A hydroponic garden system is taking root at Highmark Pittsburgh and yielding an abundance of herbs, tomatoes, peppers and greens for Parkhurst Dining, the foodservice provider at the nonprofit health and wellness system.
Catering Director Tymara Schaffer and Executive Chef Cameron Clegg tend to the garden daily. Meanwhile, Clegg highlights the greenery both on Highmark’s daily menu and during his monthly cooking classes, dubbed Kitchen Coaches, where he shows guests how to incorporate fresh herbs into every meal.
“I’d say about 75 percent of the fresh herbs we use on our menus here at Highmark are grown in our garden,” Clegg says.
As such, the garden has become a crown jewel for the operation.
“Every day, someone will pull one of us aside to talk about the garden, about how they’re surprised it’s growing and excited to see how we highlight the different crops,” Clegg says.
“We wanted to provide our guests with something new to get excited about in 2015,” says Lenny DeMartino C.D.M., C.F.P.P., general manager. “It’s done that and so much more.”
While understanding and accommodating for the nuances of the system has taken some trial and error, Clegg and Schaffer have successfully developed a system that is flourishing.