An Interview with the Chef at the W Retreat and Spa About Garden Designs
We're happy when anyone wants to maximize using local food, and especially when that means people grow their own. That's why we're teaming up with the W Retreat and Spa—Vieques Island in Puerto Rico to help provide a design for their garden. We've provided all the details here, and we recently spoke to Dagan Lynn, the chef who will be making use of the garden, about what he would like to see in your designs. Remember, the best design will win a five-night stay at the W Retreat and Spa.
GOOD: We’re interested in finding out a little more about what you want to grow in the garden, to add a little bit more information to what we’ve already described online.
DAGAN LYNN: Cilantro, thai basil, wheat grass, lavender. The different kinds of sage. The finer herbs need a little bit of shade. So, if it’s natural or if it's, you know what I mean, industrial looking...
G: Something that can achieve that shade while still kind of creating an aesthetic sense.
DL: Part of it is obviously to utilize some of the stuff because it’s hard to get [on the island]. But it’s also to take guests over there. After they have a great tasting menu, to take them over during the day, give them a tour. That kind of thing.
G: So creating that kind of atmosphere would be a component of it.
DL: Yeah, something that is workable, but you can still go over there and it’s aesthetically pleasing.
G: And what kind of stuff do you want to grow?
DL: As far as herbs, I mean pretty much any herb you can think of grows out here. I try to find stuff that is a little bit different or out of the ordinary. I’d love to have a bay leaf tree. Have them planning the soup of the day and going out and grabbing herbs from the garden and picking a bay leaf from the tree.
G: Did you have any specific dishes that you can think of that the prospect of having that garden would make really exciting for you?
DL: I’m definitely a really big basil fan, so the different kinds of basil you can grow down here.
G: Is it mostly herbs that you’re looking into?
DL: No. The more I can supply myself here the better off we are, just because of the distance between us and the mainland. Trying to get products here on the island takes time, so as much as I can produce here the better. Different kinds of cherry tomatoes would be great. Eggplant does extremely well here. Chiles, Aji dulce that we mix in the frito for our version of mofongo, one of the local Puerto Rican dishes. I haven’t seen any cauliflower or any of that growing down here but doesn’t mean we can’t try.
G: Is there any specific feature of that garden of that size that you’ve ever encountered?
DL: So, the herb garden should be closest part to the restaurant. And then have different types of trees, like grapefruit. I actually have one in my backyard and it’s fantastic. There are these giant trees here that produce these giant grapefruit.
Maybe have a section that has a lot of irrigation so that we can get some nice cherry tomatoes going. There also has to be a compost thing going on.
And it should be nice to walk through. Maybe somebody gets a sandwich at the cafe and gets to walk through the garden where we pick the tomatoes and then maybe sit down under a tree and have lunch.
So really, make it more like a big family garden so you can walk through and have different scenery and different parts.
As for fruit, you know there’s the starfruit, I actually grabbed some the other day, some guava, guayaba. That stuff makes the best mojitos or daiquiri.
G: Which is important in the Caribbean.
DL: Yeah, it goes really great with rum.