Tag Archives: Bell Book and Candle

Americans Demanding Local, Sustainable Tower Garden Produce at Restaurants

As Americans continue to eat more local and sustainable produce and herbs themselves, they are expecting the same from the restaurants they visit.

Tower Gardens at Highland Manor

The chef at Highland Manor in central Florida displays a harvest from the Tower Gardens®. Pictured at right is Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing® LLC. (Click photo to enlarge)

Nearly 40 percent of consumers surveyed said they would be more likely to visit restaurants that offer healthy options, according to foodservice consulting firm Technomic. And these health-conscious restaurant guests now define “healthy” foods as those that are “locally grown” and “fresh”, instead of the old definitions of “low fat” and low calorie”, Technomic says.

Then, just last week, the National Restaurant Association declared that the top hot trends for restaurant menus in 2014 will be locally grown produce, hyper-local sourcing (restaurants that sport their own gardens), and healthful kids’ meals.

Future Growing® LLC’s commercial urban farms have been at the forefront of this trend for years. Some of our long-time growers—which sport expansive Tower Garden® farms on their rooftops—are among the nation’s finest restaurants, including Primo Restaurant at JW Marriott and Bell Book & Candle in New York City.

Harvesting heirloom tomatoes

Harvesting heirloom tomatoes at Bell Book and Candle’s rooftop Tower Garden farm. (Click photo to enlarge)

Restaurants are the primary customers for our flourishing Future Growing® urban farms. Take Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s O’Hare Urban Garden, for example: It’s the first airport featuring an indoor farm, with numerous Tower Garden® towers that supplies the airport’s Farmers’ Market as well as many of its upscale eateries, including Wolfgang Puck and Rick Bayless’ Tortas Frontera.

LA Urban Farms supplies fresh Tower Garden® produce to the top restaurants in Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

604 Arizona - TG farm

Pictured above are Jessica Coleman; Tim Blank, founder and CEO of Future Growing LLC; and Wendy Coleman, at an L.A. Urban Farms rooftop Tower Garden farm.  (Click photo to enlarge)

Likewise, Montecito Urban Farms in Summerland, CA delivers the freshest herbs, greens and produce to popular local restaurants such as Wine Cask Restaurant, Bouchon Santa Barbara, and Sojourner Café & Restaurant.

As the locally-sourced produce trend continues to gain momentum in the mainstream, Future Growing®’s urban farms will be at the forefront of supplying the highest quality, chemical-free, nutritious produce to restaurants all over the world. Read about this fast-growing restaurant trend for yourself in the QSR Magazine blog copied below!

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

NRA Rounds Up Hottest Culinary Trends of 2014

The National Restaurant Association (NRA) each year prepares its What’s Hot culinary forecast of menu trends for the coming year. The NRA surveyed nearly 1,300 professional chefs, members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF), to find which food and beverage items will be hot trends on restaurant menus in 2014.

Wind Horse Cafe

Customers enjoy their outdoor lunch surrounded by Future Growing® Tower Gardens®, at Wind Horse Cafe in Eustis, FL. (Click photo to enlarge)

The top 10 food trends for 2014 are:

  1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
  2. Locally grown produce
  3. Environmental sustainability
  4. Healthful kids’ meals
  5. Gluten-free cuisine
  6. Hyper-local sourcing (e.g. restaurant gardens)
  7. Children’s nutrition
  8. Non-wheat noodles/pasta (e.g. quinoa, rice, buckwheat)
  9. Sustainable seafood
  10. Farm/estate branded items
Chef John Mooney

Chef John Mooney prepping edible squash flowers for evening dinner special.
(Click photo to enlarge)

“Today’s consumers are more interested than ever in what they eat and where their food comes from, and that is reflected in our menu trends research,” says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association’s research and knowledge group. “True trends, as opposed to temporary fads, show the evolution of the wider shifts of our modern society over time and focus on the provenance of various food and beverage items, unique aspects of how they are prepared and presented, as well as the dietary profiles of those meals.”

“The American Culinary Federation chefs who took part in the survey understand that sourcing locally and environmental sustainability tie in with ongoing efforts to provide more-healthful foods for everyone, especially children,” says Thomas Macrina, CEC, CCA, HGT, AAC, ACF national president. “Chefs recognize that nutrition is a vital component of the foodservice industry and constantly revise and update recipes to reflect the concerns and desires of a diverse group of consumers who are looking for good food choices to best meet their nutrition and other needs.”

Chefs at Montecito Urban Farm

Pictured here, from left to right, are: Executive Chef Greg Murphy of Bouchon, Chef Brandon Hughes of the Wine Cask Restaurant, and Chef Nik Ramirez of the Intermezzo Bar and Cafe. All three restaurants are located in Santa Barbara, CA. (Click photo to enlarge)

The What’s Hot in 2014 survey also found that the top five alcohol and cocktail trends will be micro-distilled/artisan spirits, locally produced beer/wine/spirits, onsite barrel-aged drinks, culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients), and regional signature cocktails.

When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trends 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list, followed by local sourcing, health-nutrition, children’s nutrition, and gluten-free cuisine.

The five items with the highest ranking as a waning trend in 2014 were foam/froth/air, bacon-flavored chocolate, fish offal, gazpacho, and fun-shaped children’s items.

Playa Rivera rooftop

Street view of Playa Rivera, a high-end restaurant in Los Angeles, CA with a Future Growing® Tower Garden® farm on its rooftop. (Click photo to enlarge)

The five items with the highest points as perennial trends next year were fried chicken, Italian cuisine, frying, barbeque, and eggs benedict.

The five items that gained most in trendiness since last year in the annual survey were nose-to-tail/root-to-stalk cooking, pickling, ramen, dark greens, and Southeast Asian cuisine. The five items with the largest drop in “hot trend” rating were Greek yogurt, sweet potato fries, new cuts of meat, grass-fed beef, and organic coffee.

Compared with five years ago, items that have remained top 20 food trends include locally grown produce, healthful kids’ meals, gluten-free cuisine, sustainable seafood, and health/nutrition.

Latin peppers being dried for the evening dinner.

Latin peppers being dried for the evening dinner at Playa Rivera in Los Angeles. (Click photo to enlarge)

Items that have dropped substantially down the list from the top 20 food trends in 2009 include gelato, micro-greens, flatbreads, tapas/meze/dim sum, and dessert flights.

Also included in the What’s Hot in 2014 survey were questions about other trends. Nearly six out of 10 (59 percent) of the chefs said they always make efforts to adjust dishes and recipes to be more healthful, while one-third (33 percent) said they cook with nutrition in mind, but that not all recipes are easily adjusted.

Blog originally published by QSR Magazine on December 3, 2013.


Chef John Mooney Takes N.Y. Restaurant’s Success to the Rooftops of Washington, DC

Last month, I shared how the world-famous roof-to-table Bell Book & Candle eatery sports New York City’s most successful and longest-running hydroponic farm. Chef John Mooney and partner Mick O’Sullivan feed an 80-seat restaurant with their vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm, which is now in its fourth year of producing chemical-free, highly flavorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

The extraordinary success of the Bell Book & Candle restaurant and Tower Garden® farm in Manhattan has created international interest, and has restaurant owners and chefs asking, “How can we do this here?”

US Capitol Building

Chef John and Mick have had many opportunities to expand their success, and they recently chose our nation’s capitol as their next roof-to-table endeavor.

While many restaurants greenwash with a few pots of herbs or a small garden bed, they don’t achieve the skyrocketing success of John and Mick because—very simply—the food just isn’t getting from garden to table. What the restaurant industry is beginning to learn is that customers can no longer be fooled by good marketing and a “show” garden. They now know and understand what locally grown food is, and they want it on their plates every day.

Roof-to-table food

Roof-to-table produce you can smell and taste! (Click photo to enlarge)

Mick says it best: “I seat repeat customers every night because they know and can taste they are getting the best from us. If they weren’t, there are hundreds of other choices just down the street in Manhattan. Our repeat customers are loyal because they enjoy the experience each time and, more importantly, we have a real farm on our building that actually produces healthy herbs and vegetables!” A Future Growing® farm produces massive amounts of vertical food with extraordinary flavor and does not slow down. The farms get repeated results throughout spring, summer, fall, and even into winter, year after year!

I had a chance to sit down with Mick and Chef John in Manhattan, and here is what they had to say about their new project in Washington, DC:

Washington Monument

Chef John and Mick, why did you choose Washington, DC?

What better place to launch our second roof-to-table farm than our nation’s capitol! We were looking for partners that truly understood Chef John’s passion for responsible sourcing of local food and believed in this vision that has created genuine success for Bell Book & Candle.

Mick, tell me a little more about this new project.

We are going to save much of the details for our opening this fall, but I can tell you that this new eatery will be an even bigger success that what we have accomplished in Manhattan.

Heirloom tomatoes

BB&C partner Mick O’Sullivan tends to his favorite crop, the heirloom tomatoes! (Click photo to enlarge)

Our new roof-to-table farm will be 50% larger and, because of the higher parapet walls, we can grow our Tower Gardens® much higher than in Manhattan!

Chef John, what is the most important learning experience you take from the Bell Book & Candle farm to your new rooftop?

The vertical farm itself is an amazing machine, but each year we learn how to fine-tune the crop cycles with the seasons. For example, we discovered the heirloom varieties that grow best in our region. After four years, we have really learned how to maximize every inch of our rooftop and have watched our food purchases dramatically decline compared to other restaurants in the area.

Strawberry Tower Gardens

Chef John Mooney checking the fruit quality on his next strawberry harvest. (Click photo to enlarge)

Like Manhattan, Washington, DC is a city that leaves a huge carbon footprint on our planet: food travels thousands of miles to get to the typical restaurant table. At this new farm, we count only 100 footsteps, from roof to table. More importantly, we are growing on what was once dead rooftop space with 90% less water and NO chemicals.

Mick, tell me more about what you and Chef John learned about eliminating the use of chemicals and how that works.

We learned in Manhattan that bugs, both good and bad, do make it up to the rooftops of a busy city. During our first year in business, Future Growing® created a program that incorporates an army of good bugs into our farm. Every three weeks during the heavy pest season—mid-May through August—we release special microscopic beneficial insects specifically designed to combat the harmful bugs in our region. The best thing about this army is that they work 24 hours a day and require no pay or benefits from our company! During the warmer months, these guys are doing their job keeping the farm totally free of food-eating bugs. As a result, the produce stays clean and, more importantly, free of harmfully chemical sprays. This is good for our customers and good for our local environment.

Integrated pest management

Left: Releasing beneficial insects onto the farm in early summer. Right: Native pollinating bees naturally establish and thrive on a NO CHEMICAL farm! (Click photos to enlarge)

Chef John, I know you are not dishing out the entire scoop on your new place right now, but can you tell me a little of your concept and vision?

Our menu will revolve around meeting customers’ needs with local, organic and sustainable food, and overall responsible procurement. The menu will be seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic rooftop Tower Garden® farm. The food will be original, and we will have the best-tasting and freshest plates in the city.

Mick, do you feel this is the future?

It is not only good business for us, but it is the future and is a necessity if we are going to live healthy lives and sustain this planet for the generations to come. We are excited to be pioneering this movement, and we are seeing an explosion of similar farms across the city and country!

It was great talking with you both and we look forward to the excitement of your grand opening!

You can learn more about Chef John and Mick by clicking here.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

New York City’s Most Successful and Longest-Running Hydroponic Rooftop Farm Now in its Fourth Year

Tim Blank summer 2013 visit to the famous Bell, Book & Candle

Future Growing founder Tim Blank’s summer 2013 visit to the famous Bell Book and Candle rooftop Tower Garden® farm. (Click photo to enlarge)

I am pleased to announce that New York City’s most successful and longest-running roof-to-table hydroponic rooftop farm is now in its fourth year of producing chemical-free, highly flavorful fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Chef John Mooney and partner Mick O’Sullivan feed an 80-seat restaurant with their vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® farm, which is located six stories high on the roof of a 100-year-old tenement building that was once home to only the local pigeons.

Learn more in the press release below about these innovative pioneers in the restaurant industry, and how they are changing the way local food is sourced and grown.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC

BB&C Aeroponic Gardening Release Final

Bell Book & Candle Restaurant Raises Urban Gardening to New Heights Using NYC’s First Vertical Aeroponic Tower Garden®

July 2013, New York, NY–Chef John Mooney’s reputation for introducing forward-thinking culinary concepts throughout his career in the US and abroad precedes him. It is no different at Bell Book & Candle (BB&C) restaurant, where he and partner Mick O’Sullivan created New York’s first rooftop vertical aeroponic Tower Garden®, dubbed the “Garden of Earthly Delights”. They set the bar for NYC’s urban gardening scene and took it to new heights with the special Future Growing LLC vertical Aeroponic Tower Garden® system. Now in its 4th year in existence, they have harvested tons of produce from the rooftop space ranging from heirloom tomatoes to exotic red okra, and earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs for 2011. The system has grown to now consist of 60 vertical towers generating bountiful rewards, other than the obvious, of providing fresh food for Chef Mooney that are used in both food and beverage menu items.

Strawberry Tower Gardens

Summer 2013: Fresh strawberries are used to garnish desserts and Chef John Mooney’s summer garden salad. (Click photo to enlarge)

Partner Mick O’Sullivan stated, “When you’re talking about real estate in Manhattan or any large city, there’s only one direction you can go and that is up. Because space is at a premium, the same philosophy applies to gardening in the city. Our self-contained, automatic-watering vertical aeroponic Tower Garden® system provides multiple benefits for us, our customers and community.” Those benefits include:

    • Producing fresh, local organic, sustainable product with wellness benefits for customers;

      Onion chives

      Tower of onion chives, summer 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

  • Cost efficiency -low production/ maintenance costs, and the end product is directly available for use;
  • Heating and cooling benefits to the building and environment by harnessing and absorbing heat;
  • Significantly more sustainable than conventional agriculture. Using dead rooftop space, 90% less land and up to 95% less water;
  • Better space management than other urban gardens by using vertical height;
  • No soil needed, roots are concealed and not exposed to pollutants and pests, and organic pest-control (good bugs eat bad bugs);
  • Efficient timed nutrient delivery, all natural with no chemicals; and
  • Plants grow in less time than those grown in soil.


    Heirloom lettuce harvest, summer 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

Partners John and Mick are about to bring the system to their new Washington, DC restaurant venture, but with one significant difference: In DC, they will be using a state of the art greenhouse with an energy efficient ventilation system that works with nature, making it truly “controlled environment agriculture”.
In addition, BB&C’s gardening endeavor has connected them with their local community in several ways. For the past three years, they have hosted the first grade class from Greenwich Village’s PS 41 to help plant the lettuce in the beginning of each growing season and to learn about gardening. Chef Mooney also holds sustainability talks at Riverdale Community School for the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. Every summer, BB&C takes on an intern from various urban agricultural programs around the city.

4 years of NO chemicals. Benefical insects are released onto the farm to  manage harmful pests.

4 years of NO chemicals. Benefical insects are released onto the farm to manage harmful pests. (Click photo to enlarge)

Their use of aeroponic gardening came about from a fortuitous meeting at a farmer’s market in Orlando, Florida in 2008 with horticulturist and research scientist Tim Blank, founder & CEO of Future Growing, who introduced Mooney & O’Sullivan to the vertical system and a brand new 3-story certified green rooftop, the first of its kind in the world. Tim Blank said, “It was clear to me right away these guys ‘got it’ and saw the extraordinary potential for their restaurant venture. Chef Mooney had already had experience with traditional gardening. When Mick and John saw the ease of use in a small space, the high production rates we were getting from the technology, and then tasted the food, they were simply blown away and asked, “How soon can we do this at our restaurants? This will be a huge hit with the customers!”

Heirloom melons

Over 100 heirloom melons were harvested in the summer of 2013. (Click photo to enlarge)

In addition to being able to grow substantial amounts food vertically in a limited space, Mick and John say they love the versatility of the system. They can grow tomatoes one week, and bibb lettuce the next.

Additionally, when Hurricane Sandy came through last summer, all 60 towers were easily carried indoors. After the storm passed, they carried them back outside and were up and growing in minutes. Any standard hydroponic system would have blown away, damaging the nearby buildings and destroying the capital investment made for the restaurant.


Over 1,000 cucumbers are harvested monthly!. (Click photo to enlarge)

Efforts like this emphasize Chef John & Mick’s dedication to serving the freshest food possible. “The food program at BB&C revolves around meeting consumer needs with local, organic, sustainable, and overall responsible procurement. The menu cycles are seasonal and heavily influenced on production from the aeroponic rooftop tower garden,” says Chef John Mooney. “We find inspiration in the various regions of America and focus on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of our country’s melting pot. Our food strives for originality and individualism.”

Heirloom okra

Heirloom okra is used for Bell Book & Candle’s seasonal menu. (Click photo to enlarge)

The aeroponically-grown fresh vegetables and herbs are incorporated into dishes that change seasonally, including: Zucchini blossoms stuffed with goat cheese and wild mushrooms, with romesco sauce; house-made Burrata with wilted cherry tomatoes and rooftop basil; rooftop mixed greens; crisp pork belly and rooftop arugula with cherries, shaved fennel, and sweet onion; and grilled and roasted seasonal vegetables.

Cocktails include: BB&C Rooftop Mint Mojito with rum, rooftop mint, limes, agave, and soda; Dill With It with huckleberry vodka, strawberry, cucumber, lemon, dill, vanilla, and cava; and City Sage, buffalo trace bourbon, aperol, lime, honey, sage.


About Bell Book & Candle:

Heirloom tomatoes

BB&C partner Mick O’Sullivan tends to his favorite crop, the heirloom tomatoes! (Click photo to enlarge)

Bell Book & Candle is a West Village restaurant and bar, opened in 2010 by partners Chef John Mooney and Mick O’Sullivan in New York City. Their mission at BB&C revolves around meeting consumer needs with local, organic, sustainable and overall responsible procurement of the food on their menu. They find inspiration in the various regions of America, and focus on the contemporary aspect and eclecticism of our country’s melting pot. Chef John has worked at notable restaurants globally including Red Sage, RAKU, The Mansion at Turtle Creek, Michael Jordan’s The Steakhouse, Heartbeat, and The Saddle Room in Ireland. In 2004, John was named one of the “Best Hotel Chefs” in the USA by the James Beard Foundation for his work at Heartbeat and in 2011, BB&C earned the Sustainability Award from Star Chefs for the aeroponic garden. www.bbandcnyc.com.

About Future Growing:

For the past 8 years, Future Growing® LLC has been the world leader in vertical aeroponic food farms utilizing patented Tower Garden® technology. With over 100 successful projects across North America, Future Growing® leads the way in the local food growing movement, which has become a permanent mainstream trend in the United States. The Future Growing® team, which is comprised of professional growers, horticulturists, and aeroponic experts, is led by founder and CEO Tim Blank, a hydroponics expert, global speaker, and 12-year veteran with the Walt Disney World Company. The primary business of Future Growing is not just selling a product, but more importantly creating successful urban farms, one farmer at a time. www.futuregrowing.com.

Integrated Pest Management

This week, I’m excited to share some of the secret tips used by our professional growers for successful organic pest control.


Ladybugs. (Click photo to enlarge)

For those of you who are lucky enough to call Central Florida your home like myself, you know that this part of the country can be a growing paradise — and during some seasons, an insect nightmare. Although Florida has an incredible climate, the high nighttime temperatures and humidity in the hot season create the perfect home for almost every vegetable pest imaginable.

Twenty years ago, I began my tenure at Walt Disney World Company at The Land at EPCOT Center. The Land is a two-acre, protected growing biome, where we grew over 100 food crops from around the world using almost hydroponics technique imaginable. Because we grew such a diversity of crops year-round at this facility in Florida, pests and diseases could become a huge problem almost overnight! At The Land, we controlled harmful diseases and insect pests by using Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

The Land at Epcot

“The Land” at Epcot Center. (Click photo to enlarge)

IPM is the practice of using a combination of organic-type sprays, beneficial insects to eat the bad bugs, farm cleanliness measures, and good plant training practices which allow the sun and air to circulate in the plant canopy. Why would Disney utilize IPM 20 years ago, when organic food was hardly known by the average consumer and chemical pesticide use was commonplace? The answer: The thousands of guests coming through the middle of the Epcot greenhouse every day on a boat ride made it technically impossible to spray harmful chemicals in the greenhouse.

There is an old saying: “Necessity breeds innovation”. In this case, necessity created 30 years of groundbreaking research and successful application of natural pest control practices in the world’s largest hydroponic showcase facility. Much of the IPM research was done in conjunction with the University of Florida, and can be found in many scientific publications.

Bell Book and Candle

Bell Book and Candle Rooftop Farm – New York (Click photo to enlarge)

I share this story because it inspired me to teach every new Future Growing vertical farmer to do the same. Our clients produce healthy, local, chemical-free food for consumers — and for every plant that is purchased from one of our growers, another chemically-treated plant is not purchased from “Big Agriculture”. This is a perfect example of how the world’s problems can be reduced or eliminated when each consumer makes a conscious choice to live a greener life!

There is a science behind the use of beneficial insects. An entomology background is generally required to identify the genus and species of the problem insect. Once the pest problem has been properly identified, the specific genus and species of a predatory insect must be purchased and released at specific intervals for maximum kill rate. Some outdoor farms that have a wide variety of crops, such as Bell Book and Candle, create a natural environment for many of the good bugs to reproduce and create their own natural ecosystem.

IPM Blog 5

The second option is to use organic sprays on a regular basis during the heavy pest season. Below are three of my favorite organic sprays that have given our growers tremendous success, even in a place like Florida during the warmer months! If you are a home gardener, you can use the same formula to easily and safely control pests right in your own back yard!

Here’s an organic spray for many insects like aphids, mites, thrips, whiteflies, and other small insects. This formula even serves as a mild fungicide. Mixing instructions follow:

  • Horticultural grade insecticidal soap, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
  • Horticultural grade neem oil, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water
    • Mix everything well, and then continue to shake periodically during use.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak them — and be sure to get the undersides of leaves where the insects feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Apply once a week during light pest season — or twice a week during heavy pest season.

Organic spray for all worms or caterpillars:

  • 1 tablespoon per gallon of water (or label rate), of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT, brand name Thuricide)
    • Follow label and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally — soak the plant well — and be sure to get the undersides of leaves where the worms or caterpillars feed.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Apply when you first start seeing worms in the areas they are feeding.

Organic spray for leaf fungus like powdery mildew:

  • Potassium bicarbonate, or Mil-Stop brand.
  • Follow instructions on label, and mix well.
    • Always spray in morning, before sunrise, or in late evening. Never spray in sunlight.
    • Spray plants liberally. Soak the plants well.
    • Discard old spray. Do not save!
    • Clean sprayer well after each use.

Tim Blank
Founder and CEO, Future Growing® LLC