Best Chef Garden
Vote for one of the nominated Chef's Gardens from the list below. All nominees are from the larger DC metropolitan region, including Northern Virginia and Maryland, and have developed a model cooking garden whether its at a farm, on a city lot or building rooftop.
Evening Star Cafe, Chef Keith Cabot
Keith Cabot's garden above Evening Star Cafe is 1,360 square feet and yields enough produce to sustain 60-70% of his menu during peak season. Keith works closely with a part time gardener, Jonathan Stark, to start beds of seeds under grow lights offsite. Once germinated, the beds are transplanted to Evening Star's rooftop garden – making the most of the space and taking advantage of every square foot. In the summertime, Keith and Jonathan are up on the roof harvesting every single day. In the summer they'll harvest tomatoes, basil, eggplant, shishito peppers, shiso, purple long beans, Israeli cucumbers, sour gherkins and more. The winter brings arugula, mixed lettuce, chicories, a lot more herb production, thyme, basil, rosemary, radishes, turnips, and more. Year-round herb patches yield lavender and rosemary for cocktail syrups, thyme, thai basil, sorrel, cutting celery, and hibiscus to name a few. The herbs get harvested every other day for garnishes. The size of the garden is large enough to sustain dishes on the menu so that Keith isn’t supplementing with inferior product, yielding about 15-20 lbs of produce per week. In the summer, Keith shares his surplus with Rob Rubba (Executive Chef, Hazel), Tom Cardarelli (Executive Chef, Vermilion), and Nick Farrell (Spirits Manager, Vermilion and Iron Gate) so that nothing goes to waste. Keith composts mundane restaurant food waste like coffee grounds and shrimp shells for the soil.
Garrison, Chef Rob Weland
Rob makes the best of his urban setting and gardens in four separate garden spaces, all within 5 blocks of his restaurant. He has two community garden plots, his own back garden at home and a patio garden at Garrison. For years, Rob has remained dedicated to seeking out organic gardening in the middle of D.C. because it not only inspires his cooking, but also allows him to meet his neighbors. He makes these small garden plots punch above their weight in his chef training program. Every stage-ist and extern who works in the Garrison kitchen has gardening responsibilities as part of their training. Rob believes that the foundation of every good cook, whether professional or amateur, should start with an appreciation for growing things, getting your hands dirty in the garden and tasting things fresh off the vine or out of the ground.
Urbana, Chef Ethan McKee
Urbana’s rooftop has a 1,000 square foot garden tended by Chef Ethan and his staff. All produce is harvested for consumption at Urbana or at Hotel Palomar events. The Urbana team sourced 1,000 pounds of mixed produce in 2015 and 1,500 pounds of mixed produce in 2016. The quality and freshness of the products can’t be beat. Chef Ethan can pick fresh herbs and vegetables in the morning and use them on pizzas and pastas for dinner instead of using days-old ingredients from a purveyor. In the summer months, the modern Italian restaurant sources 100% of its basil supply from the rooftop which in 2015 and 2016 yielded a total of 500 pounds. Urbana’s Lead Bartender Andrea Tateosian sources rooftop herbs for her Italian-leaning cocktail program as well. Last year’s harvest savings are estimated at approximately $15,000. Chef Ethan also partners with FreshFarm’s Foodprints program to bring cooking classes to DC Public Schools. Many of the ingredients used in these classes are sourced from Urbana's chef garden and the student-run garden at Francis Stevens School. Urbana was a recipient of Slow Food DC’s Snail of Approval Award in 2016 as a result of its chef garden and general sustainability practices.