Have you heard the buzz? The Radisson Blu Mall of America has officially become the first hotel in the Twin Cities to house honeybee colonies from the University of Minnesota Bee Squad, an organization devoted to helping the community foster healthy bee populations.
Why, you may ask, is a luxury hotel hosting honeybees? I was afforded the opportunity to speak to the hotel restaurant’s renowned executive chef, Paul Lynch, for the inside scoop on what this means for FireLake Grill House.
Chef Lynch informed me that the honeybee venture is perfectly aligned with the Radisson’s Responsible Goals Business initiative, which has sparked a variety of environmental sustainability programs. The project was a collaboration between the Carlson Hotel Group, the Bee Squad, the Radisson Blu and the chef himself. Lynch divulged that he was delighted when the corporate office approached him with the proposal—he had been asking to look into bees for many years.
While I knew that bees flocked to flowers, and provided us with nature’s sweet nectar, I didn’t realize how essential they were to sustainable agriculture. Lynch explained that his passion for bees stems from their role in maintaining many crops that we hold dear: “Apples, oranges and almonds would cease to exist without bee pollination.” In fact, 35 percent of the global food supply and 80 percent of flowering plants depend on animal pollination.
However, due to destructive mites and the widespread use of systemic pesticides, the honeybee population is declining drastically. “Bees play such an important role in pollinating plants that it is very important we do what we can to help the species and provide them with a healthy environment in which they can thrive,” said Lynch.
And thrive, they will on the hotel’s spacious roof. Chef Lynch explained that this location is ideal for healthy honeybees, due to flourishing flora at the neighboring wildlife refuge and a lack of pesticides on the plants that reside alongside nearby highways.
The two colonies consisting of 10,000 honeybees per piece will grow all summer, until there are about 40,000 to 50,000 honeybees per colony. It will take two years for the bees to produce surplus honey that can be harvested and then incorporated into the restaurant’s menu.
FireLake Grill House is anxiously awaiting the honey’s arrival and already has big plans for the versatile ingredient. Lynch revealed that it will be infused into a variety of dishes and beverages ranging from his signature honey cured pork loin to a carbonated honey bubble tea.
In line with the Radisson Blu’s commitment to sustainability, FireLake is devoted to the use of locally grown, fresh ingredients for the tastiest and most environmentally responsible dishes in the area. And what could be more local than honey from your own roof?
Worried about the potential for stings as a hotel or restaurant guest? No need, Lynch promised. The bees will travel only to the highways and to the wildlife refuge to pollinate, and will have no interest in flying down to bother guests at the Radisson.
As a foodie, and an environmentalist, I am beyond excited to see the Radisson Blu delve into such an eco-friendly and totally delicious venture. Hopefully the honey is worth the wait!