Story by Lynn Cook
Photo by Hudelson
Who wouldn’t want to move into a rooftop suite-with-a-view at one of Maui’s most luxurious resorts with an all-you-can-eat buffet every day?
Stories about productive rooftop gardens being planted throughout the state fed the imagination of Matt Bailey, managing director of Maui’s Grand Wailea Resort. When he asked Executive Chef Eric Faivre what product he would grow if the Wailea had its own rooftop garden, Faivre’s instant answer was, “Honey!” Swarms of stinging insects weren’t quite what Bailey had in mind, but he called in James Heid, director of landscaping, to ask if bees might make good guests.
Heid added up the necessary elements to keep honeybees happy: a clear line of sight to a food source—in this case a hillside of kiawe (mesquite) trees loaded with fragrant white blossoms—plus fresh water, wind protection and privacy. The sweet spot turned out to be the rooftop of the resort ballroom, far from crowds. In fall 2009 five hives were installed. A professional Maui “bee wrangler” from Kula was hired to “bring in the herd,” moving small colonies to their new, five-star apiary accommodations. Heid observed the bees carefully to confirm that they weren’t dive-buzzing hotel guests, just flying directly from hive to flower and back.
Comfortable in their new digs, the bees wintered over. Spring harvest netted a few cups of honey. Now, two years later, a total of ten hives produce five gallons a month, joyous news for the resort’s restaurants, spa and guests. Chef Faivre moved quickly to incorporate the fresh, raw honey into the menu of all six Grand Wailea restaurants. (Top votes go to his breakfast granola rooftop honey parfait and his black lava-salted prawns with rooftop honey spaghetti squash.) Leftovers went to the spa, where they’re used in the Ali‘i Honey Mango Steam Cocoon treatment. And the rest? “Everyone begged to take home our kiawe honey,” says Faivre, so the resort got its honey certified by Maui’s Department of Health and, says Faivre with a grin, “five-ounce jars of rooftop honey just fly off Café Kula’s counter.”