Out with the old, and in with the new.
No, this isn’t referring to Sheraton Phoenix Downtown’s many guests checking in and out of the 1,000-room hotel, but instead the produce found on its burgeoning rooftop garden.
Found in areas such as New York, Chicago and even Montreal, rooftop gardens aren’t too common in Metro Phoenix, but the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown and District American Kitchen and Wine Bar are changing that.
“For as big as we are, we’re always worried about our footprint,” says Chef Jay Bogsinske of District American Kitchen & Wine Bar. “This is something that’s very unique to hotels. No one as big as we are is doing this; it makes our food better for it.”
Growing strong since 2009 on its fourth-floor patio, this rooftop garden has been a plan of the Sheraton’s since day one.
“This was built into the budget, even in the beginning, because the passion was there for it,” Bogsinske says. “It was part of the original vision, to go after District American. When they started digging in the ground, this was already put together in their minds.”
With about 60 different types of produce grown throughout the year, the Sheraton strives to prove that even a 1,000-room hotel can become self-sufficient, sourcing local, fresh ingredients.
According to Bogsinske, the hotel is completely self-sufficient on radishes, chocolate mint, lemon grass, oregano, curry, thyme, rosemary, sage and bay leaf. He adds that with all of the garnish coming straight from the rooftop garden, picked fresh that day, this keeps the restaurant to season.
“A lot of hotels are not as quite in tune to the season as we are,” Bogsinske says. “The garden keeps us grounded, so we plan our dishes around that.”
From artichokes, corn and peanuts, to sage, lavender, chives, rosemary, thyme, curry, celery and oregano, all of the cooks are involved in cultivating the garden. Fifteen to 20 hours per week go into maintaining the garden, which includes harvesting, planting and composting.
“Me and one other person will come up here everyday or every other day,” Bogsinske says. “It’s a moment of zen from going 200 miles an hour downstairs to coming up here and taking care of it. There’s nothing better than something you love with your hands, a craft you take care of.”
But it’s not just the District American team who tend the garden; they’ve partnered with Singh Farms, a 20-acre, sustainable farm located in Scottsdale. This is where District American sources its nutrient-rich soil.
“We save all of our scraps and are part of the composting program at Singh Farms,” Bogsinske says. “We get better growth than most people because of the strength and nutrients of the soil.”
According to Bogsinske and Katie Brashear, complex director of public relations for Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, the relationship between District American and Singh Farms is unique ― built and strengthened over time. They say it’s not just about buying and eating local, but, more importantly, educating one’s self in learning to grow and sustaining a garden.
“Sheraton is a corporate hotel, but we have so much passion about what we do and that resonates from the hotel to the culinary side, and we follow through,” Brashear says. “It’s everything from starting with the soil to the inception, to cultivating and nurturing, so we have the freshest product identical to what you can find, quality-wise, at Singh Farms.”
Currently, the garden is at 75 feet, with plans to add another 30 feet by the end of this year. Bogsinske says that they hope to double its size in the near future.
To view the rooftop garden for yourself, visit District American at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.
If You Go: District American Kitchen and Wine Bar
320 N. 3rd St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004
(602) 817-5400 districtrestaurant.com