Rooftop Greens: Tour the Chicago Bears’ Onsite Garden with FLIK Hospitality Group
In addition to operating the training table, our culinary team at the Chicago Bears oversees a rooftop garden, aptly named the Bear Garden. The Bear Garden is part of an outdoor event space that sits in full sun most of the day. With a shaded sitting area and a stellar view that overlooks the practice fields, this rooftop garden is also a critical element of our culinary operations.
We were treated to a private tour of the Bear Garden with Sous Chef Michael DiRienzo and Austin Adame, a prep cook at the training table. They take point on all things related to the Garden, from deciding on what crops to plant in the spring to harvesting through late summer and into the fall. And, maybe most importantly, they decide how to showcase all this hyper-local, seasonal produce.
FLIK: How long has the Bear Garden been up here on the roof?
Austin: It’s been here since 2019, since they did the building renovation. Our former executive chef started the garden and I’ve continued to look after it since then.
FLIK: What kind of maintenance does the Bear Garden require? Do you take care of all the planting, watering, and weeding?
Chef Mike: We do everything! We get started about early May, planning what we want to plant here. Late May, we get all the plants in. And then throughout the year, watering, weeding, harvesting.
FLIK: When do you fit it all in? Especially during training camp when you’re already working really long days, serving four meals almost seven days per week.
Chef Mike: You find time for things you really enjoy doing.
Austin: Yeah, definitely. We try to come up here every day or every couple of days. Even if it’s just 20 minutes to get up here and water. You get away from everything for a second. It’s something refreshing, something different. It’s usually a nice walk too. You walk over here and you’re saying hi to everybody on the walk over here.
Top Left: Swordfish with purple kale, tomato-avocado relish
Top Right: Rainbow Swiss chard risotto, heirloom cherry tomatoes
Bottom Left: Roasted eggplant, tomato, and pepper ratatouille
Bottom Right: Buffalo wings, homemade habanero and Thai bird chili hot sauce
FLIK: Tell me, Chef Mike, what’s the most creative thing you’ve done with produce from the garden?
Chef Mike: One of our favorite things to grow is sweet corn. We have a whole row of it. Last year we took some of the sweet corn and steeped it in milk and made a corn crème brulee. We called it Corn Brulee. It went over really well the night we served it.
FLIK: I need to make a special request for that! What about you, Austin? What’s your favorite thing you’ve made using produce from the Bear Garden?
Austin: I personally like to do a lot of things with tomatoes. One thing Mike had an idea for the other day was a focaccia. We did a focaccia with all the yellow tomatoes as a base, like a sauce, and then more little tomatoes on top of that, mozzarella, basil, olive oil. We got it really crispy. It was awesome.
At FLIK Hospitality Group we believe in great food, great service, and great people. Our wellness first approach ensures our food supports healthy and delicious choices, specially curated by our team of culinary experts and registered dietitians. At FLIK, we believe in seasonality in sourcing our ingredients and providing a customized approach to the culinary and hospitality needs of each client. Our dedication to providing quality hospitality service is unparalleled in the industry.
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