Master Gardener Maureen Roberts Designs LYFE Kitchen’s Herb Wall: It’s A Family Affair
Maureen Roberts has been an inspirational voice behind the vision of LYFE Kitchen from the beginning. As the wife of LYFE’s CEO Mike Roberts, Maureen has led the design of the centerpiece for our restaurant – the herb wall.
As a home gardener for more than 30 years, Maureen underwent an intensive 12-week program to learn everything from botany to bulbs to become a certified Master Gardener. She applied her knowledge at LYFE Kitchen by working with the design team, Vegan Consulting Chef Tal Ronnen and local Summer Winds Nursery in Sunnyvale, California to develop the herb wall. Here is her story.
I’ve always enjoyed gardening. I feel a connection to the Earth when I pick up a shovel and dirt. The more you can make the connection from the Earth to the fork, the more you care about where your food comes from and making better food choices.
The herb wall gives parents the opportunity to pause with their kids when walking in and have that discussion. Then, they get to experience it with the LYFE Kitchen menu! We wanted to bring nature in and use it as part of the design. I worked closely with the design team to develop a system that would work in the restaurant.
- From the Menu to the Herb Wall: I worked closely with Vegan Consulting Chef Tal Ronnen who gave us direction on the herbs that are used on the LYFE Kitchen menu. The selected flavorful herbs and spices – basil, lemongrass, marjoram and more – are representative of the fresh ingredients used within the restaurant’s kitchen to create many of LYFE’s favorite dishes. The herb wall displays the names of more than 25 herbs from the menu and each one is a significant finishing touch to a LYFE recipe.
- Selecting the Herbs: We wanted to select herbs that play to the senses. Ones that you could pinch off and would still look beautiful, but also evoke the senses of smell and touch. The lower level houses sturdy herbs, like basil and lettuces, because we want people to touch them! We also incorporated herbs like trailing rosemary – people recognize it and it gives off an amazing fragrance.
- Illuminating LYFE: We worked with a great lighting company, Environmental Lights, to select growing lights that would help keep the herbs healthy and happy and add an atheistic brightness to the restaurant. We only use the lights when necessary to cut down energy costs wherever possible.
- Happy Home for the Herbs: We made the troughs 12 inches deep, so we needed to find a way to keep the herbs contained and watered appropriately. The troughs first contain a layer of charcoal that absorbs any moisture and also helps to aerate the plants. The herbs are then contained in 4-inch containers right from the nursery.
- Tending to the Herbs: I worked closely with Susan Taylor McPhee of Summer Winds Nursery to select the herbs. We have an amazing horticulturist, Susan Hayden, who comes in twice a week to tend to the plants and switches them out with the seasons. She is also training our team on how to take care of the herb wall.
Next time you’re in LYFE Kitchen, take a moment to stop and smell the…herbs. Maureen is working to develop a program for when the herbs need a more permanent home outside of LYFE Kitchen, so they can be donated to a community center or school to be replanted for future use.