Food & BeverageCategory|

Solar Oven at Conrad Washington DC Rooftop Takes Eco‑Friendly Cooking to the Next Level

Chef Josh Murray shares how COVID‑19 shutdowns inspired them to make reducing the restaurant’s carbon footprint a priority

Fresh produce, locally sourced ingredients, herbs grown onsite — and a little bit of sunlight. These are the tools that Chef Josh Murray uses to create five-star dishes at SUMMIT the Rooftop at Conrad Washington D.C., a restaurant that’s making strides toward becoming a zero-waste kitchen.

Working with pure and natural ingredients comes easy to Murray, who grew up on a farm in Spotsylvania, VA. He was raised dining on local ingredients — many from his own backyard. His appreciation for the healthy qualities that locally sourced produce can offer is just one of the factors that make Murray perfect to helm the eco-conscious cooking efforts at SUMMIT.

Conrad Washington D.C. has been making eco-consciousness a priority since 2019 when they first opened, and has already received Gold LEED certification thanks to sustainable measures like an onsite stormwater management system that captures 97 percent of rainfall and use it to irrigate the hotel’s outdoor terraces and to cool its air conditioning towers. The hotel also features complimentary EV chargers in the parking garage and in-room motion sensors that adjust a room’s temperature when unoccupied. 

But according to Murray, the COVID-19 shutdowns 2020 inspired them to take their kitchen’s commitment to eco-conscious cooking to the next level.

“During the pandemic when restaurants were shut down, people were inspired to create eco-conscious spaces for themselves [at home] by growing gardens, baking bread, and exploring all sides of the culinary world on their own,” Murray said. “Our goal for SUMMIT was to bring this same approach to our food and beverage offerings, but elevate it to a luxury level. Everything from our rooftop garden, from which we use herbs and flowers in our cocktails and cooking, to our solar oven, which we use to cook the BBQ pork, is intentional.”

Murray has also harnessed the power of the sun to help smoke up some of the restaurant’s most mouth-watering barbecue dishes on the menu.

“My first time solar cooking was in elementary school,” Murray said. “I started building solar ovens out of shoeboxes, black paper, and aluminum foil to make nachos. During my furlough, I started incorporating solar lighting for gardens around my house.  It was then I started getting back into it at a deeper level again. Solar usage has become so easy to embrace.”

According to Murray, the solar oven at SUMMIT is relatively easy to use, despite needing to get up to temperatures as high as 400 degrees, which is necessary for their house-made pork BBQ, which was the first dish he started experimenting with.

“Even though a solar oven is powered by the sun, it gets hot like an oven and cooks like one,” Murray said. “The thermostat is controlled by the pitch into the sunlight. That is controlled by an adjustable foot [that allows us to] follow the rotation of the sun.”

But this is just the beginning. In the coming months, Murray would love to expand his menu of solar oven dishes. He also hopes to experiment with a solar dehydrator that would be used to create bar garnishes and finishing pieces for plates.

“We also want to add some living walls, expand the roof-top garden to produce more vegetables and maybe look to join a co-op so we can share produce with another rooftop garden,” he said. “We continue to build the box so we can think outside of it. We want to create a ‘what’s next’ intrigue with the space for our diners.” 

Check out this video to hear more from Murray about SUMMIT’s eco-conscious efforts.