Building buzz at the Royal York

Royal York executive chef Collin Thornton.

Royal York executive chef Collin Thornton.

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TORONTO—Lost and lonely pollinator bees can find solace in the Toronto Fairmont Royal York’s rooftop bee hotel.

The pilot project—designed in conjunction with Burt’s Bees, Pollinator Partnership Canada and Sustainable. TO Architecture + Building—will involve the construction of three other pollinator bee hotels in Toronto, including at Pioneer Village, and one in Guelph, ON.

The bee hotels are made with a collection of nesting materials such as wood, twigs, fallen branches, soil and pith-filled holes. Designed to attract and protect solitary bees by replicating natural nesting sites, the hotels allow the local pollinators to breed and lay eggs.

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts properties have been home to apiaries since 2008, with honey bee programs at more than 20 hotels globally as part of the company’s sustainability program.

Public relations director Mike Taylor said the bee hotel, which opened in June, was a natural extension of the property’s rooftop gardens and six apiaries.

“We were looking at the overall issue of bee health and noticed that solitary bees are just as important to our local ecosystem, if not more important, from a purely bee-species perspective and we realized that part of their decline was loss of habitat,” said Taylor.  

Across North America, the number of pollinator bees has been declining for decades—largely caused by loss of habitat—which affects the ecosystems. Bees pollinate more than 80 per cent of flowering plants, fruits and vegetables.  

Royal York executive chef Collin Thornton designed a pollinator bee-focused menu for EPIC Restaurant to draw attention to the bee hotel—which was designed to resemble the Toronto skyline—and the issues facing the declining species.

“There’s still a lot of people that just don’t seem to know what’s going on,” said Thornton. “Obviously, the message hasn’t really gotten to everybody and we need to get it out there, so anything that we can do to help is in all of our best interests, not just because we sell food but, no bees, no people.”  

Thornton said the menu, which highlights the food bees help produce through pollination, is a “great engagement piece.”

The three-course menu includes pollinator garden salad of greens, tomatoes and a variety of berries in a Royal York honey vinaigrette, lemon balm-crusted rainbow trout with a cucumber and apple slaw with ice wine vinaigrette and butternut squash purée and sticky honey cakes with peach streusel tart and calvados crème fraîche ice cream.

The Library Bar featured the Buzz-tini, which is made of Forty Creek Whisky, lemon juice and house-made honey and served with mint from the rooftop garden and rimmed with more honey.

Taylor said Fairmont is hoping to continue working with Burt’s Bees on a larger scale and bring this to other properties next year.