keen to meet the farmers who supply the hotel. For example the eggs are all free range. As a result the hotel tries to promote sustainable living wherever possible.
I should just add a final note to say that Cathy and her team are not the ones who actually extract the honey combs from the hives! The hives are expertly looked after and maintained by Joe Lelinho of Hilltop Honey, although I have to say that I was very impressed with Cathy’s knowledge of the bees and I came away feeling more educated as a result.
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