by Malcolm Jolley


It was a scene out of a thriller movie. Slightly dishevelled man walks purposefully and quickly into a grand hotel lobby, scans around and proceeds directly to bank of elevators. He takes the car to a designated floor, exits and walks straight across the hall through an unmarked steel door, whereupon he climbs four flights of stairs to another unmarked steel door. Through the door, he enters a dark, boiler room like chamber to be greeted by three mysterious figures wearing all white coveralls and strange, dark mesh face masks…

My greeters were, in fact, Fairmont Royal York’s publicity director Melanie Coates and a couple of volunteers from the Toronto Beekeeping Society. I was walking quickly because I was late for the annual closing of the hives Melanie and volunteers keep on the roof garden of the fabled Canadian railway hotel. They saved a hive for me, and I suited up to get ready.

In the height of the summer several hundreds of thousands of bees make their home on top of the Royal York. By the end of the fall there are about 10,000 left in each of the six hives, which are wooden boxes with sliding slats the bees make their honeycombs in. The bees serve two purposes: they pollinate the roofs amazing herb, fruit and vegetable gardens (see video interview with Chef David Garcelon below) and they make delicious honey, which is served throughout the hotel.

The hives are wrapped in what looks basically like a tea cozy, and the bees are given a sugary solution to feed on over the cold winter months… I can’t wait to go back and check in on them in the spring. Coates’ has a beekeeper for a brother, which spurred her to get the hotel interested in the project and made her the de facto apiarist. Once we’d wrapped up the bees, it was time for the interview with Chef David Garcelon below. It was quite a magical sunny November afternoon.

Malcolm Jolley is the Managing Editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the non-profit organization that publishes GFR. Follow him at

This video was made possible through the kind support of Fortessa Canada / Schott Zwiesel.