Le Méridien Maldives Resort perfects organic, ‘farm-to-table’ dining
The Maldives’ luxury resort cuisine has evolved significantly from the country’s typical hamburgers and handmade beach BBQ lunches. Instead, island resorts throughout the nation have emerged as hotspots for Michelin-starred chefs to practice their craft and display their talents. Many chefs find the task of fusing more “basic” ingredients with haute cuisine to produce delectable dishes fascinating, and the outcomes are consistently pleasantly surprising.
Healthy eaters are aware that using fresh, organic foods that are sustainably sourced is the secret to gourmet cooking. In the Maldives, the “farm-to-table” notion is more than just a trendy culinary trend; it’s a way of life, a lifestyle that has been carried down through generations, including eating habits.
Chefs work closely with local farmers and fishermen who daily bring in fresh catch and organic food at the island resorts. Many opulent resorts are also devoting substantial areas of their land to growing food for their visitors, following the global trend that pushes for complete traceability and transparency of the items at the dining table. Every element is regional and in season.
The Greenhouse at Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa has perfected sustainable farming, incorporated cutting-edge concepts, and achieved cult status for their incredibly fresh and delectable Greenhouse experience. The culinary adventure, which is appealing to the romantic to the family-friendly, encapsulates and uplifts the joyful spirit of a day in the Maldives.
Eating, with its deeply local roots, has always been central to our physical, social and even spiritual existence, but never have we been more conscious of the ways in which our food is produced and consumed. At 430sqm, The Greenhouse is one of the Maldives’ largest state-of-the-art hydroponic farms that has been purposely designed to promote sustainable farming and consumption. The Greenhouse is a blueprint for the resort’s food menus and provides a physical link between the plate and the chef’s mindset – one not just occupied with creating beautiful food, but with the origins of the ingredients used.
“This trend toward organic, sustainably-sourced meals was sparked by worries about animal cruelty, environmental sustainability, and human health, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified it. Nowadays, people are more aware, sensitive, and responsible,” says Nilesh Singh, the General Manager at Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa.
“We are serious about sourcing every single ingredient from ethical sources. We grow as much as we can in our Greenhouse. The menus use only the freshest, high-quality ingredients to tempt guests on a daily basis.”
Smart sustenance. A significant step towards self-sufficiency, The Greenhouse is a semi-automated hydroponic system that produces fresh leafy vegetables for resort guests and consumption on neighbouring islands. Developed in conjunction with Singapore-based company Kok Fah Technology Farm, The Greenhouse uses a range of state-of-the-art technologies, including an automated irrigation system that captures and recycles rainwater. This produces clean vegetables that are free of pesticides, grown in a stress-free environment and particularly nutrient-rich through the use of peat moss. Various leafy vegetables, Maldivian chillies, tomatoes and herbs have already been successfully grown in The Greenhouse with plenty more to follow – the harvest target is about 30 kilograms daily and up to 11 tonnes of vegetables annually. Now that’s a lot of fibre.
Designed to promote sustainable farming and consumption, The Greenhouse is nurtured and managed by the resort’s Head Horticulturist Juby Thomas. An environmentalist by heart, she followed this career path as hydroponics being the latest technology in agriculture. For her, this is the future of farming.
“Our Greenhouse is first and the biggest among various Maldives resorts. We grow the veggies fully organically with the latest technology, ie. Hydroponically, and our greenhouse is partially automatic it controls the temperature and light intensity which makes our greenhouse smarter than others. We also harvest the rainwater. We have big tanks which stores 30,000 litres of rain water,” she says.
“One of the challenges is to have rain water all year around. Although RO water can also be used but not all plants do well. I always faced the challenges as the opportunity to learn and understand more. My goal is to have more and more varieties of plants so as to fully utilise our large greenhouse even during off season.”
Juby’s curiosity is enlivened everyday as she explores the growth process of diverse plants and vegetables on the island of Thilamaafushi. Interacting with guests during The Greenhouse tour is the highlight of her day. She recommends to taste the Crystal Summer Roll from the Harvest Table, a holistic menu that is elevated with the freshest of ingredients, bringing together the spirit of organic dining with the love for mother nature.
“The staff, the hard work, dedication and the helping nature of the staff is what makes it more rewarding,” Juby says.
But the hard work isn’t left to the staff alone – guests can also get involved, taking on some gardening in the greenhouse or utilising ingredients during cooking classes. Ideal for foodies, there’s also the Harvest Table, a weekly supper club dining experience that spotlights hydroponic farming practices while enjoying imaginative dishes with a conscience.
The Greenhouse is just one way Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is leading in the way of sustainability. When Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa welcomed its first guests in September 2021, it marked the debut of Le Méridien Hotels & Resorts in one of the world’s most fascinating destinations. The 141-villa resort lies secluded in a southern pocket of Lhaviyani Atoll on the natural island of Thilamaafushi; an eco- conscious hideaway of indigenous flora and fauna surrounded by a shimmering lagoon and coral reefs teeming with marine life. To ensure that this biodiversity is not only preserved, but thrives, Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa is committed to environmental consciousness in line with Marriott International’s Serve 360 sustainability policy – with a range of pioneering programmes that promote a culture of best practice throughout resort operations: coral restoration programmes, fresh drinking water in glass bottles, efficient recycling methods, and harnessing the power of the sun.
Owing to the exemplary work in their efforts to promote and practice eco-conscious holidays, the resort recently earned the prestigious BCA Green Mark GOLDPlus Award, an internationally recognised green building certification scheme tailored for the tropical climate.