Sourcing as many local products as possible is hardly a new trend, and even the practice of making ingredients in house is becoming increasingly commonplace. Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, however, is taking those strategies to the next level with the launch of a new endeavor, Chestnut Provisions.
“The goal was to take the farm-to-table idea and expand that to a ‘kitchen-to-table’ approach — make everything we could ourselves and use the best-quality ingredients,” explains Executive Chef Greg Biggers. “There are some hotels that are doing charcuterie and some that are canning and preserving and still some that may dabble with cheese-making — I wanted to make them all.”
In an effort that spanned some two years, Biggers secured five different certifications including licenses allowing him to can and preserve produce, dry-age meat and utilize his kitchen as a cheese-production facility complete with a temperature- and humidity-controlled cave. Biggers says his cheese cave contains seven rotating cheeses while his charcuterie program encompasses some nine varieties of aged meats, and he began the fall season with more than 1,500 jars of preserves and jams.
“We developed Chestnut Provisions to drive top-line revenue and generate covers primarily in our dinner service,” Biggers adds. “We are expecting that not only will we see cover counts increase, but we also have integrated Chestnut Provisions into the menu in a way to increase check average as well.
“There was a lot of upfront cost to start the program, but we spread it out over many months to be able to cover the cost in our current budget,” he continues. “While the program is geared more to increase revenue, we are also seeing an effect of the in-house programs in a slight reduction of cost of sales as well.”
It’s exciting to see a hotel take such an ambitious approach to the rather ubiquitous trend of “going local.” Have you seen other hotels undertaking similar projects? Please share.