Chefs at Northwestern Memorial's Prentice Women's Hospital Take Fresh Food to a Whole New Level
Rooftop garden yields 32 varieties of organic vegetables and herbs used in menu items
A garden of lettuce, dill, basil, multiple varieties of tomatoes and more resides 19 stories high above Chicago Avenue in a rather unlikely place – a hospital rooftop. While they’ve always been proud to serve food using the only the finest ingredients, chefs at Fresh Market at Fairbanks, located within Prentice, have taken the concept of fresh produce to a whole new level by establishing a rooftop garden that not only contributes to their recipes, but also provides environmental benefits.
“Rooftop gardens are emerging all over Chicago,” said Joseph Hernandez, executive chef and general manager of Fresh Market at Fairbanks. “It’s a great way to go green, and the gardens produce vegetables and herbs that simply taste better.”
Hernandez and fellow chefs Scott Thompson and Andrey Robinson grow each plant from seed and then transplant it to the roof once it has matured. Each plant then grows in bins with a southern exposure, carefully selected to ensure they are protected from the elements. The chefs volunteer approximately four hours of their personal time each week to tend the garden and use the fresh picked organic produce and herbs in dishes served to Fresh Market patrons.
“We feel it is our responsibility to provide nutritious menu options for patients, visitors and caregivers at Prentice as well as the community,” said Hernandez.
“It’s great to see them use their talents to benefit co-workers and visitors,” said Sonia Alexander, RD, director of Food and Nutrition at Northwestern Memorial. “We have several healthy eating initiatives around campus and the addition of organic produce at Fresh Market is a wonderful complement.”
Hernandez notes that while the small garden can’t produce enough food for all Fresh Market recipes, it’s a great start.
“We look forward to expanding the garden next year to include even more varieties of vegetables and fruits,” said Hernandez. “We learn daily how the garden responds to Chicago weather and which varieties of plants grow well. This is a labor of love and we are excited to watch it grow.”