Executive Chef George Fistrovich oversees the venture in a renovated shipping container, measuring 40 feet long and 8 feet wide, that uses 90 percent less water than a traditional garden of equal size.
For the top chef at the five-diamond-rated resort, it’s a dream come true. “All chefs like to get their product as close to the (growing) environment as possible,” Executive Chef George Fistrovich told The News-Press. “This enables us to come right outside our doorstep, about 50 feet from our restaurants, and harvest. It gets the freshest products to our guests, instantly.”
Kitchen gardens are hot commodities at resort restaurants since the farm-to-table movement. The Naples Grande Beach Resort did an extensive makeover in 2014 that included adding an herb garden outside its Catch of the Pelican restaurant. In 2014, the Washington Business Journal reported that, “all of the Kimpton Hotel restaurants in the (District of Columbia) region have some form of garden.”
At The Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Fistrovich is the grower-in-chief. His compact farm setup, called CropBoxes, came from North Carolina-based Williamson Greenhouses.
By the end of this month, Williamson Greenhouses will have completed 18 CropBoxes, said Tripp Williamson, head of the family-owned business. According to The News-Press, currently there is only one is at a resort hotel currently using the CropBoxes, but that’s likely to change as other Ritz-Carlton properties are watching the pilot project.
At The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, the light-gray CropBox sits in a service area guests typically wouldn’t see. The CropBox grows the equivalent of one acre of fresh produce. “The Grow House,” measuring 40 feet long, 8 feet wide and 9 feet, 6 inches high, uses 90 percent less water than a traditional garden of equal size.
For now, The Ritz-Carlton in Naples has chosen to focus on greens: bibb and romaine lettuce, cilantro, arugula, spinach and assorted micro-greens. Some of the greens grown in “The Grow House” already are gracing salads at resort restaurants, including the Italian-themed, Terrazza.
“The resort goes through about 65,000 heads of lettuce a year. I’ll be able to produce half that amount here,” Fistrovich shared with The News-Press.
The experience, Fistrovich said, has given him a better appreciation of farmers and their challenges.
“It’s a bit easier for me, though, I’m growing 365 days a year in a controlled environment, with perfect temperature, humidity, CO2, nutrients—and pesticide-free,” Fistrovich explained to The News-Press. “There are no bugs—nothing to eat my lettuces.”