Hidden Hobbies: Ina Pinkney

May 6, 2010 5:55:20 AM PDT
Ina Pinkney is known as the breakfast queen and with good reason. Chef and owner of Ina's in the trendy West Loop, she's been serving Chicagoans some of the tastiest breakfast dishes for nearly 20 years. The atmosphere is as warm and inviting as the ever-present smile on Ina's face.At the end of the day, this celebrity chef has a hidden talent that brings beauty and serenity to her home.

"I never knew it was a talent, but it turned out to be a hobby that I raise orchids here on the 22nd floor of a high rise!" Pinkney said.

The high-rise hot-house, as she calls it, got started five years ago when an orchid plant she'd gotten as a gift died, or so she thought.

"I left it on the windowsill and kept watering it because the leaves were kind of pretty, and all of a sudden one day there was a sprout!" Pinkney said.

From that point on, friends started giving her orchid plants as gifts. With little effort, these exotic plants flourished. Taking this hobby seriously, Pinkney began researching.

"I had Cymbidiums; I had Dendrobiums and I had Phalaenopsis," she said. "These were the simplest to grow."

Learning orchids needed filtered light 80 percent of the day, she applied a little meteorology in her floral care.

"The building is situated slightly northeast, so the winds are coming from the northeast right now, which is why we have all those whitecaps out there today," Pinkney said. "But that seems to be the perfect light for the orchids."

And just as important is watering every 10 days or so. Over-watering can cause root rot, and the plants basically drown.

It was a customer who taught Pinkney how to feed the delicate orchids with just the right amount food. How's that for role reversal?

The plants will stay in bloom for up to eight weeks. Another tip from the orchid authority...

"If there is a leaf on it that's dying, or a bud, you take it off," Pinkney said. "You don't want it to think that it's dying, and I think the plants have a sensitivity to that."

Pinkney said her orchids give her a respite from her bustling restarant.

"The restaurant has a lovely energy to it; it's never a noisy restaurant," she said. "But it has energy, and it has vitality. And when I come home, the peacefulness that I get from this is what feeds me."

Pinkney said it can take anywhere from four months to four weeks for her orchids to rebloom. Her favorite is the deep purple South American orchid because of the unique form of the flowers and shape of the leaves. She still has the original orchid plant that started her hidden hobby five years ago.


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