PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Bees are swarming on the roof of the downtown Duquesne Club, but that’s a good thing.
The roof of Pittsburgh’s exclusive Duquesne Club is an unlikely place to find a pair of chefs or a hive of bees.
Executive chef Keith Coughenour and pastry chef Sara Milarski don protective clothing, and light the “smoker.”
“Hit with the smoke, they gorge themselves on honey,” Chef Coughenour says. “It calms them down a little bit. Kind of moves them out of our way. Gives us a little more freedom in the hive.”
That’s a good thing, when you’re handling more than 70-thousand bees.
Six stories above sixth avenue, they’ve gone green – and yellow.
A rooftop vegetable garden provides herbs for specialty dinners, as well as wild flowers where bees collect their pollen to pollinate those plants.
The chefs had experience cooking with honey, not collecting it.
“We know, of course, how to use honey and what it tastes like through our cooking and our recipes,” Coughenour says. “But to actually raise the bees, see the honey produced, actually harvesting it, that was a whole new realm for us.”
Sara Milarski admits she was terrified of bees as a child.
“So I wanted to learn more about bees, and how they’re actually good, and how they’re not evil little creatures,” she says, “but they help the environment and they help our garden grow, and they produce a wonderful food.”
The population of bees has dropped considerably in past years. The chefs hope ventures like this will help turn the tide.
“If we get some honey that’s great,” Chef Coughenour says. “If not, they will do a great job in the city pollinating.”
And the honey adds a natural touch to the dessert menu.