I’m sharing my first experience with Fish To Fork on my blog, minus the recipes because this is such a fabulous event for food lovers. For the second course, we spent lunch at the aquaponic greenhouse where chef Devan Wardynski talked with us about his greenhouse and beehive endeavor called The Sprouting Project.
The luncheon took us to The Sprouting Project where Chef Daven Wardynski started a greenhouse. Instead of hydroponic gardening where there is water pumped into the greenhouse lines with added nutrients, there is a water line attached to a fish tank making it aquaponic in nature. The fish tank pumps nutrients to the greenhouse lines and is a never ending supply of nutrients so it is truly sustainable. The greenhouse for The Sprouting Project supplies the restaurants with fresh greens and herbs that save the Omni over $15,000 in produce a year.
I was very excited to learn that the executive chef Daven Wardynski is a champion for sustainable foods. Most chefs these days are, but as he broke down in tears, you can tell he is truly passionate. He even brings his kids to the greenhouse to work on the weekends and spend quality time together. Who else is going to teach our kids that food doesn’t just magically appear in the store? How are we going to continue eating if we run out of resources? I love that he turned the old storage shed into a functioning greenhouse. Going one step further, opening up The Sprouting Project area to the public as an event space, and making the greenhouse accessible to the guests of the hotel shows how he wants food education to be a part of your experience. Seeing the greenhouse first hand allows the guests and diners to connect with the food they eat, not just a fancy plate that appears in front of them after they bark orders at a waiter.
Alongside the greenhouse and picnic table seating area, there appeared to be beautiful landscaping, which as it turns out, is a vegetable and herb garden, bringing the “farm to table concept” front and center. The herbs grown in these flower beds were on my plate during the Wine-Paired Dinner!
After they started the greenhouse project, Chef Wardynski wanted to expand into bees. Honey is a prime ingredient for a lot of the dishes so starting a bee colony only seemed natural. They started with 1 colony. They soon expanded into 2 colonies, 2 into 4, 4 into 8. They had a set back with one colony and dropped to 7 but soon expanded back into 8 and then into 16. Those 16 colonies produce enough honey to save the Omni over $10,000. After a few harvests, of three different flavor profiles, they will have honey to sell along with honey to use in their dishes. The bee colony is a short walk, over a bridge built by the chefs, to a small clearing in the woods.
If you didn’t see the honey in the kitchen from the last post, here is the honey shot again!
The honey from these bees was part of the delicious Honey plate they sent to our room the night before. What a nice surprise to see when we returned to our room, full from all the wine at dinner. I still ate the honey cakes, dipped the cheese in the honey, and ate the honey “Nerds” candy like I was my 10-year-old son.
I ended up using the lip balm while we at the Sprouting Project luncheon. What a special treat!
Brooks and I had a hard time dividing up the board. He dropped a piece of cheese in the honey jar and ended up eating most of it!
I really needed some tweezers to get all those delicious candies!
Here are a few pictures of the plants that are thriving in the Sprouting Project greenhouse. Also a glimpse of the fish that are providing all the nutrients for these tiny plants. Soon they will be grown up enough to travel to the kitchens!
Lunch was expertly set buffet line in the middle of the greenhouse. Look at all of these tacos! I ate so many of them I thought I would burst! Little did I know that there was dessert around the corner.
After a short introduction, we were invited into the greenhouse to take a look, as well as eat some grub! We were greeted with a strawberry and greens salad, a chilled coconut soup, and a variety of tacos. Along with shredded beef, there were goat and Mahi tacos. As we were walking through the delicious buffet, I noticed diners turning around and going back the entrance to the tables. As someone walked all the way through in search of hot sauce, I saw another area where the chefs were grilling.
Here you could see all the action taking place. It wasn’t behind the scenes but right in your face. I have to give a big shout out to all the chefs who worked so hard to feed us that weekend. Some chefs I saw early in the morning prepping, then serving us lunch, and the same group cleaning up at midnight that night after the main event. That makes for a long hard day.
Here are the talented chefs that are preparing our delicious meal!
This Mahi taco was everything! They also treated us to grilled Mahi skewers along with fresh salsa!
Here is my plate before I started chowing down. That coconut soup shooter looked innocent enough but after the first few bites, the heat kicked in!
Once I walked through The Sprouting Project greenhouse and into another clearing, I spotted the “hot sauce hotel!” I small shed lined with barrels of house-made hot sauces, aging to perfection. They were generous enough to share a few of them with us. One called the Magma was especially hot. The perfect combination of heat and pepper flavor to accompany my tacos! It paired perfectly with the goat taco.
I need my pantry at home to be filled with these adorable barrels filled with sauces to liven up my boring chicken dishes…
What do you do when you eat too much hot sauce? Cool down with dessert! This Soda Float station was a few steps away. House made strawberry and orange puree sodas were combined with goat’s milk ice cream, frozen on site with liquid nitrogen. What a great show and a beautiful presentation. Not to mention, the fresh bursting flavor of strawberries! Check out these ladies getting their float on!
Mixing ice cream has never been easier. Can I get a vat of liquid nitrogen too? I would be the hit of the neighborhood!
This is so much better than being at a soda shop. Fresh, farm to table fruit purees, elevated with a tangy ice cream. The perfect ending to a picnic lunch at The Sprouting Project!
After this delightful respite in the middle of the day, we hit the pool at the Omni Amelia Island for three Rs. Rest, Rays, and some light Reading before the main event that night. Individual and team competitions, Iron Chef Style, with the guest chefs. Time to let out the belt!
Stay tuned for all the pictures from The Main Event. If you missed the first post, click below.
Check out the Wine-Paired Dinner at Fish to Fork post where I shared pictures of each course and some photographs of the action in the kitchen!