Kristian Crossen has been in his new role for just over seven months and already he looks after more than 300,000 university workers who are ‘busy as bees’ every day.
Crossen, the new Food and Beverage Manager/Executive Chef for Great Hall Catering, recently established a bee garden behind North Campus Building that will produce the sticky goodness he and others will incorporate into campus dishes this fall.
“I come from Windemere Manor, where we had 23 beehive apiaries. We had the luxury of our own honey that was produced on site. I wanted to bring them to campus to have the honey for us to use as an ingredient,” said Crossen, who will tend to the bees along with local beekeeper Rick Huismann. “It is a good opportunity to support the bees, a bit of a cause right now, and take pride in having it on campus for sustainability sake.”
The latest bees are not the first striped tenants located on campus, Crossman said his four hives, which each house over 75,000 honey-makers, join a series of other hives used by Biology professor Graham Thompson, whose research looks at insects, their health and social behaviour.
The new bees will produce 60-100 pounds of honey each year.
“They will give us a fair amount of honey we can use as a staple ingredient in our kitchen,” Crossen said. “We also plan on harvesting some honeycomb we can use as a garnish for some of our dishes. But floral wildflower honey – there is no comparison and it’s something we’re looking forward to using in our kitchen.”
Crossen, who worked with bees as a hobby in Orillia, Ont., said there is no need for anyone to worry about the buzzing bees being a bother.
“It sounds like a lot of bees, but the impact in the area is minimal,” he said. “The bees really do have a one-track mind; they are looking to pollenate plants and flowers to make honey, and that’s about it. I don’t think people on campus will even know the bees are here since they’re just busy doing their business. They are bred for one purpose and are a docile breed.”
Urban bees are “the way of the future,” Crossen added, with pesticide abatements and bans allowing them to thrive once again in populated areas.
“There is still some work to do to establish their hives and build up the population. But once that happens, and there are a lot more flowering plants for them, then they’ll really start to produce.”
Crossen said the idea for the bees plays perfectly into Hospitality Services’ focus on sourcing local products, adding you can’t get any more local than a five-minute walk.
“We do have a local focus for our producers and suppliers with Great Hall Catering, and this was an opportunity, I thought, to have, speaking as a chef first, an ingredient like fresh unpasteurized wildflower honey made available to us,” Crossen said. “This is a real luxury and we’re really happy to be doing this. It’s as local as we possibly can be.”