Eating Fresh at Webster! Our Backyard Garden is Now Open

Like many others in the north east, the lack of warm weather over these past few months really had everyone at Webster singing the winter blues. At this point of the year, our gardens and rooftop are usually lush with colorful flowers and plants, but weeks of continuous rain and cooler weather forced us to postpone our spring planting. However, with our recent breath of fresh air and warmer temperatures, Webster has put all hands on deck to get our outdoor spaces in tip-top shape to be enjoyed by our guests!

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As always, thousands of plants and flowers grow in the backyard and on the rooftop, but this year, Webster has another wonderful new addition for our guests to enjoy for years to come!

It’s not too common that one stumbles upon a garden in the thick of NYC’s concrete jungle, but, tucked away in the back of Webster Apartments is a newly added a garden with fresh seasonal produce! Not really what you’d expect behind those brick walls, is it?!

The garden, developed, designed and planted under the direction of our Food Services management team, will now be a staple on the Webster property – used to grow seasonal produce that our guests will enjoy in freshly prepared meals each day.

Our garden is flourishing and our kitchen is ready to whip up delicious healthy meals for our guests! To celebrate, we sat down with Martha Lachawiec, Food Services Director, and Cristan Flores, Executive Chef, to learn more about the culinary world they live in and the benefits of incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into our daily diet.

Get to know more about Martha and Cristian’s food philosophy, and be sure to step outside to visit our new garden:

Martha Lachawiec grew up in the food service industry — so ending up in the food industry herself is pretty much “genetic” as she says. Martha’s mother was a Dining Room manager and often took her along to work with her as a small child, further peaking her interest in the food service world. As one who loves everything about food, flavors, colors, textures and presentation, it’s amusing to think she didn’t aspire to be a chef (although she does enjoy baking).

Growing up in Martha’s house meant that food was a celebration, meals were events. “I have always loved to make it fun and festive. The majority of our guests are not American-born, not familiar with our traditions, and I enjoy sharing our food traditions from holidays such as Halloween, Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras with them.”
The guest response to these celebrations has been overwhelming so Martha took it a step further by incorporating the many backgrounds and cultures of her staff.

“My staff is very diverse and I enjoy sharing their heritage and family recipes with our guests as well as with the rest of our team. People have a lot of pride in who they are, where they come from and food is the essence of their everyday life, we all eat. With the diversity of our guests and limited space to provide offerings that will appeal to the varied taste buds of every guest, we are faced with an interesting challenge here at Webster! To combat this, we offer a large variety of cuisines in our weekly menus while maintaining Webster’s mission and a main focus of our menu planning – providing healthy meals for our guests.”

In the Webster kitchen, we use fresh herbs and spices, olive oil in place of butter, and most recently, locally grown fruit and vegetables from our own garden to provide the healthiest choices for all. We avoid frying whenever possible. Have you tried our French fries, crispy chicken, or chicken wings? I bet you never would have guessed they are all baked!

Executive Chef Cristian Flores grew up watching his mother cook and loved her food. Something clearly stuck from those years of watching her in the kitchen and began working in a restaurant when he was just 17-years-old. It was there when his executive chef took note of Cristian, believed in him as a Chef when he was “just a food expositor.” He had the opportunity to see how the food industry worked and drew his attention to how food can look and taste if you have culinary creativity. He soon found that he did – and he had a passion for it.

Cristan often reads to draw inspiration for Webster’s menu. Recalling his days of working in the restaurant and his travels around the world, his recipes are a mix of flavors and ingredients from his past experiences — Asian Fusion, classic American, Italian, Irish, and French cuisines. “I love all of them — especially seafood!” But his favorite flavors, we learned, are from Latin America, Chile and Asia.

With Webster’s new garden, Cristian is looking forward to creating healthy, nutritious meals where you can taste and enjoy the flavors of the fresh peppers, tomatoes, lettuce, squashes, herbs and jalapeños. Getting hungry yet? Some of the meals you should expect to see in the next few weeks from Chef Cristian include fresh garden vegetables in our salad bar and vegetarian dishes like squash lasagna, garden marinara sauce from fresh tomatoes, herbs and more.

We can’t wait to serve you your next meal. In the meantime, take a stroll through the backyard to take a look at our new garden and watch it continue to grow over the next few months!

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