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'Can’t get any fresher'

Aug 09, 2023Aug 09, 2023

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HOUSTON — The fresher the ingredients, the better the meal, right? One Houston hotel is taking that idea to the next level.

"Right here I have bok choy," said Executive Chef Ruffy Sulaiman, pointing to one section of the Farmshelf indoor garden inside Hilton Americas-Houston's lobby. "I have marigold going up there."

He said he got the idea for a hotel garden about a decade ago, initially planning to grow it on the roof.

"My GM suggested, ‘Chef, you know there’s something called FarmShelf. Have you looked into that yet?’ I said, ‘Let me check on that,'" Sulaiman remembered.

A couple years of research resulted in the hotel making the investment in the hydroponic system that now provides fresh produce for 1600 Bar + Grille and the hotel’s other dining options.

"It takes about three weeks," said Sulaiman, referring to how long he has to wait between germination and harvest. "I can develop a recipe and get the plant for the recipe knowing that in three or four weeks, I can use that particular plant in my food."

When KHOU 11 visited, he was growing red Komatsuna, red butter lettuce, marigold and Genovese basil, which Sulaiman harvested then and there to use in a dish.

"This is something I like to do as a chef," he said. "To do something that we can grow here, show it to our guests, get the plants from here and cook with it right away. It can’t get any fresher than that."

Beyond dishes, Sulaiman uses the fresh produce in drinks, such as the Surprise Spritz, which incorporates that garden-fresh basil. Marigold is another popular pick.

"It’s a conversational piece," said Sulaiman.

For more about the Hilton Americas-Houston farm-to-table approach, click here.

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