Philadelphia, PA - There are many ways to learn as we grow up: in classrooms, life lessons, experiences, and through reading books. However, the most effective way of learning is to incorporate all of them together as building blocks for a grand lesson. And for the past five years, Sofitel Philadelphia has been elevating our children’s educational experiences by affording them to do just that.
Sofitel Philadelphia partnered with Girard College High School to bring local 9th grade students a hands-on learning experience. The program at Girard College High School integrates classroom education in the science and health departments, and culminates into an opportunity to practice what they learned in a final project for the semester.
“The first semester students’ final project was that they actually made a meal for each other that was based on the gluten free diet or the vegetarian diet, and this is the second semester students. This group of students are focusing on getting outside and learning to grow their own food,” Stated Girard College science teacher Monet Thomas-Anderson.
Guided by Sofitel Executive Chef Edward Hancock, students were taught how to properly plant and grow their own herbs, edible flowers, and vegetables in Sofitel Philadelphia’s rooftop garden. The garden is also host to the hotel’s bee hives, and both the garden’s produce and the honey collected are used to make the delectable dishes and drinks served in the hotel’s restaurants Chez Colette and Liberté Blue.
“The General Manager at the time said we weren’t supposed to be up here, so I said, ‘Let’s just start it out small.’ So for the first year we only did peppers and tomatoes. And then the 2nd year it grew and we added strawberries and herbs, and then Chef Ed, who we have now, came and we made it even bigger. And then we added the bee hives and it’s been 4 years with the bee hives and we cultivate all of our own honey, which is great. So the project started small and now it is so big and now it has grown into a fantastic project every year,” stated Michele Waters, Director of Business Travel at Sofitel Philadelphia.
After planting what will eventually grow and supply Sofitel Philadelphia’s menu, the nine students chosen to attend the school excursion were brought to Chez Colette. Two of the students then eagerly volunteered to aide Executive Chef Hancock as he demonstrated how to create some of the new spring menu items. After the educational demonstration, everyone in attendance was treated to the same sample dishes that were made.
All the dishes were made with fresh ingredients from the garden, and as such tasted like that too. The Beet Salad had an earthiness to it, adorned with edible flowers which made my palate feel like I was eating directly from the wonderful garden. The Seared Scallops were delicate and very lightly salted with roasted bell peppers to accompany the meal.
Of course, whenever you eat you should have something to drink too. As such, we were treated to some “mocktails” which also utilized the fresh herbs, and honey from Sofitel Philadelphia’s rooftop garden and apiary. While we sipped on our very flavorful and fragrant mocktails, students were also treated to some of the delicate, crisp, and delicious macaroons made by the Pastry Chef. It was a wonderful way to end a lesson in perfection.