Chef Blog: Cielo Verde
Cielo Verde: Green Heaven
Growing in New Mexico, I always thought that some day I'd wind up with my own little ranch, just as my grandparents and aunts and uncles had before me. Finally, that dream has come true for me, but in a very different form, in a dramatically different setting: Playa's rooftop garden, our Cielo Verde.
A few months after opening I discovered how difficult it was to find the traditional Latin produce I wanted to cook with in my kitchen. That's when the idea began for growing our own on the restaurant's rooftop and an innovative idea for aeroponic agriculture.
Researching the most advanced methods for small-space, sustainable urban propagation, we settled on an aeroponic system based on compact, drip-irrigated towers. We purchased 35 such towers, each of which is about 6 feet tall and contains 28 individual growing pots. These were installed in early March 2012, lifted onto Playa's roof with a giant industrial crane.
The first harvest took place in mid-April, when we picked an assortment of micro-herbs. Two weeks later, we harvested our first greens, including wild arugula, pac choi, and Tuscan black kale. Still growing to harvest readiness are such items as Great White tomatoes, Black Cherry tomatoes, Peaches and Cream corn, Manar cucumbers, Padrón peppers, borage flowers, Swiss chard, and fresh black garbanzos. Chef de Cuisine Kevin Luzande and the entire Playa kitchen brigade join me on a daily basis in tending to our Cielo Verde.
The results of our dedicated labors have begun to shape the new menu at Playa—not just our food, from appetizers through desserts, but also our mixology program—and they will continue to drive our homegrown rooftop-to-table Urban Latin cuisine
We all welcome you to join us in savoring this fulfillment of a dream.
-Chef John Rivera Sedlar