DAN BARBER is the Chef of Blue Hill, a restaurant in Manhattan's West Village, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns, located within the nonprofit farm and education center, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture. His opinions on food and agricultural policy have appeared in the New York Times, along with many other publications. Barber has received multiple James Beard awards including Best Chef: New York City (2006) and the country's Outstanding Chef (2009). In 2009 he was named one of Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.
To expand on his philosophy of cooking with sustainably grown, local ingredients, Dan has been working with such organizations as the Kellogg Foundation, Slow Food USA and Earth Pledge to minimize the political and intellectual rhetoric around agricultural policies and to instead maximize the appreciation of eating good food. Focusing on the issues of pleasure, taste and regional bounty-and how these imperatives are threatened-Dan helped create the philosophical and practical framework for Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture and continues to help guide it in its mission to create a consciousness about the effects of everyday food choices.
He is author of the book The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food.
Dan Barber: Oh yeah. Well there’s a lot there. That’s a tough one. Under the radar is . . . I think there is a wide open bulls eye really, again, for more of this; for more people like investigating . . . Like not having a Rockefeller farm, but having farmers that they’re working with, and working with them to . . . So if there’s an underrated restaurant, they are not quite open yet and they’re coming. Because I think there’s a real interest in this stuff, and I talk to the next generation of chefs. And I think there’s gonna be people who are gonna take advantage of relationships with farmers and do things that . . . that I’m not even doing. You know really push the envelope with that. I’m excited for a future where the re are restaurants opening with stronger connections to chefs; not in the Alice Waters, Berkeley kind of way; you know not in like the . . . you know didactic like teaching people. That’s done. That’s there. I think the next phase is about this kind of . . . There are so many brilliant cooks who are about to become chefs or wanna become chefs who can invest that passion, that burning desire to produce good food, but do it in collaboration with the farmer. Because it seems to me that the future of cooking is more in the hands of the farmer. You know there’s been tectonic shifts. In the beginning . . . Like 100 years ago, you know, it was tradition. It was, yeah, great, heavy tradition that dictated what we ate. You know all the classic dishes, that’s what was served in restaurants. And then this tectonic shift happens, and all of a sudden you know the chef came out of the kitchen and became, you know, the man or the woman . . . usually the man who says, “I have my signature style on this classic, and I am doing this.” And Alice Waters says, “I’m working with this farmer,” and this is . . . The chef became the person who __________ . . . according to the rise of the celebrity chef. There’s another tectonic shift going on. I think we’re right at the beginning of it, or maybe even in the middle of it, certainly not the end of it. But this next one is in the hands of the farmer, and that’s because everybody is awakening to knowing more about where their food is coming from. And there’s a limited supply. The supply chain is not huge because we’ve so bastardized in the last 50 years the supply chain. So what we’re looking at is like the control, the power being in the seeds and in the soil, and in the ability of the farmer to grow it. And that’s not endless supply. And in fact every year it seems to get less and less. So I would look for the next tectonic shift, which is again happening now, which hopefully restaurants will begin to represent, which is the power of the farm; or the farmer dictating the menu much more than the chef. Recorded on: 2/11/08