Andre Natera, How Does Your Garden Grow?
The Pyramid Restaurant & Bar's executive chef, Andre Natera, and his support of local and seasonal foods have been profiled before. One of the ways in which he exhibits his devotion to fresh produce is through the restaurant's terrace herb and vegetable garden. Recently, I accepted an invitation to tour the garden.
Photos by Jose Ralat Maldanado Andre Natera in his downtown terrace-level garden
The 3,000-square-foot behemoth is unruly. Weeds stand behind the enemy lines of produce. Or maybe it's the other way around. More akin to an avid gardener's plot than to the studied, curated landscape of a professional greenthumb. Natera, man charged with the garden's selection and upkeep, calls it an "honest garden." "The kitchen staff are the only people working in the garden, aside from someone who helps with the watering."
(See more photos from The Pyramid's garden on the next page.)
It's open to the public, and enjoyed by guests. "It's interesting to see so many people taking herbs here and there." Guests have also picked cleaned the strawberries. Once, the chefs went to pick strawberries for a popular dessert and found that guests had already helped themselves. The fact that the Fairmont Dallas Hotel's pool is located on the same level has a lot to do with it. Thankfully, squirrels aren't fond of the bounty.
Restaurant honey doesn't get any fresher than this.
This produce includes watermelon, rosemary and thyme, all of which spread like blight. "They really take over the garden." The watermelon's rampant bullying certainly doesn't bother Natera. He uses it for his seasonal specialty salad, watermelon brulee. Steven Doyle, who joined me on the tour, and I got to sample the salad in a refreshing amuse-bouche portion. The garden also hosts tomatillos with yellow blooms, cinnamon basil going to seed and Natera's pride and joy: two Texas Honeybee Guild hives. The honey is planned for use later this summer.
Watermelons run rampant.
As Hanna Raskin wrote in this week's review of Natera, the man's humble. He is a chef bereft of haughty attitude. He is man unafraid of a little dirt and aware that he's been entrusted with nurturing nature. "After some three to four hours, I'll take off my jacket. Pull some weeds. I respect my ingredients even more now. You plant tomatoes, wait for them to grow, wait to harvest them. Trust me, I never burned them after that."
Watermelons also make a tasty amuse bouche at Natera's hands. Fresh produce is a treasure for the eye (here and below) as well as the palate.