Terranea’s Chef Bernard Ibarra employs local bees to create liquid gold

Terranea Resort’s executive chef, Bernard Ibarra, has a deep appreciation for the gardens integral to his culinary art. His gratitude extends beyond the fruits of the earth to the bees that pollinate them.

WRITTEN BY DIANE E. BARBER


Since Chef Bernard Ibarra started working at Terranea, he has been delighted to be in the company of so many bees—first among the numerous flowers and plants at the resort and then later at the nearby Catalina View Gardens in Rancho Palos Verdes, where he grows farm-to-table produce. “There were established beehives that a commercial beekeeper cared for at the Catalina View Gardens until I assisted with tending to them,” says the chef. “My sister and brother-in-law are beekeepers in the Basque Country of northern Spain, and they have mentored me a little bit. When I am able to go on vacation during their harvest in August, I help them collect honey and put it in jars.”

“Since we are primarily raising the bees for pollination, we typically offer honey at Terranea as a sweetener and condiment at special events.”

Currently there are four hives that Chef Ibarra helps tend, some of which are from feral colonies that have been relocated from the resort’s trails. Each one is roughly 20x16x9 inches, houses an average of 25,000 to 30,000 bees, and can have two or three boxes stacked on top of one another. Colonies build hives in them to produce honeycombs and also to lay eggs for new bees.

“At least once every month I inspect the hives looking for signs of disease, pests (typically mites) and indications of new queen cells,” he shares. “A sign of a queen cell might be swarming, which can result in losing a colony. When a queen gets older it naturally gets pushed out by the colony and is replaced by a young queen. The old queen then flies away with followers to find another home and the new queen flies away to find a drone (male bee), is inseminated and then returns to the hive to lay eggs.”

There are two primary reasons for managing bee colonies. One is for honey production, and the other is for the pollination of gardens. “For me, it is important to have the colonies for sustainability and pollination of the crops in the gardens, such as the avocados, lemon trees, passion fruit and eggplants. I only harvest honey when we need it at Terranea. Bees make honey for their own food. They do not make it for us. So when we take the honey from them, they keep making more.”

To harvest the honey, Chef Ibarra opens the top of a hive and gently sends smoke into it, which encourages the bees to go to the bottom of the hive to collect honey for food because they sense danger. Donning his thick, white, cotton beekeeper suit and face veil, he then hooks special hive tools onto a honey frame, lifts it and gathers what he needs before replacing it with another empty frame. It usually takes a few weeks for them to rebuild the wax before they start filling it with honey again.

“Since we are primarily raising the bees for pollination, we typically offer honey at Terranea as a sweetener and condiment at special events,” he adds. “We also use it on cheese platters, in salad dressings, candies and pastries, and as a flavoring agent, such as for basting fish and meat and caramelizing it for a really nice flavor.”

 

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