In time for World Food Day, this Makati hotel launches own herb garden

Angelo G. Garcia

Posted at Oct 20 2019 09:26 AM

Makati Shangri-La Manila chefs inspect herbs at their new herb garden. Photo by author

MANILA -- In celebration of World Food Day, Makati Shangri-La Manila launched its own herb garden in an effort to become a more sustainable hotel. 

Observed every October 16 by all United Nations member-countries, World Food Day is a global campaign that aims to create a hunger-free world by 2030. 

Situated at one of the open spaces of the hotel, the herb garden was created to meet the herb and vegetable needs of its kitchens. It is targeted to become the main supplier of herbs and vegetables, in three years' time, making the kitchen operations more sustainable. 

The hotel plans to transform more of its open spaces as herb gardens. And it also hopes more people do the same and build their own gardens at home. The hotel partnered with MNL Growkits to start the garden. 

Makati Shangri-La Manila's executive sous chef Thenesh Murugaya (left) and executive chef Nicola Canuti plant the first herbs. Photo by author

“World Food Day has always been about food but we forget that food we eat is coming from our food producers, the agriculture sector or our farmers,” said MNL Growkits founder and chief executive officer Carlo Sumaoang. 

MNL Growkits sells organic plant and garden kits, encouraging more people — especially the younger generation — to plant their own edible garden. 

One of the main thrusts of the organization is to make gardening and farming “cooler” to the younger generation. Because Sumaoang explained that the interest in farming has been declining throughout the years. 
“When we talk about food and agriculture we usually focus on the young generation, Generation Y or the millennials. Because almost 50 percent of our population is coming from this group. They are the drivers of our economy, they are the next generation managers,” he said.

MNL Growkits founder and CEO Carlo Sumaoang. Photo by author

Also according to him and based on their research, the younger generation feel like farming is too much work.

“The average age of the Filipino farmer in 2014 was 57. If our calculations are correct, 10 to 20 years from now, we don't have farmers or most our farmers would retire," Sumaoang said.

"Simply put, the demand for food is increasing because the population is increasing but the farmer numbers are going down. No more food producers.”

To encourage young people to plant, even in their own homes, MNL Growkits sells easy plant kits that are easy to do and packaged attractively. 

“The target market that we want to share agriculture with is very image centric. It has to be Instagrammable. We made our visuals on point. Brown and organic. We're doing our best to give growers a different perspective and experience with agriculture. Our packaging has to look amazing,” he said.

MNL Growkits booth at Makati Shangri-La Manila. Photo by author

They even partner with art companies like Femi and produced a “potheads” collection featuring hand-painted plant pots.
MNL Growkits will also have live gardening demonstrations at Circles Events Cafe which started Saturday, October 19. The other demos are scheduled on October 20 and 26. 

During the celebration, Makati Shangri-La Manila's executive chef Nicola Canuti also demonstrated different sauce recipes using various herbs and using a simple household kitchen tool, the mortar and pestle. 

“We try to bring back the original way how to make a sauce. The Indians do their spices in a small mortar, even Filipinos use lava stone. In Italy, we use this to make pesto. This is like coming back to the old ways. When we use the chopping board we usually lose the flavor on the chopping board and the knife. If you do all the herbs and spice in the mortar, you keep the freshness and you don't lose anything,” he said.

Some of the sauces that can be made in a mortar and pestle include: guacamole, romesco, molcajeteada (Mexican), chimichurri, and piperade. 

Sauces made in a traditional mortar and pestle. Photo by author

“What we're promoting is an idea, an experience. It's a simple kit complete with everything you need to grow your plants. All you need are the right resources and information, proper seed and soil then you can definitely start harvesting on your own also,” Samaoang shared.