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: My favorite gadget from the beginning of when I was cooking is a spoon – like the right size spoon. You know all the cooks think I’m crazy in both the kitchens at Blue Hill because I only have one size spoon that we use the entire time. Like you know there’s . . . In cooking kitchens you generally see like different stations have different sized spoons. Like big shuffles . . . shovel spoons depending on what your job is. I use one spoon, and I think it’s the right sized spoon for plating and the right sized spoon for tasting. It’s not too big; it’s not too small. And I want everyone to have the same consistency, because the spoon – whether you’re flipping a piece of fish, or a piece of meat; or you’re mixing vegetables; or you’re stirring rice or whatever it is, the spoon becomes an extension of your hand. You know the closest thing you can get to your hand where you’re in control of the food – really in control of the food. Like these tongs or these forks, like uck! They’re nowhere near the kitchen because they tend to have this relationship with food that’s very dispassionate and literally detached. Where as the spoon if you hold it close, you’re . . . you’re in control of . . . you’re mastering what you’re preparing. And I think that spreads itself out across the kitchens in ways that end up adding taste to your food.
Recorded on: 2/11/08