We're whizzing along the New York Thruway on our way to Pocantico Hills, New York. As we pass amazingly deep road cuts and apple orchards in perfect rows, we're still working on our list of questions. We're going to interview one of the preeminent chefs -- not just in the Hudson Valley or New York -- but, in all of America. Having a conversation with a person on this level makes one pay closer attention to the quality of one's questions.
Dan Barber is the chef we're traveling to see. Although he's a central character in the success of Blue Hill at Stone Barns and its educational branch, Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture (as well as Blue Hill restaurant in New York) he's the first to point out all the other people involved in making him look good.
As we made our way to the restaurant to set up for the interview, we couldn't help but notice how well laid out the whole farm was. Flawless greenhouse here, tomato fields there. Sheep, chickens, turkeys, Berkshire pigs--all perfectly pastured. And all within shouting distance of the restaurant.
Mr. Barber puts us at ease with his welcome. He obviously knows his stuff and from the first question, he's off and running.
"This place is an experiment," Dan tells us, "in a connection between a farm, a restaurant and an education center that allows the farm to have a set customer base and a constant food source with which we are intimately involved in the details of what comes off the farm."
He continued, "It's an exciting example of a food system and an appreciation for food that I think everybody really wants to support and they come here and learn more about it. And, hopefully, leave here and apply some of those things that they learned or felt or
experienced here, in their own homes. Like going to the local farmers market or joining a CSA or growing herbs on the window sill. But, to me the overarching theme of Blue Hill at Stone Barns is for people to have a great consciousness about where their food comes from."
Watch here to see the entire interview.
Mr. Barber explains further, "I'm sitting here and in a few hours a guest will, hopefully, order a tomato salad and as they're eating their tomato salad they will look out on a field of forty different growing tomatoes. That tomato salad, I guarantee you, is going to taste better because of the knowledge that they're looking at a field of tomatoes. The same thing can be said about people who know where their food is coming from. It's a real gift and it's a way to make the food taste better. That kind of information provides a kind of seasoning that I can't provide, even on my best days of cooking."
After we talked to Dan, we wandered the farm for hours and then we enjoyed a fresh, refined and healthy meal in the restaurant. As we were driving home, we had to admit that there is no place quite like Blue Hill at Stone Barns.