5 Star Bees make 5 Star Honey at the Waldorf Astoria, NYC

The famous hotel and historical landmark, The Waldorf Astoria, in New York City has some sweet new residents: six bee hives on the rooftop just off the 20th floor house an estimated 300,000 bees. The hives are the first step toward creating a seasonal garden which will help the hotel provide more fresh, local and sustainable food.

The hotel’s beekeeper, Andrew Cote, learned beekeeping from his father (right) as a boy. This former college professor never intended to go into beekeeping professionally, but he was excited about doing something related to nature in an urban environment. Plus, he loves working with his dad, so he left his teaching job to make a career out of his boyhood hobby.

Each section of the beehive contains several frames where the bees make their honey. Before placing the frames in the hive, the frames are coated in wax to help the honey making process along.

Making honey is almost strictly women’s work with the hives containing about 1% male bees. Apparently, bees don’t produce much honey in the first year, so the hotel had to special order more mature bees from Pennsylvania, Georgia and California. The bees feed on the mostly landscaped New York City vegetation, and are quite safe and secure away from predators and other dangers way up on the hotel’s rooftop.

When the hive cover is removed, the bees seem too busy to realize their honey is about to be stolen by the chef’s at the Waldorf=Astoria, and delivered to the kitchen 18 floors below.

Burlap is burned in these smokers to keep the bees docile while each frame is removed. It is amazing that Andrew and his father are so comfortable around the bees they don’t wear gloves. Andrew says the gloves just get in the way, and he ends up accidentally killing bees if he wears them.

As the frames are removed, the bees are brushed away. It felt good to be watching this at a distance because the bees seem to get very annoyed during this process.

The first frames are out, and filled with honey and wax.

Once several frames are removed, Chef David Garcelon, who spearheaded the hotel’s beehive initiative, helps pack them up for transport to the kitchen.

The kitchen in the Waldorf=Astoria is quite amazing. It spans the entire building which is a full city block. Each restaurant in the hotel has its own kitchen, but this main kitchen helps with things like baking and prep work, and also prepares meals for services like room service.

The frames from the hives are wheeled in; this is just a fraction of the honey being harvested today.

All the chefs at the hotel seem excited about this sweet addition to their kitchen. This frame is held proudly so everyone can marvel at the bees handy work.

Time to extract the honey. Andrew uses a hot knife to remove the top layer of wax.

The frames are placed into the centrifuge to separate the wax from the honey. Andrew said using this type of device was kind of new to the beekeeping world, but it’s a quick and easy way to get the job done.

The honey is drained from a spigot and strained through a sieve.

While all of this was going on, the chefs whipped up an amazing sample of the types of food that might include their home grown honey: fine cheeses and nuts drizzled with the sweet stuff, appetizers like quail eggs and caviar, beef tartar, smoked salmon and chicken skewers all flavored with a touch of honey.

Honey ice cream topped waffles with a tequila lime sauce, homemade ice cream cones and a sponge cake topped with honey whipped cream and strawberries ended our luncheon.

There’s something about eating in the kitchen that makes food better. Of course, it can be really special getting dressed up and going to a beautiful hotel like the Waldorf=Astoria for a great meal, but there’s nothing like the coziness of eating in the kitchen—even in one as expansive as this.

Our hosts at the hotel were nice enough to bottle up a little honey to take home. I can’t decide what to make first. Maybe just a drizzle over an English muffin with some tea, or maybe I’ll try to make my own version of honey ice cream—yum!

Special thanks to everyone at the Waldorf=Astoria for making this a really amazing experience!

Waffle Recipe

Ingredients Needed

15 ounces flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 1/2 ounces Roof Top Honey (or whatever honey you have)

2 eggs

1 ounce of dry active yeast

10 1/2 ounces of butter

6.75oz sparkling water (room temp)

9-1/2 ounces pearl sugar or scone sugar

Mixing method:

Allow eggs and sparkling water to come up to room temperature. Melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave and allow to cool to lukewarm. Beat the eggs well and add the butter, yeast, honey and water. Mix well to incorporate. Place the flour in a mixing bowl with a dough hook, than slowly add the egg, butter, yeast and honey mixture. Beat the dough for about ten minutes on speed 3. After mixing the dough allow to rise in a warm place for 15-30 minutes, keep covered with towel or plastic wrap. 5 to 10 minutes before baking, add the pearl sugar. Pre-heat the waffle iron then place dough in the center. Bake until golden browned. Serve with your favorite toppings and ice creams.

Roof Top Honey Ice Cream makes about 12 cups of ice cream!

11 cups heavy cream

5 1/4 ounces sugar

19 ounces of Roof Top Honey (or whatever honey you’ve got)

32 egg yolks

Mixing method:

In a large sauce pot bring cream, sugar and honey to a boil, then lower the heat. Take some of the hot cream and slowly add it to the yolks to temper them. Place the egg yolk mixture back into the hot cream and cook, stirring constantly on low heat until the mix slightly thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Once thickened take off the stove and immediately cool down in an ice bath with cubes and water. The Ice cream base is best the next day out of the cooler.

Find me on Facebook!

What's Fresh from @RachaelRay

Rachael Ray