Beehives at the Salt Lake Hilton

It used to be that Americans demanded, above all, consistency. Our mobile society, as it moved around the country, wanted the security of knowing they could get the same Big Mac in Maine that they could get in Arizona. We were brand loyal to gas stations, automobiles and hotels. That was then.

“Now people want differentiation,” says Abby Murtagh, general manager of Hilton Hotel Salt Lake City Center.

Turns out, travelers are demanding to know where they are. Cookie-cutter businesses have less appeal than unique ones. So the challenge is, how to change from one philosophy to another? How do you make a hotel that’s based its image on reliable sameness to one that is different from any other? How do you make a national brand into a local one?

Spencers for Steaks and Chops Executive Chef Sebastian Lowery.

Salt Lake Hilton’s Spencers for Steaks and Chops Executive Chef Sebastian Lowery decided the change should start in the kitchen. That’s why we are standing on the 3rd floor of Salt Lake’s downtown hotel watching the honeybees’ busyness around their hives—there are four of them flourishing on the roof outside the plate glass window. How did this come about?

“I wanted to start growing herbs and vegetables in the boxes around our patio,” says Lowery. “After I got corporate approval, I called Bug Farms to see if they could help me get started and help me with maintenance. They steered me to Sarah Duke—she takes care of our gardens now—and she introduced me to Craig Huntzinger of Bees Brothers. Together we came up with the plan to put hives on the roof. I don’t have time to run a hotel kitchen, tend a garden and keep bees, but with this team, it’s possible.”

And that means local will soon be on the plate at Spencers Steaks and Chops, in the cocktails at the bar and that VIP guests will be presented with Bees Brothers’ honey and bee-based products, like 3-oz. jars (acceptable to TSA) of honey from the Hilton.

As an example of how his kitchen will be using their new honey, Chef presents me with a honey-cinnamon ice cream cone. It’s delicious—perfectly creamy with all the complex sweetness of honey.

Lowery and Murtagh have more than local on their mind, though.

“The next generation is looking for businesses to be more globally responsible,” says Murtagh. “The Salt Lake Valley and the world needs bees,” says Lowery.

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Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf
Mary Brown Malouf is the late Executive Editor of Salt Lake magazine and Utah's expert on local food and dining. She still does not, however, know how to make a decent cup of coffee.

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