By: Chef Erick Loos
Six years ago I started to keep bees at our French-Creole restaurant, La Provence. The restaurant sits upon the lush countryside of the northshore where I have also had the opportunity to garden, pick fresh eggs and become a proper hog slopper. The beekeeping has been an interesting and intimidating endeavor. The sound that a beehive makes as you become closer and closer used to make me feel very uneasy. I would remember all of the scary movies of bees attacking people or becoming stung several times as a kid. However, now that I have spent more time with them, I realize that they don’t even look at me twice anymore as I pick the produce from our farm. They are just busy and have a job to perform.
It’s amazing to see and understand how the bees are a vital part of growing our herbs and vegetables in our garden. I love showing our guests how we grow our produce with the help of the pollination the bees provide. Although bees produce many products such as wax, royal jelly, and propolis (a bee glue they take form the sap flowers used to construct the hive), the true prize we enjoy from the bees is the sweet sweet honey. Honey has a palatable aroma that reminds you of being in nature and has a thick, rich texture that begs to be eaten raw right from the comb. We use it to flavor ice cream, bake our honey cakes and even infuse the honey in bourbon for one of our specialty cocktails.
During the fall, we harvest the honeycombs from the hives while leaving enough stored for the bees to get through the winter. We then strain the honey into jars to use in our sweet deserts, unique drinks and to share with our sister restaurants. It is a great feeling when I am able to offer a tiny honey dipper to our guests to flavor their tea and tell them all about the bees I keep on the property. It truly is a magical process.