Chicago's Rooftop Restaurant Crops

Chefs Rick Bayless and Mark Mendez have green thumbs

By Marcus Riley
|  Thursday, Nov 11, 2010  |  Updated 11:11 AM CDT
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Bite Me: Hubbard Inn's Crab Cake Benedict

Courtesy of Frontera Kitchens

Rick Bayless tends to the crops on his downtown rooftop restaurant garden.

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Restaurants use buying locally as a badge of honor, but the ultimate cachet is "growing your own."

As far as we can tell, no Chicago restaurant is fully subsisting by growing their own corps, but Cafe magazine featured two chefs that are experimenting with rooftop gardens -- Carnivale's Mark Mendez and Rick Bayless of Xoco, Topolobampo and Frontera Grill fame.

Mendez has scaled back his ambition from his first attempt when he tried to grow four kinds of chiles, five varieties each of tomatoes and herbs, plus lettuces, beets and radishes.

"I have learned that it's better to try to grow less different kinds of things and just focus on a few," Mendez told Cafe.

Bayless has been utilizing EarthBoxes in his downtown rooftop garden which incorporate a built-in reservoir system that makes it perfect for use in Third World countries where food is harder to grow.

In years past he's grown tomatoes and chiles, but this year is shooting for a complete salsa garden, Cafe reported.

The harvest has been so bountiful in season's past that the chef has had to freeze tomatoes to use during the winter season.

Gives a whole new meaning to the term "eating locally."

[More: Cafe]

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