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: You know I don’t . . . I mean my grandmother was a terrible cook, and my mother died when I was very young, and my father was a terrible cook. So I think, you know, I overcompensated a little bit for the cooking end of things. So I don’t know why . . . I don’t know what drove me to be a chef exactly. But the kind of chef that I’ve become I think was, you know, sort of unconsciously, you know, inculcated by this connection to land – especially like to my grandmother’s sense of responsibility, which was huge. It was like . . . It was like she . . . She very much believed in open space and in doing everything possible to preserve it. And that meant farming in the case of where Blue Hill was. I mean to preserve that pastureland you literally needed to pasture. And so you know there was a responsibility that came attached to the pleasure of the views, literally. And I think somehow I’ve connected that with food; and the idea to have those views and that open space, you’ve gotta eat it. So you know it’s chef and . . . You know it’s being a chef and providing pleasure by way of a kind of responsibility. That’s . . . that’s pleasurable in and of itself. I graduated and I was a little bit lost on what to do. And I went out and baked bread in California for a while, and kind of cooked on the side just to earn some money. And I thought actually maybe I’d write about . . . I thought I was gonna write about a bunch of things. But I ended up just earning extra money by cooking, and that led . . . One thing led to another, and I . . . You know I was always kind of undecided, I think, until I went to France. And then I was really cooking, and I was sort of . . . A light went off I think. Although it wasn’t an “Aha!” moment. It wasn’t one of those things. I just like . . . I’m still questioning things as we sit here now.
Recorded on: 2/11/08