ALL ABUZZ

Written by root. Posted in IN PERSON

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Published on March 12, 2018 with No Comments

Beekeeper-chef Liam Nealon of Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan discusses what it takes to make a Queen happy as he joins local Balinese farmers to save the island’s bees and the joy of harvesting the produce for guests.

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How did a chef land the dual job as beekeeper?
It all started with a vision of how to produce our own commodities in Melbourne city and do our part to ensure we are using ingredients that can be grown on site. It started with herbs and vegetables and then we decided to have a go at bees as this will help our gardens and we will also get supply of free honey.

Are there similarities in skills in both jobs?
Both jobs require the utmost patience. Looking after bees is the same as looking after any produce: you must care for it and give it the respect it deserves. That way you will utilise its full potential.

Tell us about the collaboration with Plan Bee and how the resort installed the apiary.
The hives are part of Indonesia’s first bee conservation and community enterprise programmme by Plan Bee Indonesia, a grassroots initiative launched in Bali to combat colony collapse disorder, the well-documented global threat to bees. Plan Bee had set up bee centres in remote West and North Bali, bringing together farmers and forest honey gatherers to join the fight. Through the co-operative, Plan Bee connects the farmers with new customers for their sustainably-harvested honey, engages in knowledge and skills sharing to minimise use of pesticides in farming, and installs new hives to increase the bee population. It offers the opportunity for businesses and individuals to sponsor hives and support the farmers, and has been endorsed by the Indonesian Beekeepers’ Association. Four Seasons Sayan is the exclusive hotel founding partner of the programme.

What do you like about bees? And what little known facts can you share with us about them?
Bees are very easy to look after when they are happy. They need minimal care as they do all the hard work themselves. The only thing is that you must provide the perfect environment for them to prosper and an environment change can be very difficult. They don’t like the hot weather but they don’t like the cold either, so in Bali it is always difficult trying to provide a cool environment for them. Food must be sufficient. They will fly up to 5 km to find food however, if it is too hot or too cold, they won’t travel. If there is no food close by this is when they can swarm and the queen will leave the hive due to lack of food and then the rest of the bees will follow.

How is honey harvested?
Honey is quite easy to harvest especially if it is not pasteurised. You need to be careful not to take too much honey at a time because the honey is also there to feed the hive. If you take everything, again they will leave the hive as the queen will not be too happy. There are many methods used to harvest the honey. In Bali we use a simple cheese cloth sat inside a strainer and slowly let the honey fall through. In other places we have used spinners that spin the honeycomb to keep the wax intact.

What would you like guests to know about the bee conservation programme at the resort?
First is the importance of the bees itself; learn about the threat facing bees and how they can help by joining our escorted Garden Tour. Second is that this programme is beneficial not only for the environment, but also small-scale farmers. Our guests can enjoy the honey through the specially crafted menu we have at the resort – the Tasmanian Salmon with Wild Sayan Honey as well as our signature Iced Gingerade at the Riverside Cafe, to name a few. At Sacred River Spa, the Wild Sayan Honey is used in our Swadhisthana chakra ceremony inspired by Balinese rituals for wedding, pregnancy and rites of passage.

Since the project began, what are some of your professional milestones as beekeeper?
I’d say becoming more used to getting stung! (Laughs). I have an allergy and I am finding the more I get stung the recovery is swifter. Maybe I’m becoming immune! Also to be able to find the queen is something that I am proud of – your eyes become so fixated that among 10,000 bees you can find a particular one each time, this is very important. Working with other great chefs and seeing the so-called fruits of our labour ending up at a guest table is also a milestone. We have certain dishes on the menu where we use our own honey and seeing the guest’s reaction when they eat the dish is spectacular, but when they find out the story behind it they are even more wowed by the experience.

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