I left Florida that day thinking a little about honey, and a lot about bees. Turns out, they have a lot to teach us about club leadership and culinary wisdom.
A few weeks ago, I had the unique opportunity to participate in a honey harvest at the Omni Amelia Island (Fla.) Plantation Resort, as part of the National Honey Board’s 2015 Honey Summit.
The first day of the summit was spent learning more about honey than I ever thought there was to know. I tasted six different types of honey side-by-side, to compare and contrast the flavors. (If you haven’t tried buckwheat honey, give it a go. It’s musky and dark and weirdly cool.)
We talked about food pairings as well as how honey hits on a number of trendy topics; it’s local, natural, and non-GMO. We also talked about spirit pairings. David Morgan, Vice President of Food & Beverage for Omni Hotels & Resorts, shared a story about how Omni introduced a honey cocktail menu this past summer and revenues went up 24%.
On day two, along with a dozen other journalists and publicists, I donned a beekeeper suit and followed Executive Chef Daven Wardynski across a rickety little bridge that he and his sous chefs built, to go into the palmettos where his eight hives are located.
The hives look similar to white wooden filing cabinets. They aren’t intimidating—until you open them. Bees are loud!
Chef Wardynski pulled out a couple of frames and showed us the inner workings of the hives. We each had a chance to get up close and personal with a full frame (see photo below) before we made our way back to the greenhouse, where we watched how to harvest the honey.
I didn’t get stung, but I did leave Florida later that day thinking a little about honey, and a lot about bees. Turns out, they have a lot to teach us about club leadership and culinary wisdom. Here are my four biggest takeaways:
Distribute authority. One hive has thousands of workers and one queen. She couldn’t possibly direct every action of every bee. Colony members are empowered to make their own decisions while she lays the eggs to ensure the future survival of the hive. And since everyone is committed to the same vision and strategy, they behave as one.
Be honest and open with communication. Bees communicate through vibrations, waggles and pheromones. They pass complex messages to one another constantly. This helps to keep every bee on the same page, working toward the same goal.
Make a perfect product. Honey is magical. It sustains life and never spoils. It’s filled with antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and nutrients. All bees in the hive contribute to making honey, and the end result is always perfect. (Honey, in all of its 300 varieties, has no defects.)
Stay local. Bees typically travel within four miles of their hive to collect nectar and pollen. The end result is a completely unique and hyperlocal product that can’t be replicated. By staying true to their region, they not only survive, they thrive.